Level 5 Leadership

A key component of how a company moves from Good to Great.

About Level 5 Leadership

The concept of Level 5 Leadership was developed about 20 years ago by Jim Collins and many others. He wrote a popular book about it, Good to Great. In it, Collins describes that the concept is based on intensive empirical work.

For me, the charm of this role model is that it encompasses some of the aspects I find lacking in other models popular among agilists.

So what are the skills of great leaders? And is there anything unspoken beyond that?

What is Level 5 Leadership

Collins explored what makes a great company. He began by researching 1,435 companies and eventually selected 11 companies from a wide range of sectors. These 11 companies were all led by “Level 5 Leaders,” as Collins called them.

He found that these leaders are humble and do not seek success for their own glory; rather, success is necessary for the team and organization to thrive. They share successes, accept blame for mistakes, and relentlessly accept the truth.

The levels might be more like dimensions of abilities, so you don’t have to go through each level. Level 5 leaders own all of them and something extra.

Level 5 Leadership Levels

What are the levels

Level 1: Very capable individual. At this level, you are making a quality contribution with your work. They have useful knowledge and have the talent and skills to do a good job.

Level 2: Contributing Team Member. At Level 2, you use your knowledge and skills to help your team succeed. You will work effectively, productively and successfully with others in your group.

Level 3: Competent Manager. Here you will be able to effectively organize a group to achieve specific goals and objectives.

Level 4: Effective leader. Level 4 is the category that most top executives fall into. Here you will be able to motivate a department or organization to achieve performance goals and realize a vision.

Level 5: Great leader. At Level 5, you have all the skills required for the other four levels, plus the unique blend of humility and will required for true greatness.

How to become a Level 5 Leader

You don’t have to go through each level in order to reach level 5. But you need time and effort to develop the skills of each level and the passion to try.

Some strategies that might help you:

Develop humility. So learn why humility is important, and make sure you understand – on a deep, emotional level – why arrogance is so destructive. Then, make sure to be humble – for example, if your team succeeds, make sure the credit for their hard work goes to them.

Conversely, as a leader, you must take responsibility for your team’s efforts, even when things go wrong.

Ask for help. This makes you stronger, not weak, because it allows you to draw on the expertise of someone who is stronger than you in an area. The whole team or organization wins, not just you[1].

Take responsibility. Take responsibility for their team’s mistakes or failures. No more excuses!

Develop discipline. When they commit to an action, no matter how difficult, they stick to their decision. Don’t let naysayers dissuade you from a course of action. Don’t let fear guide you when making or changing a decision.

Find the right people. They depend on the people around them. Focus on finding the right people and helping them reach their full potential.

Lead with passion. Level 5 leaders are passionate about what they do, and they’re not afraid to show it. If you struggle to find passion in your work, then you need to look for the human benefit in what you do.

[1] A quote from Guy Kawasaki says, “A players recruit A+ players, while B players recruit C players.” If you’re recruiting A+ players, why wouldn’t you take full advantage of their skills? (The truth is, you’ve become an A+ manager when you can successfully recruit A+ people and get the most out of them).