Leadership Barometer 74 Emulate Level 5 Leaders

There are hundreds of assessments for leaders. The content and quality of these assessments vary greatly. You can spend a lot of time and money taking surveys to tell you the quality of your leadership.

There are a few leading indicators that can be used to give a pretty good picture of the overall quality of your leadership. These are not good for diagnosing problems or specifying corrective action, but they can tell you where you stand quickly. Here is one of my favorite measures.

Emulate Level 5 Leaders

Jim Collins and his staff of MBA researchers did the business world a huge favor in 2001 when they wrote the book Good to Great. I consider that book one of the best business books of the past twenty years.

In looking at why some organizations consistently outperform others; the team came up with a model containing many new concepts.

None of the concepts were totally unheard of before, but the model packaged the concepts in a coherent process-oriented thesis that was, and still is, most helpful.

In case you have not read this book, I recommend it to be purchased, read, dog-eared, and put into active practice – not on the shelf.

The concept of level 5 leadership is one of the core elements in the book. Collins found that all of the organizations that met his rigorous standard for excellence at that time were headed up by exceptional leaders.

It is interesting that after studying hundreds of variables about what make these leaders so effective, they were able to boil them down to two common denominators. These were 1) a passion for the work, and 2) humility.

Level 5 Leaders are fanatically driven to produce results, and they produce consistently superior results. Self-effacing and modest, these leaders are workers rather than showoffs. They are more “plow horse” than “show horse.”

Window/ Mirror Analogy

An example of Level 5 Leaders in action is the window/mirror analogy. Level 5 Leaders look out the window and attribute success to factors other than themselves. When things go poorly, however, they see the window as a mirror and blame themselves, taking full responsibility.

In comparison, many CEOs, not Level 5 Leaders, often do just the opposite – they look in the mirror taking credit for success, but look out the window assigning blame for disappointing results to others.

These actions help to increase the level of trust within the organization. They provide a culture of safety and security in which trust will grow spontaneously.

I believe there are very few level 5 leaders in the world today. If you happen to work for someone you can describe to that standard you are truly lucky. Study that person and see if you can recruit him or her as your mentor.

It will improve your rate of progress as a leader by 2-3 times your current rate. If you do not know of anyone who rises to that standard, the best you can do is read some of the biographies of leaders outlined in Good to Great. It will give you some specific habits of these outstanding leaders.



Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow Inc., a company dedicated to growing leaders. He speaks and conducts seminars on building trust in organizations. He can be reached at bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585-392-7763.


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