Level 5 Leadership

on Sunday, 13 May 2012. Posted in Articles on Leadership / Gender

Level 5 Leadership
Level 5 Leadership
Level 5 Leadership
Jim Collins

Emerging from this research, Collins and his research team discovered that, "the executives at companies that went from good to great, and sustained that performance for 15 years or more, were all cut from the same cloth ... It didn’t matter whether the company was in crisis or steady state, consumer or industrial, services or products. It didn’t matter when the transition took place or how big the company. The successful organizations all had a Level 5 leader at the pivotal time of transition."

"..Level 5 is an empirical finding, not an ideological one." 

So, what is Level 5 Leadership? 

According to Collins, a Level 5 leader is, "an individual who blends extreme personal humility with intense professional will." "Humility + Will = Level 5"  "Level 5 leaders are a study in duality: modest and willful, shy and fearless." 

From his five-year research study,  Collins discovered that "executives who possess this paradoxical combination of traits are catalysts for the statistically rare event of transforming a good company into a great one." 

“Of 1,435 companies that appeared on the Fortune 500 since 1965, only 11 made it into our study. In those 11, all of them had Level 5 leaders in key positions, including the CEO role, at the pivotal time of transition. Now, to reiterate, we’re not saying that Level 5 is the only element required for the move from good to great, but it appears to be essential," explains  Collins to a recently appointed CEO asking the question, "Are you telling me that I can’t make my company great if I’m not Level 5?”

The article, Level 5 Leadership, by Jim Collins first published in the Harvard Business Review in January 2001, which is the first link on the Table below explores and analyses the concept of this type of Leadership through the profiles of CEO's of leading international organisations.  Furthermore, if the Level 5 Leader sits on top of the hierarchy of capabilities, Collins shows what lies beneath through The Level 5 Hierarchy. 

To the question, " Can Level 5 be developed?" Collins explains, "My preliminary hypothesis is that there are two categories of people: those who don’t have the Level 5 seed within them, and those who do. The first category consists of people who could never in a million years bring themselves to subjugate their egoistic needs to the greater ambition of something larger and more lasting than themselves... The second category consists of people who could evolve to Level 5; the capability resides within them, perhaps buried or ignored or simply nascent. Under the right circumstances – with self-reflection, a mentor, loving parents, a significant life experience, or any number of other factors – the seed can begin to develop."

Accepting that they may never succeed in evolving to the heights of Level 5,  Jim Collins and his research team remain inspired to move toward Level 5 motivated by leading  CEO's Darwin Smith, chief executive of Kimberly-Clark for 20 years;  Colman Mockler, CEO of Gillette from 1975 to 1991 and Alan Wurtzel, CEO ofCircuit City, one of America’s most successful electronics retailers. 

For a range of articles written by Jim Collins see: http://www.jimcollins.com/articles.html

Jim Collins is a student and teacher of enduring great companies -- how they grow, how they attain superior performance, and how good companies can become great companies. Having invested over a decade of research into the topic, Jim has co-authored four books, including the classic Built to Last, a fixture on the Business Week Best Seller List for more than five years, generating over 70 printings and translations into 17 languages. His work has been featured in Fortune, The Economist, USA Today, Industry Week, Inc., and Harvard Business Review.