Napoleon Bonaparte said that a leader is a dealer in hope. Nelson Mandela prefers to portrait a leader as a shepherd. There are several approaches regarding challenges faced at work and management of our own working environment. This article revolves around Level 5 Leadership, and we’ll tell you what it is about.

It’s difficult to withdraw from the notions of leader and leadership when reflecting on our professional growth. No matter if you are the ultimate responsible of a company, a department manager or if you are part of a team with no people under your command: the way we lead our job and the relationship with our colleagues will shape the morphology of our results, there is no question about it.

Diplomacy, sociology or coaching have elaborated extensively on the profile of a good leader. The notion of a resounding, situational, charismatic leader has been already discussed, but we’re going to focus on what is called Level 5 Leadership, some sort of formula devised by Jim Collins in his book Good to Great in order to help us carry our professional objectives off.

A matrioshka of increasing capabilities

Several years ago, writer and consultant Jim Collins tried to break down the factors leading to the fall of some companies and the success of others. He wrote about it in his famous book Good to Great and, and he concluded that one of the key elements was always the kind of people spearheading them, in other words, the specific characteristics of their leadership.

We can anticipate that the blueprint behind successful companies which those who fail didn’t follow (this concept can be extrapolated to department management or even our own job, as it’s not solely company-related), according to Collins’ observations, is Level 5 Leadership. But in order to arrive there and understand its qualities better, we must know a little bit about the preceding steps.

There is a Level 1 dubbed “highly capable individual” by Collins, a disciplined, talented profile with good working habits. Level 2 belongs to a “member of a collaborative team”, a leader capable of engaging effectively with the group in order to achieve common goals. Level 3, called by the writer “competent manager”, is capable of going one step beyond and excels by his vision when managing resources and people in an extremely efficient way, while Level 4, on his part, is all about an “effective leader”, committed and convincing, who catalyses his organization to vigorous pursuit of the highest performance standards. But, what is the capacitive anatomy of Level 5 Leadership like?

Level 5: transforming our work from good to great

According to Collins, although one does not need to go through every single previous stage, a Level 5 leader embodies the capabilities featured in all those lower levels… and then some.

A Level 5 leader says “I want to look out from my porch at one of the great companies in the world someday and be able to say ‘I used to work there’”. This thought summarizes the ethos of this kind of management, centered in the results of the company and not in its own reputation. In other words, a leadership capable of enduring as a hallmark and a philosophy, rather than an individual projection of ego. That is why a Level 5 Leader is capable of achieving excellent results in his work and ensuring they will last even if he’s not around; otherwise, he will remain in the previous stages and his imprint will disappear the time he ceases leading.

The idea of Level 5 Leadership is to turn good work into great while avoiding, when passing the torch, an eventual downfall into irrelevance. Thus, the foundations of this leadership are humbleness, professional will, ego management and a strong ambition to pursue team achievements.

How about you? Which level are you in? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Sources: Liderazgo hoy, Universidad de Chile

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