Level 5 Leadership is a concept developed by Jim Collins in his classic business book, Good to Great.
To write Good to Great, 1,435 companies were analyzed over a 40 year period. The aim of this analysis was to find companies that had been good for a long time but had then transformed into great companies. Specifically, he was looking for a sustained period of greatness.
From the 1,435 companies, just eleven were found that had gone from good to great. The question the book tries to answer is what made these eleven companies successful?
The book Good to Great is an absolute classic business book, covering many more topics than just Level 5 Leadership. If you’d like to learn more about the book you can read our detailed summary of it here.
In every Good to Great company that Collins studied, he found that they all had the same type of leader. He named this type of leadership Level 5 Leadership.
The concept is so fundamental to transforming a company from good to great that it is the first concept introduced in the book.
Let’s examine each level of leadership, starting with the lowest level of leadership, the Highly Capable Individual.
If you think about an organizational hierarchy, the lowest level of leadership is the Highly Capable Individual. These are people who contribute using their skills, know-how and good work habits.
They are good at what they do and they contribute by doing a good job.
The next level of leadership is Contributing Team Member. These are people who are able to use their skills and knowledge to help their team succeed.
They are good at what they do and also contribute to the success of the team.
The third level of leadership is Competent Manager. These are managers capable of organizing their team to efficiently reach pre-determined objectives.
They contribute to the success of the organization by driving their team hard, but they do not determine the team’s objectives.
The penultimate level of leadership is Effective Leader. This is the level at which the majority of leaders can be found.
They are able to create a commitment to pursue a clear and compelling vision. They’re also able to create a high-performing team.
They contribute by inspiring their team so that the team wants to achieve their vision of the future.
Finally, we reach Level 5 Leadership. These are the truly great leaders.
Note that you don’t need to move sequentially through the other four levels to become a Level 5 Leader. Level 5 Leaders have the abilities of the other four levels plus a unique combination of being strong-willed yet humble. It is this combination of will and humility that makes them great. It also sets them apart from all the other levels of leadership.
Leaders in the other four levels can produce success, but not enough for sustained organizational greatness. Remember that all the companies Collins found that went from good to great had this type of leader. Companies didn’t go from good to great without this type of leader.
What defines a Level 5 Leader and sets them apart are the following behaviors:
As succinctly as we can, we can give the definition of Level 5 Leadership as being a highly capable individual + a contributing team member + a competent manager + an effective leader + a strong will + humility.
To become a Level 5 Leader you need to develop your professional skills and your emotional intelligence. Following these steps will help you:
It’s good to be ambitious. But it’s better to be ambitious yet humble.
Tools which can help you understand the importance of humility include:
Level 5 Leaders have followers who are committed and deeply loyal. To develop team loyalty you can:
Level 5 Leaders recruit from within. It’s difficult to find Level 5 Leaders from outside the organization – they tend to be Level 4 Leaders – people who shout about their own successes. Level 5 Leaders typically reach their position through quiet, hard work.
Level 5 Leaders are exceptionally driven to achieve results.
Setting clear yet challenging and exciting goals can help develop your drive.
As part of this, they hold themselves and others to very high standards. They follow the adage of hire slow and fire fast. If they have a problem team member they will act quickly to rectify the problem even if this means moving the team member on.
Level 5 Leaders lead with passion. To develop your passion make sure you have a clear and compelling vision for where you want your team to go.
Level 5 Leadership is a term introduced by Jim Collins in the book Good to Great. Level 5 Leaders have two characteristics that set them apart from other types of leader. The two characteristics are those of being strong-willed yet humble.
These two characteristics might seem in contradiction to each other but they are not. Willpower allows Level 5 Leaders to push for consistent success. The success they aim for is the organization’s success and not their own. Because of this, it allows them to be humble about their own abilities and achievements.
Bureaucratic Theory (Max Weber)
Path-Goal Theory of Leadership
Situational Leadership Model
Fiedler’s Contingency Theory of Leadership
Tannenbaum-Schmidt Leadership Continuum
Legitimate Power in the Workplace
Five Functions of Management