The concept of Level 5 Leadership was created by business consultant, Jim Collins. He wrote about it in a well-respected 2001 Harvard Business Review article, and published his research in his popular book, “From Good to Great.” The concept came about during a study that began in 1996, when Collins began researching what makes a great company. He started by looking at 1,435 companies, and ended up choosing 11 truly great ones. These 11 companies were all headed by what Collins called Level 5 Leaders.
He found that these leaders have humility, and they don’t seek success for their own glory; rather, success is necessary so that the team and organization can thrive. They share credit for success, and they’re the first to accept blame for mistakes. Collins also says that they’re often shy, but fearless when it comes to making decisions, especially ones that most other people consider risky.
Level 5 Leaders also possess qualities found in four other levels of leadership that Collins identified. Although you don’t have to pass sequentially through each individual level before you become a Level 5 Leader, you must have the skills and capabilities found in each level of the hierarchy.
Let’s look at each of the five levels in more detail:
Level 1: Highly Capable Individual
At this level, you make high quality contributions with your work. You possess useful levels of knowledge; and you have the talent and skills needed 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 work effectively, productively and successfully with other people in your group.
Level 3: Competent Manager
Here, you’re able to organize a group effectively to achieve specific goals and objectives.
Level 4: Effective Leader
Level 4 is the category that most top leaders fall into. Here, you’re able to galvanize a department or organization to meet performance objectives and achieve a vision.
Level 5: Great Leader
At Level 5, you have all of the abilities needed for the other four levels, plus you have the unique blend of humility and will that’s required for true greatness.
Reprinted by permission of Harvard Business Review. From Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve by Jim Collins, January 2001. Copyright © 2001 by the Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation; all rights reserved.