When Jim Collins did his “Good to Great” research, he identified a particularly effective leadership style. He called it level 5 leadership. Level 5 leaders display a powerful mixture of personal humility and indomitable will. They’re incredibly ambitious, but their ambition is first and foremost for the cause, for the organization and its purpose, not themselves. While Level 5 leaders can come in many personality packages, they are often self-effacing, quiet, reserved, and even shy.
I want to explore the idea of what it takes to be a level 5 leader. Starting, in this article, with humility.
Stephen Covey on humility:
“A humble person is more concerned about what is right than about being right,
about acting on good ideas than having the ideas,
about embracing new truth than defending an outdated position,
about building the team than exalting self,
about recognizing contribution than being recognized for making it.”
You can quickly see why this would be a powerful leadership trait. It leaves the entanglements of the ego behind to make the best possible decisions.
Does it sound weak? Because, Covey went on to say:
“Being humble does not mean being weak, reticent, or self-effacing.”
A humble person, instead of being weak, can drive the hardest possible bargain.
Jim Collins, in “Good to Great”, described the way these level 5 leaders used a technique he dubbed the “Window and the Mirror”.
A level 5 leader, when things go well, looks out the window to see all of the people responsible in the organization that made success possible. In other words, they shift the focus away from themselves and toward their team.
On the other hand, when things go poorly, the level 5 leader looks into the mirror and asks herself, “what could I have done differently to generate a better result”.
“A good leader takes more than their fair share of the blame and gives more than their share of the credit.”- Arnold Glasow; American Humorist
When an average leader sees employees doing something that appears wrong. They rush to correct the problem. In other words, an average leader “rushes to judgement”. However, the great Don Rheem (@DonRheem) says that a world class leader does not “Rush to Judgement”, instead they “Rush to Curiosity”. They go to their employee and inquire: What led you to do it that way? Why did you choose that method? How is this better? Be open minded and prepare to be delighted by the creativity that others show.
Adopt an agenda of mutual benefit for all the stakeholders around you. Life is not a zero sum game for the most important things in life, including organizational success.
Be open to, and ask for, feedback often. Never consider yourself above feedback.
Share personal stories of mistakes and failures with your team.
Admit when you don’t know something.
Humility is the spice that can push your leadership to the next level. Get started developing it and showing it with these tips today.
Just my opinion. What do you think? Let me know in the comments.
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