Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Level 5 Leadership

The term "Level 5 Leadership" is the conclusion drawn on a 5 years (1996 – 2001) research led by Jim Collins. It was said a total of 1,435 companies have been examined, only 11 companies stood out from very stringent qualitative and quantitative analysis. The research pursued an answer to a question: can a good company become a great company and, if so, how? Collins originally gave explicit instructions to his "Chimps" (research associates) to downplay the role of top executives. However the answer to Collins' question seemed to have evolved itself in the result of the study, i.e. at the time of transition (taking off from good to great) those 11 companies that met the standard all had a Level 5 leader. Level 5 leaders have duality in personality: modest and willful, shy and fearless. Collins used example such as Abraham Lincoln and Gillette CEO M Mockler to demonstrate the necessary attributes of Level 5 leaders which are paradoxical mix of personal humility and professional will. One very distinguishable difference between great companies and other comparison companies is best described as "the Windows and the Mirror". Level 5 leaders running great companies are inherently humble so they would look out the window to apportion credit; if they couldn't find a specific person or event they credit good luck. When things go bad Level 5 leaders look at the mirror to assign responsibility to themselves, never citing bad luck or external factors. Collins hypothesized that you either have Level 5 seed in you or you don't. If you have Level 5 seed you may still need an exceptional life experience such as caner, 8 years imprisonment as POW or religious belief etc to nurture the seed. There is no weekend crash course or things like ten steps to Level 5. However the message is clear, i.e. despite the odds you must commit to ascend then you will succeed without reaching the top.

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