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Articles > Positioning Systems Newsletter # 80 4-29-08 “Level Five Leadership”

Is there a blueprint for the type of leader it takes to run a successful business? I’m not sure I have what it takes and would like to learn how to become a better leader.

The best suggestion I would have for anyone wanting to learn how to become a better leader would be to read Jim Collins Good to Great chapter 2 on Level 5 Leadership.  It’s filled with surprising and practical ideas on how to be a better leader and examples of many leaders how were able to move their businesses from good to great.  In fact Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix offered that every year he goes back to re-read this chapter to make sure he is operating as closely as possible to the intentions and actions Level 5 Leadership outlines.

My experience with working with successful small and mid-size businesses has borne this out as well.  You’d imagine successful leaders to be incredibly ambitious, self-centered, and maybe even arrogant.  What Jim Collins offers is a pattern of ambition that is coupled with humility and suppression of the need to take credit for accomplishments.  Rather the leader attributes success to others, yet when things go bad they are more than willing to accept the blame. 

They are fanatical in the quest to produce results, yet recognize that results don’t come overnight.  Success they realize is a process not an event. Contrary to belief successful leaders are more often [using Jim Collins description] a plow horse rather than show horse.  They perform with workmanlike diligence.  What Level 5 leaders do best is to have an extraordinary skill to balance professional will with personal humility.

One of my clients had me in recently to do a two day workshop with his staff.   He had not shared much financial information with this group about the business. He planned do that in this meeting, which meant getting out of his comfort zone.  For almost ten years he had kept his financials as a closely guarded secret to his employees.  He could have done this with great bravado and arrogance, yet instead as he began to reveal to them the numbers he also offered how he had made a great many mistakes and that the meeting was an attempt to eliminate them in the future, one of which was providing his financials to his leadership group.

His approach went a long way to making the meeting successful.  He lauded his team for their performance, and pointed the finger at himself for holding the business back. 

I could provide you more on Level 5 leadership, however simply reading Chapter 2 in Good to Great will offer you terrific insight into what it takes to reach this outstanding level of being of leader.

The point Jim Collins makes it that many people have the ability to evolve into Level 5 Leadership. 

My work with the E-Myth Mastery and now with Gazelles coaching has provided me with significant tools to help coach owners and managers on the skills to ascend to this level of leadership.

A key to climbing to this height starts with awareness of what is required to be an effective leader.  Another key is to know thyself.  Tools and books like Strengthsfinder 2.0, Now Discover Your Strengths and First Break all the Rules provide insights into how to act and the importance of developing our strengths, which allows us to be happier and to perform better by focusing on what we are best at. 

If leadership is something you wish to improve upon there are many opportunities to develop this.  Coaching will allow you to become more responsible for development.  A good coach will question your response and actions forcing you to continually work on improving those attributes that you may not be aware are derailing your leadership abilities.

What is significant in Jim Collins book Good to Great is this, Level 5 Leadership is the point from which he starts.   The three elements to taking a business from Good to Great is disciplined people, disciplined thought, discipline action.  In their research, they actually didn’t look for this.  In fact they were if anything looking to avoid this since the business time of growth often could supersede one leaders influence.  Yet the evidence to support the need for Level 5 leadership was so overwhelming they could not avoid its meaning. 

You may be able to have a good company without great leadership, but it empirically points that you will not have a great company without level 5 leadership. 

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Positioning Systems helps business owners and entrepreneurs transform their business.  We provide the tools and coaching to help you take control of your business -- rather then having your business control you.