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Let’s do a quick quiz – do you recognize any of these names?

Colman Mockler
Chales Coffin
Darwin Smith
Bill Allen

Well, do you recognize these brands?

General Electric

The first list was the names of the leaders who were behind some of the most critical foundational years of these famous brands that we know today.

Often, when we think of successful companies and inspirational leaders, the picture of a charismatic, larger-than-life character comes to mind. However, after studying 1,435 “good” companies over 40 years, Jim Collins and his team found 11 companies that moved from “good” to “great”, and one important ingredient was the existence of what he coins “Level 5 Leadership”.  [Read more in our Good to Great summary]

Good to Great_5 levels of leadershipThese leaders are unique because they exhibit 2 somewhat-paradoxical qualities – personal humility and professional will.

Professional Will

Level 5 leaders have huge ambitions for their institutions, but not themselves. They are fanatically-driven to deliver results, set exacting standards, demonstrate an unwavering resolve and a quiet doggedness to do whatever it takes to bring the company to greatness.

They also demonstrate the “window-and-mirror” syndrome. When things go well, they look out of the window and give credit to factors outside of themselves (when they can’t find factors to credit, they attribute success to “good luck”). When things go poorly, they look in the mirror, take responsibility internally and never blame bad luck.

Personal Humility

Level 5 leaders put their egos aside, and focus on the companies’ long term interests. They are modest, always talking about the company (but not themselves), shun public praise, and are not boastful. They motivate others through walking the talk with their exacting standards, not through charisma. They set up successors so that the company could be great without them.

Good to Great_Level 5 Leaders1So what about those talented-but-ego-centric leaders that are more commonly found at the helm? Well, they tend to produce a leap in performance which dies off over time.

Becoming/ Finding Level 5 Leaders

So, if you are looking to build a GREAT organization that can last the test of time, look out for situations where you see extraordinary results but no one stepping forth to claim excess credit – there’s a high chance you will find a Level 5 leader at work.

If you are working on your own leadership skills, use the simple diagram above to evaluate which level of leadership are you currently operating at.  Want to understand more about Level 5 and successful CEOs?  Check out who are the top 10 CEOs on Jim Collins’ (author of Good to Great) list!

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