Level 5 Leadership

Achieving "Greatness" as a Leader

What does it take to step up to the next level?

© iStockphoto/dmitryphotos

What makes leaders great? Is it their courage? Their business acumen? Their expert knowledge? Their ability to organize?

Truly great leaders have a specific blend of skills. But they also possess something else; certain characteristics which are harder to define.

If you're in a leadership role, then you've likely wondered how you can move to that "next level," going from good to great leadership.

In this article, we'll examine "Level 5 Leadership" – a key idea that helps you do this. We'll explore what it takes to achieve greatness as a leader, and we'll discuss strategies that you can use to move up to this top level of leadership.

Introducing Level 5 Leadership

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...

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