In our previous post on the law of addition we looked at how leaders add value through service.

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Truly serving others and having an attitude of service is a rare quality in today’s world. In his classic management book ‘Good to Great’ Jim Collins introduces the concept of the level 5 leader. He describes the level 5 leader as the kind of person at the heart of organisations and companies that excel and thrive for the long haul, literally over many decades. He helpfully distinguishes between the following levels of leadership:

Level 1 would de described as a a highly capable individual. They get the job done and they can be be relied on to do that.

Level 2 is a contributing team member. They would be someone who could contribute their individual capabilities to the objectives of the organisation or the team and is able to look beyond their own individual job role. They work effectively with others in a group setting.

Level 3 is a competent manager. That is someone who can take responsibility for the direction of the team by organising people and resources toward the effective and efficient pursuit of pre-determined objectives. They don’t just see what needs to be done by others, they actually go out of their way to bring it about.

Level 4 is an effective leader. This is someone who can catalyse commitment to and vigorous pursuit of a clear and compelling vision to the team to stimulate high performance standards. However, this is from their own personal and professional perspective.

Level 5 have what is described as this paradoxical blend of personal humility and at the same a very strong professional will to move beyond their own corner and interests to make a consistent dramatic effect for the good of the whole organisation.

What was unique about these individuals was they were:

-Committed to building enduring success into their organisations.

– Were clear about setting their successors up for success (unlike level 4 leaders who were basically more openly self seeking).

– Talking about the company and others, but declining to discuss themselves.

– Ordinary people producing extraordinary results.

– Most likely to come from within the company, not outside of it.

– Quick to give credit outside themselves when there was success, while at the same time taking personal responsibility when things went badly

– Distinctive in their approach to the people they wanted in the organisation.

In many ways they are able to illustrate the example of wonder-filled bold humility we have mentioned in a previous post. This is the height of servant leadership as it looks way beyond self interest to the interest of others and making a lasting difference and impact after the leader has gone.

This is how Jim Collins describes these level 5 leaders::

“Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. It’s not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed they are incredibly ambitious – but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves.”

What is particularly interesting about these level 5 leaders with their extreme attitude to service is that Collins in his research initially excluded the unique role these individuals were making to what he calls good-to-great companies. However, so consistent were his findings, backed by empirical research, that he found himself forced to conclude that they were an intrinsic component of a good-to-great company. Also what was a further surprise is that such individuals go  “against the grain of conventional wisdom, especially the belief that we need “larger-than-life saviours with big personalities to transform companies” .

As I share these ideas I am aware that you may or may not be called to work in a company or organisation. However, these concepts of levels of leadership I think helpfully illustrate levels of service and ultimately adding value to others.

So how about you?

What thoughts and ideas does this concept of level 5 leadership raise for you?