Level 5 Leadership

Level 5 Leadership

I am currently reading ‘Good To Great’ by Jim Collins, a book about what makes a truly and sustainably ‘great’ company.

I love that this book is based on in-depth and holistic research, not opinion. The research didn’t set out to prove any point, rather to unearth the true generic success factors, whatever they may be.

One of the key factors the research team identified is what they have called Level 5 Leaders. These leaders invest in people, build talented teams, move people into optimum roles and empower others. Level 5 leaders are: largely free of ego, are often recruited from within the company, are not threatened by the success of others and don’t claim the glory for themselves.

“Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company’.

What is fascinating, is that they study compared these truly ‘great’ companies, ones that out-performed the stock market by a factor of 7 (700%) over a 15 year period, as compared to a peer group of ‘direct comparison’ companies. Whilst those direct comparison companies may have had periods of great success, it was not sustainable. Much of this was attributable to leadership style.

“A Level 5 Leader builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.”

The comparison companies often recruited in external CEOs who had achieved a good measure of success elsewhere. However, these leaders, some of them much heralded like Lee Iacocca, were typically overly concerned with their own reputation for personal greatness. The resulting self-interested and egoic decisions often set these comparison companies up for long term failure as a result of lacking strength in depth from their senior management, fragile culture and poor/no succession plans. The study showed that in 75% of cases, the leaders of the comparison companies wittingly or unwittingly set their successors up for failure.

The great news is that Jim Collins and his colleagues concluded that Level 5 leaders were made, not born and that Level 5 Leadership can be learned and developed. We agree.

Separately, another authority on Leadership and Succession, Marshall Goldsmith in ‘What Got You Here Won’t Get You There’ identified the key leadership challenges that prevent successful leadership, all of which are to do with so called ‘soft skills’. These are the need to:

  • Win at all costs
  • Be Self-important
  • Extol faults as virtues
  • Be Judgemental
  • Be Sarcastic
  • Be Angry
  • Be Closed minded
  • Be Negative
  • Be Righteous
  • Be Unfair
  • Not giving recognition
  • Not listening
  • Making excuses
  • Blaming others
  • Be Passive-aggressive
  • A Lack of gratitude

Backing this up, the Institute of Leaders and Management (ILM) worryingly found that 94% of employees believe their senior management lack essential leadership qualities. In their report ‘Creating Future Leaders’, the ILM identifies the following as the most important factors that employers seek from their leaders:

  • Ability to inspire and motivate (36%)
  • High levels of emotional intelligence (34%)
  • Ability to deal with people (34%)
  • Natural leadership (24%)
  • Trustworthiness (22%)
  • A natural communicator (22%)
  • Possessing vision (22%)
  • Drive and ambition (22%)

All of these factors listed by Marshall Goldsmith and the ILM are directly related to ‘Emotional Intelligence’ (aka EI or EQ), the phrase first coined by Daniel Goleman in his book of the same name. Underlining its importance, Goleman’s Harvard Business Review article on Emotional Intelligence became their most requested article ever. Goleman summarised Emotional Intelligence as follows:

  1. Self-awareness – knowing your emotions
  2. Self-regulation – managing your emotions
  3. Motivating yourself – understanding your values, passion and purpose
  4. Empathy – recognising other people’s emotions
  5. Social skills and managing relationships

What we have observed is a lot of very theoretical writings and teachings on Emotional Intelligence, which miss the mark in terms of actually enabling improved EQ and giving people a practical experience, the beliefs and awareness to become more emotionally intelligent.

In our humble opinion, only the Enneagram effectively addresses these five points at a level necessary to develop emotional intelligence, turning theory into good, no GREAT practise. When combined with knowledge and awareness of beliefs, values, human and relationship needs, state management and purpose – you have (well, we have developed) a complete and emotionally intelligent self-development programme. Go to our Executive Coaching & Mentoring page to find out how to access this.

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