Level 5 Blind Spot

In 2001, Jim Collins published a book that went on to become a best seller (over four million copies) and is considered one of the most influential business books of our time. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t (Harper Collins 2001) included a handful of core foundations that take companies from good to great, one of which is the concept of the Level 5 leader. The key attributes of a Level 5 leader are the following:

  1. They are self-confident enough to set up their successors for success.
  2. They are humble and modest.
  3. They have “unwavering resolve.”
  4. They display a “workmanlike diligence – more plow horse than show horse.”
  5. They give credit to others for their success and take full responsibility for poor results.

Sounds great (pun intended), doesn’t it? Sounds like the type of leader that we would all want within our organizations and which we would all likely aspire to be ourselves. Given the millions of people who have read Good to Great and who believe its message, you would think that leadership and impact would be growing in our businesses and organizations. And yet, that’s not the case.

Despite having a road map and despite leaders at all levels embracing the truth and value of Level 5 leadership, our leadership gap continues and in many cases is growing. Why? It’s because of the Level 5 blind spot: our false belief (and wishful thinking) that we ARE Level 5 leaders when we’re not.

There are many reasons behind this leadership gap, but the one I want to focus on today is the element of humility and modesty, as well as setting up others for success. In my leadership world, the number one goal of all leaders (as opposed to managers) is to grow their people. To grow your people, you must care about them and model that caring in all of your choices, actions and behaviors. That’s where the gap comes in.

There’s no shortage of talk from leaders about how much they care about people and how people are their top priority, but the walk is lacking. One of the main things I hear from team members is that they do not feel valued and that the organization (which reflects leadership) is not investing in them in terms of mentoring, feedback, nurturing, communication, and development opportunities. We may aspire to be Level 5 leaders – leading with a fierce humility as Jim Collins describes – but our actions are falling short, which is the essence of the Level 5 blind spot.

How many leaders do you know whom you would describe as humble, modest and caring? If you consider yourself to be humble, modest and caring, would your team members agree? If valuing your people is one of your stated top priorities, would your team members say that they feel valued? At the core, Level 5 leaders walk their talk. They put their own egos, priorities and successes aside to encourage and empower their team members and provide genuine opportunities for their team to grow and succeed.

Are you ready to lead differently? Are you ready to deeply invest in your people and their futures, not just the organization’s future? Are you willing to see your blind spot and embrace (with action) your own Level 5 leader? What are you waiting for?

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