“Almost no great leader started as a great leader. A good leader can become a great leader”, said Jim Collins, top leadership and business expert, author, and researcher at Nordic Business Forum 2014. The point he wanted to make was that in most cases great leaders are not born; anyone can become a great leader.
But how do you become a great leader? In his book, Good To Great, Collins establishes five levels of leadership, level 5 being the highest. Here, we briefly introduce those 5 levels and provide Collins’s insights on how to start your journey to reach the highest level.
What Are the 5 Levels of Leadership?
Level 1. Highly Capable Individual. The first level of leadership according to Collins is all about having good individual skills. Level 1 leaders make productive contributions through talent, knowledge, skills, and good working habits.
Level 2. Contributing Team Member. Collins’s framework suggests that level 2 leaders have great team skills. They contribute individual capabilities to the achievement of group objectives and work effectively with others in a group setting.
Level 3. Competent Manager. Level three leaders on the other hand have excellent management skills. They organize people and resources toward the effective and efficient pursuit of predetermined goals.
Level 4. Effective Leader. According to Collins, level 4 leaders are effective leaders. These leaders catalyze commitment to and pursuit of a clear and compelling vision. They are also great at stimulating higher performance standards.
Level 5. Executive. Collins highlights that level 5 leaders, the highest-level leaders, build enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will. These leaders can be the key to creating a great organization.
Can You Become a Level 5 Leader?
In his book Good to Great, Collins mentions that he believes there are two categories of people: those who do not have the seed of Level 5, and those who do.
The first category consists of people who simply could never bring themselves to subjugate their egoistic needs to the ambition of building something larger and more lasting than themselves. For these leaders, work is first and foremost about what they get, not what they build, create, and contribute.
Collins though suspects the second category of people to be the larger group. Those are the leaders who have the potential to evolve to level 5, and under the right circumstances (conscious personal development, a significant life experience, a level 5 boss, etc.) they begin to develop.
So, if you are willing to put your ego aside, you can learn and develop to become a level 5 leader.
How Can You Become a Level 5 Leader?
There are a few things that you should consider when striving for level 5 leadership. First, during his keynote at our event, Collins said that “the x-factor of truly great leadership is humility”. He believes that humility is the aspect that separates the leaders between levels 4 and 5.
“Level fives lead in a spirit of service, and they subsume themselves in sacrifice for that”, he added. Collins pointed out that level 4 leaders are good at getting people to follow them, but level 5 leaders are great at getting people to follow the cause. “Their ambition is first and foremost for the cause, for the organization and its purpose, not themselves.”
In addition, Collins highlights that as level 5 leaders are all about sacrificing themselves for a cause, the work they do needs to be important for them. Thus, in order to be a level 5 leader the cause that you are working for needs to be significant enough for you.
It’s important to also take into account that according to Collins, level 5 leaders can come in many personality packages. “We confuse leadership and personality all the time”, he said. So, don’t worry about lacking charisma — that is not going to stand in your way to become a level 5 leader. In fact, Collins mentioned that according to their studies, level 5 leaders are often self-effacing, quiet, reserved, and even shy.
As Collins mentioned in his book, most leaders are able to put their ego aside and learn to become level 5 leaders. Self-reflection, conscious self-development, a mentor, and/or a teacher can be of great help when reaching for level 5 leadership. Remember, humility and ambition that is channeled outwards are the fundamentals of becoming a level 5 leader.
Want to learn more? Join our Virtual Masterclass with Jim Collins on 23-24 March. Read more and sign up for the intensive course here.