Level 5 Leadership

Topics: James Stockdale, Luck Pages: 19 (891 words) Published: December 3, 2014
Level 5

Based on Jim Collins article, “Level 5
Leadership: The Triumph of
Humility and Fierce Resolve”, in Best Of
July-August, 2005, p.136-146

The key to an organization
great is having a Level 5 leader

Someone who blends genuine
personal humility with intense
professional will

“Level 5”
 The highest level in a hierarchy of leadership
 Leaders at the other four levels in the hierarchy can
produce high levels of success but not enough to
elevate organizations from mediocrity to sustained
 Good-to-great transformations don’t happen without
Level 5 leadership
 Level 5 is not the only requirement for transforming a
good organization into a great one
 Other factors include getting the right people on the
bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and creating a
culture of discipline

The Level 5 Hierarchy
 Sits on top of a hierarchy of capabilities
 Four other layers lie beneath it
 Each one is appropriate in its own right, but
none with the power of Level 5
 We do not need to move sequentially
through each level of the hierarchy to reach
the top
 But to be a fully-fledged Level 5, we need
the capabilities of all the lower levels, plus
the special characteristics of level 5

Not by Level 5 Alone
 Level 5 leadership is an essential factor
for taking an organization from good to
great, but it’s not the only one
 There are other “drivers”, combined with
Level 5 - the combined package which
takes the organization beyond
 The drivers are – First Who, Stockdale
Paradox, the Flywheel, The Hedgehog
Concept and A Culture of Discipline

First Who
 Good-to-great leaders start with
people first and then deal with vision
and strategy second
 They get the right people on the bus,
 Move the wrong people off,
 Usher the right people to the right
seats, and
 Determine where to drive it

Stockdale Paradox
 Named after Admiral James Stockdale, winner of the
Medal of Honor who survived for 7 years in a Viet Cong
POW camp by hanging on to two contradictory beliefs
 His life couldn’t be worse at the moment, and his life would someday be better than ever
 Good-to-great leaders confront the most brutal facts of
their current reality, yet simultaneously maintained
absolute faith that they will prevail in the end
 They held both disciplines – faith and facts – at the same time, all the time

Buildup-Breakthrough Flywheel
 Good-to-great transformations do not
happen overnight or in one big leap
 Rather, it starts one movement at a time,
gradually building up momentum, till there
is a breakthrough
 Mediocre organizations never sustained the
breakthrough momentum but instead lurch
back and forth with radical change
programmes, reactionary moves and

The Hedgehog Concept
 The fox knows a
little about many
 A fox is complex

 A hedgehog
knows only one
big thing very
 The hedgehog is
 And the
hedgehog wins!

A Culture of Discipline
 Good-to-great organizations have three
forms of discipline
1. Disciplined people – you don’t need hierarchy,
2. Disciplined thought – you don’t need
bureaucracy, and
3. Disciplined action – you don’t need excessive

 Combining a culture of discipline with an
ethic of entrepreneurship results in great

Level 5 Leaders

 A study in duality
 Modest and willful,
 Shy and fearless

The Yin and Yang of Level 5

The Yin and Yang of
Level 5
 Channels ambition into
the organization, not
the self; sets up
successors for even
more greatness in the
next generation
 Looks in the mirror, not
out the window, to
responsibility for poor
results, never blaming
other people, external
factors, or bad luck

 Sets the standard of
building an enduring
great organization; will
settle for nothing else
 Looks out the window,
not in...
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