The leadership of upper level management is a key factor of what drives success in a company. Without proper leadership, sustained success is unattainable.
Each individual’s definition of leadership is going to be different. In “Good to Great” by Jim Collins, he introduces this concept called Level 5 Leadership. A level 5 leader is an individual who takes a company from good, and creates great sustained success for future generations. According to Collins, level 5 leaders “build enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will” (Collins, 20). These leaders put their personal desires and egos aside and focus all of their ambition towards making the company great. While focusing on the success of the company, these leaders never seek praise, and often discuss the companies’ success using words such as “we” instead of “I”, as to hide from the spotlight and credit the success towards others.
The immense humility these leaders possess creates an environment filled with positive morale which leads to success. To completely grasp this concept, one must understand that personal humility is only half of the paradoxical blend, which forms a level 5 leader. While being modest and humble, these leaders will do whatever is needed for the success of the company. According to Collins, “Level 5 leaders are fanatically driven, infected with an incurable need to produce results” (Collins, 30). The work ethic these leaders contain aids them in their success. They desire long-term success and will settle for nothing but that, no matter the difficulty of the task at hand. The determination to set up the company for greater success once they have left, while knowing they may receive no credit or praise is what separates this elite group from others.
The determination for success in future generations is what makes a level 5 leader so valuable. This past year I had the opportunity to experience working in one of America’s top 100 companies to work for. After learning this concept, I can see clearly why the company is extremely successful and then extremely unsuccessful.
Upon hiring, our general manager displayed the many qualities of a level 5 leader. Through daily team meetings to individual monthly evaluations and awards, he strove to praise his hard working employees. He was always extremely humble and thankful for the dedication of his employees for making the company succeed. He would work endless hours in any position needed to ensure that the company was going to be successful. He truly cared about the success of the company before his own personal goals.
Towards the end of the summer, we had received notice that he was going to be leaving the company. In a short two weeks, he had promoted an assistant to the new general and they began to run the company. Within the upcoming months, the daily meetings stopped and we no longer received help from upper management. Employees were no longer being praised for their hard work, yet reprimanded for each and every mistake. Workplace morale had completely taken a 180-degree turn and was at an all time low.
Instead of daily meetings to praise and motivate, we were being told of the losses the company was taking and being blamed for not generating enough sales. Within a six month span, the entire company was different. No longer was it yielding successful results. This really shows how rare level 5 leaders are.
Even though the previous general manager showed many of the qualities of a level 5 leaders, the failure to select a quality successor proves that he is not a level 5 leader. Instead of spending the time to select a quality general manager, he simply hired the next man in command, which ended up being disastrous.