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.
The key word to focus on in this statement alone is ‘grit.’ We will not be able to win on talent alone. He did not say we are never going to win a game.
If this were the case we may as well all toss in the towel and never look back. The conversation was started with the obvious intention to figure out what we need to do to take games from teams who physically outmatch us, because it is possible.
The trick is to accept that it is not possible to win if we continue on the same path, while keeping faith that if we commit to making change, we can and will win.
B1G ten volleyball teams are built to be larger than life girls who are great jumpers, with powerful swings, and heavy serves. Winning teams in the B1G ten get the top physical recruits in the nation. We don’t happen to be that team. We’re not going to magically jump touch a foot higher than we do now to match the teams we are playing against.
None of us are going to grow five inches either. These are all things we know to be true. But we went neck and neck with a lot of these teams, falling short time and time again by tiny margins. So what tips the scale in our favor? Every uphill battle to ever exist has been won at the fighting fists of people who not only possess but understand and live their lives through one principle; grit.
For the uphill battle winners, the saying, “Success comes to those who wait.” is a load of crap. They live their lives knowing that the hill is conquered by those who outwork yesterday’s best today. They continue to strive for this day after day. Yet through this grueling and time consuming process they still possess a level of passion to warrant patience while climbing. Patience is essential for the climb; waiting is not. The reality of the situation is we can no longer wait and stare up in awe from the bottom of the hill at teams who have reached the top. We need a direction to go, preferably up.
In the book Good to Great, by Jim Collins, to become a great team, the right people have to be “on the bus.” I believe the right people are. We’ve done the grueling practices, and long days in the gym, exhausting traveling weekends, staying up until the early hours of the morning in the hotel lobby finishing schoolwork.
However, so have the teams we compete against. Beyond this I am confident the right people are on our bus because above all else, those of us who remain have chosen to stay on board. Our past competition season was the ultimate test. The players struggled, the coaches struggled, some people left the bus, and others were kicked off.
For that reason alone the remaining members of this team possess the grit and faith that we need to win. The piece of the puzzle we were missing is now staring us in the face. We will not win on talent alone. Confronted with this truth, we keep the faith that we will win, go back to the drawing board, and figure out how to begin the climb. The only direction left to go is up.