Friday, March 23, 2007

Level 5 leadership

This is becoming very important. Lot of companies now look level 5 leaders and not just level 4 leaders. Before I talk more about this, let me briefly touch upon the leadership levels.

Level 1 is a Highly Capable Individual who "makes productive contributions through talent, knowledge, skills and good work habits.

Level 2 is a Contributing Team Member who "contributes individual capabilities to the achievement of group objectives and works effectively with others in a group setting."

In most professions, companies look for at least a good team players. In the business world, all tasks are done in teams. Its important for every team member to be an effective team player. Level 2 is basic hygiene level. I have seen cases where companies have rejected a person just because he just cannot work in teams, in spite of he being a genius.

Level 3 is the Competent Manager who "organizes people and resources toward the effective and efficient pursuit of predetermined objectives."

Level 4 is an Effective Leader who "catalyzes commitment to and vigorous pursuit of a clear and compelling vision, stimulating higher performance standards."

I believe difference between Level 3 and 4 is that of difference between good manager and leader. Many of you would have heard this story of a jungle which very clearly differentiates a good leader from good manager. Let me quickly mention about even at the cost of repetitive. On a jungle cutting assignment aimed at making a road, a manager is a person who organizes people towards cutting the woods in the most efficient way in the least possible time. He will develop best practices, enforce best practices etc. But a good leader is one who will climb the tree tops to see whether they are heading in the right direction. He will steer the direction of the team. This is level 4 leader. Such people are visionary, they chart out the future course.

Level 5 is the Executive who "builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will." Every one of the good-to-great companies has level 5 leaders in the critical transition phase. These leaders are described as being timid and ferocious, shy and fearless and modest with a fierce, unwavering commitment to high standards. Such people create leaders.

When a level 4 leaders leaves the company can start performing badly in the lack of leadership, but when a level 5 leader leaves, the company keep growing because he has create sufficient leaders in the organization to lead the organization.

Jack Welch is popularly referred to as Level 4 leader, who took GE to different heights. Darwin Smith, CEO at paper-product maker Kimberly-Clark from 1971 to 1999, epitomizes Level 5 leadership. Not many would have heard about him.

There is another interesting thing. L5 in not an incremental version of L4. There is no similarity in the traits of L4 and L5. They are completely different. A L4 leader will mostly remain that. He cannot move to L5 unless he realizes early in his career about this.


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