Monday, September 28, 2015

Level 5 Leadership is the Exception

There was recently an op-ed in Time magazine from an author about leadership BS. He claims narcissistic leaders are just as good as Collins' Level 5 leaders. Narcissists rule! He cites some examples of good leaders who were narcissists. 'Good leaders don't have to be good,' he says. Level 5 leaders are the exceptions.

Exactly!! (Exceptions don't fit the normal classifications.)

That's what Collins was pointing out in Good to Great. There are a lot of good companies run by good leaders, but the great leaders are Level 5 leaders. These are leaders who have helped turned their companies into industry rulers, not just at the front or the middle of the pack. There are the leaders everyone else chases. These Great companies are the exceptions and therefore the leaders' characteristics may not be found in the top chair of other non-great companies.

You'll find level 3 and level 4 leaders in non-great companies. You'll find good leaders there, but you won't find great leaders.

I had hoped the op-ed writer would have pointed out that we don't need lessons from Genghis Khan, Winnie-the-Pooh, wild African dogs (most efficient team on the African veld). There are great leaders around us all the time. They're called Givers. And Givers with leadership potential sometimes aren't allowed to lead. (Not all Givers have the ability to lead either.) They're open, approachable, vulnerable--and sometimes those qualities are taken as weakness. Instead it's trustworthy. Untrustworthy--i.e. unapproachable, closed, invulnerable--leaders sometimes helm good or great companies on the verge of disaster. People are afraid to talk about problems so they get covered up. Narcissistic leaders don't like to hear about problems or help fix them, because organizations with problems reflect poorly on the leaders and narcissistic leaders detest appearing blemished.

Leaders don't have to be level 5 leaders. Companies don't have to be great. Great companies need level 5 leaders. Exceptions break the rule.


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