American researcher and author Jim Collins spent five years studying what separates so-called “good” companies from “great” ones. According to Collins, one of the key differentiators between good and great companies is leadership.
Documenting the findings of the research in his book Good to Great, Collins explains that all of the great companies had what he terms Level 5 leaders. These leaders exhibit a powerful combination of “personal humility and indomitable will”. Often they are quite shy, powerful and reserved. While they may be ambitious, their ambition is not for themselves, it is driven by a greater cause; this cause being the organisation and its broader objectives and purpose.
Today, we need Level 5 leaders more so than ever
People who are uninterested in personal gains and status, Level 5 leaders aren’t keen to talk about their own achievements. These leaders want to leave a legacy that lasts long after they are gone and they worry/care more about others than they do about themselves.
Simon Sinek shares this sentiment. “Leadership is not a rank, it is a responsibility. Leadership is not about being in charge, it is about taking care of those in your charge. And when we take care of our people, our people will take care of us,” he says.
Shifting our understanding of leaders
Kimberly-Clark Corporation is a US American personal care company that produces paper-based consumer products. From 1951 to 1971, Kimberly-Clark’s stock fell 36%. Darwin E. Smith, the brand’s in-house lawyer, was appointed the CEO of the company in 1971. A shy and unpretentious individual who disliked the limelight, many thought he was the wrong man for the job. But Smith’s incredible dedication and strong will meant that held the position of CEO for the next twenty years. Under his leadership he transformed Kimberly Clark into the leading consumer paper products company in the world. Smith turned Kimberly Clark from a good company into a truly great company.
All too often, we associate good leadership with individuals who have a larger than life status. But just because the world values wealth and fame doesn’t mean that the richest people in the world or the CEOs of the world’s most powerful companies are the best leaders. Darwin E. Smith, and so many other Level 5 leaders, prove this.
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