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Topics Covered: <a href='/resources/search/?query=Executives'>Executives</a> | <a href='/resources/search/?query=General management'>General management</a> | <a href='/resources/search/?query=Leadership'>Leadership</a>
Sales Leadership
Dec 11, 2009 | Adrian Davis lock

Primarily because it is not based on opinion. Jim Collins and his team analyzed a list of 1435 public companies and settled on 11 that made the leap from good to great and then sustained superior performance for at least 15 years. Each of these companies were compared to another company in the same industry that did not make the leap (the comparison companies). According to the Jim Collins website, "To find the keys to greatness, Collins's 21-person research team (at his management research firm) read and coded 6,000 articles, generated more than 2,000 pages of interview transcripts and created 384 megabytes of computer data in a five-year project."

The first and most important conclusion they came to is great companies had a different type of leadership. They had Level 5 Leaders. These leaders possessed two distinguishing traits: First, they were extremely humble. Whenever a problem existed, they looked in the mirror. Whenever they were praised, they looked through the window and gave credit to others. Second, they possessed an iron will. They knew what they needed to accomplish and they did everything in their power to achieve it.

I've come to realize why level 5 leadership is so essential for making the leap from good to great. First, the leap from good to great requires great and sustained energy. The mistake a lot of leaders make is they think their charisma is what is required to inspire their people to greatness. While charisma does inspire people to greatness, there are two problems that I can see. First, the charismatic personality tends to overshadow all others. Direct reports lose confidence in their own abilities as everyone engages in collective adoration of the leader. As the charismatic leader becomes more and more decisive, the direct reports become more and more dependent on the leader's decisiveness. This develops a culture that Collins describes as "the genius with a thousand helpers."

The second problem with the charismatic leader is the necessity of his or her presence. Once the leader leaves, the organization implodes. Collins suggests that the charismatic leaders secretly enjoys the implosion as it underlines just how critical he or she was to the success of the organization.

Leaders without charisma, however, create other problems. They tend to lack the power necessary to get their team aligned around a common goal. Strong personalities below them develop their own decisiveness and begin to drive the company according to their personal agendas rather than the corporate agenda.

I think it is this inner energy of the level 5 leader that drives them to invest in clarity and surrounding themselves with the right people that is pivotal to making the leap from good to great. When they are surrounded by the right people, these people feel the freedom to develop their leadership abilities and in so doing, they bring the best of themselves to the corporate mission. They respect the leader but they do not feel overshadowed by the leader. They feel safe enough to speak openly and make tough decisions. This collective momentum over time transforms the company. When the level 5 leaders leaves, there is no leadership vacuum. The leader ensures there is a succession plan in place because what matters most is the corporate mission not the personal agenda.

If you do have the opportunity to work with a level 5 leader, do everything you can to understand the corporate agenda. This is what matters most when a leader is at level 5.

About the Author:


Adrian Davis is a business strategist and trusted advisor for chief executives and business owners. He is a thought-provoking speaker and is frequently called upon to address senior management teams and sales groups on the subjects of corporate strategy, competitive advantage and sales excellence.

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