Leadership For Sustainability

I was rereading the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins the other day and it occurred to me that with all the talk about sustainability in business we should revisit some of those basic concepts covered in that book. The chapter on Fifth Level Leaders really hits home with what it takes to create organizations that are excellent and have a prayer to be sustainable. An interesting question came to my mind. “What if our current elected officials adopted the concepts of a Fifth Level Leader?”

What is a Fifth Level Leader? It is a leader who has two major attributes. The first is a will to succeed no matter what is happening. The second is paradoxical to the first. That is to have a great amount of humility and modesty.

The will to succeed is for the organization not for oneself. This is a foreign concept to most leaders since they are usually focused on themselves first and then the organization. Fifth Level leaders work hard at whatever needs to be done and will not settle for anything less than what will meet the long term objectives of the organization.

What would happen if political leaders became so entrenched in making the organizations they serve succeed that they did not even worry about re-elections because the results would be so overwhelmingly successful that re-election would come automatically?  When service is placed above self good things happen.

The humility needed to be a Fifth Level Leader is the ability to give credit to everyone and everything else when things go well. When things go wrong, a mirror is placed in front of the leader and blame is apportioned to him alone. The organization’s Buck stops with the leader.

Fifth Level Leaders leave the place better than they found it and cultivate the next generation of leaders to carry on the organization. As Collins says, “most leaders hope the place implodes after they leave so it makes them only look better”. This short-sighted thinking of a lot of leaders does not create sustainability.

Is your organization led by Fifth Level Leaders? If not, what are you doing about it? Although it is not easy to find or develop this type of leader, a Fifth Level leader will only improve the organization. How will you get from Good to Great?

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