If we completely dismiss the article that debunks the accuracy of the Level 5 research, I would say there is a lot to be learned through the Level 5 Leadership.
Maybe it’s because I have Level 4 and level 5 Leadership tendencies, I think that even if Jim Collin’s research was not statistically sound, it extols the qualities that I believe are important to being an effective/great leader. All this said, I don’t believe that these leadership qualities alone that are driving the results of the 11 companies included in the study—meaning driving the companies from being good to great.
So what difference does level 5 make? To me, it’s all about humility. I think that professional will is sort of ho hum as it is to be expected at someone who makes a real and measurable difference in an organization. I would suggest that strong professional will is found in more than one of the five levels. So, the biggest difference to me is humility. At level 5, it’s not just humility about your own accomplishments, but that type of humility is there. It’s also the humility found when you ascribe the successes to the group.
Another thing I like about Level 5 leaders is that they subscribe some portion of their success to luck. This is another thing that I agree does make or break a great leader. While people will say you make your own luck (thanks to Kierkegaard and existentialists everywhere), I do believe that achieving greatness rather than just goodness is highly dependent upon being at the right place at the right time and having the right people and circumstances before and after you.
One thing I truly disagree with in this article is that it seems to suggest that you have to an introverted personality in order to achieve Level 5 status. I have to disagree with that. I believe that it is possible to be humble, have great professional will and be an extrovert. I also believe that being a Level 5 leader has more to do with personality than attitude. So I would argue that either you are born with it or you aren’t.