Leadership belongs to the processes that reflect the changes of other people's behavior in order to achieve common goals. As an element of social interaction, leadership is a complex activity that involves the influence on participants, a number of possible advances, improved team collaboration, and change of corporate culture. However, the position and the individuality of a leader are the central notions among other elements of this phenomenon. Thus, Jim Collins described the image of an ideal leader by putting their certain characteristics and functional significance to the highest fifth level of the leadership gradation. His article is dedicated to the fifth level of leadership and combines a description of the most successful distillations of professional and personal characteristics of a leader that ensure success in business.
Jim Collins has paid attention to the fifth level of leadership as the highest point of skill and education as well as the best qualities that help to lead any company to guaranteed success. The author points out that the leadership results only in positive feelings among the subordinates of such employer and increases their motivation, because such leader demonstrates respect to other people, as well as dedication, and strong commitment to achieving results. According to Collins’ suggestion, the leaders of the fifth level paradoxically combine private frugality and tough will. Furthermore, the author emphasizes their tenacity and low self-pity. However, they are also characterized by modesty. Among their behavior patterns, there can be singled out their ambitions manifested in the environment of their companies. In contract, their ego rarely becomes an obstacle to the corporate success. Although the leaders of the fifth level make a significant contribution to their organizations, they attribute these remarkable achievements to their employees, simple luck, and external factors. Such leaders supervise by means of disciplined subordinates, and thoughtful actions.
Collins has provided the leadership hierarchy. This aspect motivates the readers to find and verify themselves in the gradation of a leadership style. The author outlines that the first level of leadership means high efficiency, practical application of talents, skills and knowledge, and high working habits. The author refers to this set of professional and personal benefits of the corporate leader as a sufficient combination for the initial management of a team. If a person uses individual opportunities to jointly achieve the goals of the group through teamwork, this is a leader of the next level. Gaining professional and personal competence, a leader can make a team evolve through optimal organization of their performance and effective achievement of their goals. This is the third level of leadership described by Collins in his article. A more effective leader occupies the fourth level. This individual has a compelling and clear vision and stimulates the production of high-performance standards. Next, Collins describes the rational and optimal combination of professional will and personal simplicity as the most expressive features peculiar to the leader of the fifth level. Overall, the mentioned skills and qualities are well determined and developed through the perspective of team building, interpersonal communication, inspiration, rational organization of human resources, and goal-seeking toolset. These attributes of leadership were reveled in various theories and practical examples of leadership, while Collins attempted to organically combine them.
The article is filled with definite examples of leaders in different business areas. The author summed up their qualities as the historical proof for his theory. Their stories of success and acknowledgment topped the provision of the leadership scale. The author provides a contrast of the sound name of L. Iacocca (Ford and Chrysler Corporations) who demonstrated significant business growth with shy but executive acknowledged leaders C. Mockler (Gillette Company) and D. Smith (Kimberly-Clark Corporation). The author assumed that certain leaders had more or less of the fifth-level leadership, but his findings were intended to be applied while selecting and recruiting the candidates to the positions of executives or senior managers. Collins suggested that these actions will be useful for accurate identification of different leaders in the practice of the companies valuing their competence and willing to increase the level of HRM and their qualitative performance. He emphasized a significant role of the fifth-level leader for the improvement of a company’s performance and motivation of its personnel.
The leader rarely reaches the fifth level. Leadership at this level is a culmination of the previous levels. In addition, it requires a high degree of applied skills and innate ability to guide people. Thus, Collins relies on particular leadership theories about the natural and acquired traits of a leader. Individuals occupying the top leadership are fundamentally different from all others. They achieve success in everything they undertake. Leadership of the fifth level is a kind of a lift for the entire organization that creates an environment that is beneficial and contributive to the success of all subordinates employees. The fifth-level leaders often have an impact that transcends their organization.
Most of the leaders who reach the top become successful in their career. However, the representatives of the fifth-level leadership leave the occupied positions in order to assess their success and reach new achievements. This level represents a position that has the greatest impact on their lives and working conditions of their colleagues. Therefore, the leaders who reach the upper level should make maximum use from time frameworks. They need to educate and raise as many leaders as they can, face numerous challenges, and expand their positive influence beyond their own companies and entire business according to their gratitude, will and humility.
The fifth-level leadership had a very independent origin and was not based specifically on the theoretical background of the leadership phenomena. The fifth-level leadership theory evolved independently. It was introduced by Collins and his researchers in the companies that had the highest growth rates over the past fifteen years. Practical examples of the world-famous companies presented strong evidence of the derived positions of leadership and allowed to draw parallels between the leaders in various fields of business. Collins offered comparative growth rates of Gillette Company, Kimberly-Clark and others. Their takeover bid and stock market value have significantly risen to the higher positions. Amazing success of these companies affects the observers by unusual energy of excellent fifth-level leadership, which has been recognized and continues to motivate all employees of these corporations to seek the corporate goals and quality standards in joint teamwork in the long run.
Collins’ idea seems unexpected in present days, but it was perceived as almost seditious a few years ago. High-profile corporate scandals were ahead in the nearest future, while it was believed that the general director should be a charismatic performer. Collins was the first scientist who questioned this stereotype.
In 1971, unremarkable Darwin Smith was appointed as a general director of the paper company Kimberly-Clark. Things were not going well for the company. Total return of its shares was 36% lower than the average level over the past 20 years. The modest employee of the legal department, Smith doubted the rationality of the way the Board of Directors was chosen. Nevertheless, he became the general manager and held this position for 20 years.
After a major transformation of the company, Smith turned it into the world’s leading manufacturer of consumer goods. Under his leadership, Kimberly-Clark Corporation has overtaken competitors like Scott Paper and Procter & Gamble. The total yield of its shares exceeded the average market rate more than 4 times. In this regard, Kimberly-Clark surpassed 3M, Hewlett-Packard, Coca-Cola, and GE.
In the twentieth century, the similar story characterized Kimberly-Clark Corporation managed by D. Smith. He was not widely famous among the market observers and did not aspire to fame. Smith was a classic and humble leader. However, his demands and ambitious goals made the company the most successful in its market segment.
Collins somewhat moved away from the traditional view of a leader as a person serving his/her team. Thus, the leader from the article appears to be a true leader guiding his/her team. Collins stresses the need for quality attributes of the fifth level leadership. This includes the right people with the appropriate culture and character, proper level of competence, humility, and strong professional will concerning the goal-seeking processes. According to the assumptions of Collins and his supporters, this formula provides the leader with the high level of professional and personal skills. The warranty of this formula is confirmed by the analysis of activities and personal qualities of the leaders of the recognized brands. The author of the theory increasingly focuses on character rather than competence, as high competence is not critical for success, while character is very important.
Prerequisites for the procedure of achieving the fifth level of leadership imply accepting the right people, setting objectives for them, and establishing a high long-term goal. Analysis of the leadership of the fifth level has shown that the final and continuous achievement of excellent and long-term achievements is a major advantage for the company and its structural elements. However, it should be noted that it is related to certain restrictions. Thus, the leadership requires long-term personal investment by the leader. Overall, the theory of Collins exists as a separate and developed methodology of the excellent leadership, which lacks certain discussion, but seems reasonable and effective.
Collins's article echoes J. Maxwell's concept of leadership levels. It is widely used in the leadership training of governance and supervision of the companies of any structure and scale. This approach was developed as a theoretical approach of Collins for a more detailed description of the highest level of leadership. He has resorted to the fifth level of leadership as the highest qualitative landmark of management and manifestation of personal traits that help to win respect of colleagues and capture their loyalty. In other words, when people see a leader in their supervisor, they subconsciously follow him/her. This allows achieving high results of cohesion of a team and its increased and qualitative productivity.
When the company succeeds, the leaders of the fifth level look through the window and attribute all the credit to someone else, but not to themselves. However, when a company is faced with difficulties, they look in a mirror and take full responsibility. After selecting the target and moving forward to it, they want to remain a part of society and to care about others and the world in general. This behavior positively charges their subordinates with energy that allows overcoming all the difficulties. Their path to success may be long-term, but it is the trait that distinguishes the leader of the fifth level from the fourth level. The material part of the goal is not considered to be the main thing. The essential point is to achieve harmony of spiritual and material sides.
To sum up, certain main provisions of the leadership gradation should be noted. As one of the most influential business thinkers, Jim Collins identifies five levels of leadership in his article. He especially emphasizes the leadership of the fifth level and believes that such leaders are able to achieve exceptional and long-term results due to the amazing combination of personal qualities and professional will. The fifth-level leaders differ from the effective managers and leaders of other levels by a combination of unique humility and professional will.
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