Jim Collins introduced “Level 5 Leadership” as a powerful way to take a company from Good to Great and characterized the highest level of leadership as HUMILITY + WILL. Both HUMILITY and WILL are behaviors, which exist at the surface of Level 5 leadership. Many institutions try to build Level 5 leadership through both a Behavioral Approach and EQ training, both of which are psychological tools. Do internal structures matter? Can one tool solve all problems? These principles apply to both leaders and talent.
Beneath the surface of HUMILITY + WILL lie a healthy Ego, a deep understanding of life, a big dream, extraordinary abilities and other integrated internal structures. Individuals with a healthy Ego typically accept themselves and have no need to seek satisfaction through pathological behaviors that will backfire later. Humility reflects a healthy Ego but is NOT the only reflection. Those who understand that success requires the right time and the right place in addition to hard work can easily understand and respect others. These individuals can direct their energy efficiently to pursue their big dream. Extraordinary abilities combined with other characteristics will increase their chances of success. In fact, many leaders who are great public speakers and somewhat self-centered also share these great features, for example, Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The Limitation of Behavior Approach
The Behavior Approach is a great tool for leadership development, but like any tool it has its limits and cannot solve every underlying problem. For example, individuals can be HUMBLE because of a weak Ego, which stems from unsuccessful bids to gain parental approval during childhood. The parents are usually busy or are indifferent to the child. Behavior therapy can enhance their HUMILITY, but cannot build the powerful WILL needed to overcome various hurdles. However, with the right tools, it takes only days to help individuals stop seeking parental approval. It is better to identify the underlying cause(s) and target the issues precisely to achieve fast and lasting results.
In addition to a healthy Ego, WILL is closely linked to confidence that is built on vision, knowledge, learning, resources, health, and more. When confidence wanes, WILL will be threatened. For example, a young business owner suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury and became extremely frustrated by the necessity to re-learn EVERYTHING. He often called 911 as his stress management tool. Once transported to the Emergency Room (ER), he yelled at the doctors and nurses there. I recovered myself from TBI via a similar path and was doing a residency rotation in the ER the day when this young man came in. I understood his frustration, so I walked to him, discussed with him his progress and offered my own real life success in overcoming the challenges associated with TBI. He thanked me in the end, and the ER nurses later told me that his ER visit that day was his shortest and most pleasant. He never came back again.
Business is rife with unexpected challenges, setbacks, and uncertainty, all of which can be more stressful than the challenges the above business owner has faced. Both HUMILITY and WILL are part of Emotional Quotient (EQ), an essential component of leadership. Those who act rashly under stress or uncertainty often have high EQs. To stay focused, individuals need the right tools to meet challenges, manage stress and handle setbacks and failures. One powerful tool is to be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, either through their own resources or outside experts, which requires more than EQ.
Underestimated for decades, EQ is now overestimated, as if it is the only factor that matters in leadership development. However, many factors can affect EQ, either positively or negatively. Why? Each person is an integrated system of abilities, health, and their relationships with themselves and society. Each person’s integrated system has 6 Quotients, which determine their directions and actions (Intelligent Q), help them stay updated (Learning Q), govern relationships with others (Emotional Q), maximize their results in society (Public influence Q), remain resilient in the face of adversity (AQ) and keep their energy level (Health Q). EQ is only a part of the integrated system, and, therefore, issues can come from IQ, LQ, PQ, AQ or HQ over which EQ or behavior has little or no power. How the young business owner acted before and after his last ER visit is a good example.
It takes great industrial or cross-industrial knowledge and instinct (IQ) to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It takes tenacity, problem-solving skills, learning, energy (AQ, IQ, LQ, and HQ) and more to see the light when facing setbacks and failures. Because he and other ER doctors were not sufficiently familiar with Traumatic Brain Injury recovery, the young business owner couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. As time passed, his EQ became vulnerable. It is due to this same mechanism that some former high achievers develop “Learned Depression” after a series of failures. However, the business owner did not stay at home, depressed. He called 911 to go to the ER, where I happened to be, and he regained his EQ power once I helped him see the light at the end of the tunnel. EQ can help an individual see the light and maximize resources and market share; however, EQ alone is usually not enough. Nor can the Behavior Approach address every root cause.
Level 5 leadership is a whole package of “executive competitiveness.”
The Level 5 leadership internal structures include a healthy ego that facilitates self-acceptance, a deep understanding of human nature that fosters respect for others, a big dream that focuses energy, extraordinary abilities and more to leverage full power, maximize results and bounce back from adversity. Level 5 leaders often can see the light at the end of the tunnel when facing with uncertainty, either leveraging their own or external resources, so they have a strong WILL. They do not waste energy because of their healthy egos and a deep understanding of human nature (HUMILITY). Level 5 leaders not only choose the right successor, but also use right people and create positive environments within their companies and society. As a result, they maximize their results and save even more energy. Level 5 leaders are open to new ideas and new technologies, so they can stay on the right track and spend their energy and money more and more efficiently.
To reach Level 5 leadership, individuals not only need key elements, but every element to maintain internal stability and keep them in excellent condition. What sustains their stability and the good condition can change as their environments change. It only takes one weakness in a single process to break the system. Weaknesses can be blind spots of decision-making, poor management in human nature, under-utilization of new technology or poor reactions to adversity. These elements may not affect their performance management today, but can be significant enough to impede or stop them tomorrow when the environment changes. For more information, please visit “How to Evaluate and Enhance the Stability of Leaders and Talent?”
“Overcoming Adversity in A Few Hours” is a good example of concepts that are insignificant now but significant later. “Can He Handle the Job?” is a good example of developmental needs that are insignificant today but significant tomorrow. “All-in” intensity does not surface until individuals have to face all issues related to an organization on a daily base. Those who die of stress-related health issues, such as heart disease, stroke, and suicide, are good examples of individuals who ultimately pay the price for matters that seem insignificant now but have a cumulative impact. Consequently, it is important to anticipate executives’ development needs in the face of change and target the needs precisely with the right tools. If leaders can maintain optimal performance, it will obviously have a positive impact on business and personal potentials for success.
It is not efficient to build Level 5 leadership by copying some behaviors or one “surface,” because, ultimately, the individual’s internal structure matters. No one tool can address all issues. Emotion and behavior are only a part of the human integrated system of abilities, health, and relationships with the self and society. Emotional training and behavioral approaches have limited power over issues with non-psychological root causes, such as abilities and health, which can add months or years to the time to achieve results. It is more efficient to look into all elements, identify the underlying causes and target issues with the right tools.
By finding the root causes, leaders can anticipate issues and stay on the right track. By addressing the underlying causes with the right tools, leaders often begin to show results in weeks instead of months or years. One of the best ways to speed up the Level 5 leadership development process is to act as if you already possess the qualities you want to develop.
Do you want to build Level 5 leadership, become a Level 5 leader, and take your company from good to great? Reserve your seat to work on your surface as well as your internal structure.
About the Author
Bin Yang is the Managing Director of The Prince Synergy (www.theprincesynergy.com), a leading consulting firm that helps clients go from good to great in challenges, changes, and setbacks by building comprehensive Leadership and Competitiveness and addressing their hardest issues that no one else can. For more information or to schedule an interview, lecture or appointment, please contact us at 310-668-1828.