Level 5 Leadership and The Decision Maker Approach

Business analyst Jim Collins has written extensively about what average companies have done to transform themselves into exceptional performers and trendsetters. An essential ingredient for a good-to-great company, as Collins wrote in the Harvard Business Review, is the presence of a Level 5 leader. In Collins’ words, a Level 5 leader is:

The most powerfully transformative executives possess a paradoxical mixture of personal humility and professional will. They are timid and ferocious. Shy and fearless. They are rare–and unstoppable.

The “yin and yang” of personal humility and professional will is not just a nice accessory to the leadership style of a Level 5 leader–it’s an absolutely essential combination of traits.

Implementing Dennis Bakke’s decision-maker approach requires this exact same concoction of graciousness and boldness from leaders. They must possess the humility to voluntarily cede their grip on power–the power to make decisions–so that others at all levels of the company may be more engaged as they make better-informed decisions. They also must possess an internal tenacity that won’t let them waver from the course if a few decisions don’t work out as successfully as planned.

Collins’ research ends on a discouraging note: his study confirms the importance of a Level 5 leader, but Collins and his team find no information that illuminates how a Level 5 leader comes to be such an indomitable force. Thankfully, Dennis Bakke’s The Decision Maker teaches a new way of doing business that will stretch any leader to learn the humility and will required of a true Level 5 leader.

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