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 five leadership through either behavioral modification or EQ training, both of which are psychological tools. Do internal structures matter in Level five leadership building? 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, can focus on the big picture, 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, the right place and hard-working 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 Behavior Approach is a great tool for leadership development, but like any other 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, and 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 can reflect the underlying structure and mainly belong to 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. In fact, 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 is an integrated system of 6 Quotients that 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. Can Behavior Modification help him? No, because behavior approach cannot address root causes.
The internal structures of Level 5 leadership include a healthy ego that facilitates self-acceptance and the focus on the big picture, 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. Individuals with Level 5 leadership style 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). People with Level 5 leadership style 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. Individuals with Level five leadership 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 develop Level 5 leadership style, individuals need not only key elements, but EVERY element to maintain internal stability and optimal performance. What sustains their stability and optimal condition can change as their environments change. Unfortunately, it only takes ONE element in one single process to break the whole system. The above young business owner is a good example. Weaknesses can be poor blind spot management of decision-making, under-utilization of new technology, poor reactions to adversity, etc. The insufficient elements may not affect their performance management today, but can be significant enough to impede them tomorrow when the environment changes. This is why we need to catch the development needs of a leader before “the 360 Degree evaluation” to Go from Good to Great and Optimize Top Team Performance Efficiently.
“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 the development needs of a leader 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, people around them, and personal potentials for success.
It is inefficient to build Level five leadership by copying some behaviors or one “surface,” because, ultimately, the individual’s internal structure determines their behavior and psychological response. 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. In addition, emotional training and behavioral approach have limited power over complex issues with non-psychological or non-behavior root causes, such as abilities and health, which can create “intractable issues” and add months or years to the time to achieve results. The right approach is to look into all elements, get to the underlying causes, identify the “missing software,” and target issues with the right tools.
Unlike computers, human capacity can fluctuate under change and storm, which involves adversity Q, health Q, and public influence Q besides IQ, EQ, and learning Q. Behaviors can reflect the 6Q structural change but have limited power to change the 6Q system. By getting to the root causes, we can anticipate development needs of a leader before “the 360-Degree Evaluation” and take wise action. By addressing the underlying causes with the right tools and installing “missing software” smoothly, leaders often begin to show results in days to weeks instead of months to years. One of the best ways to speed up the Level five 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 style, become a level 5 leader or be an exceptional CEO? Do you desire to lead with a smart system and optimize your team performance efficiently? Do you long to take your company from good to great? Join our next webinar or try the Mini Leadership Assessment. You need to work on your surface as well as your internal structure and unlock yourself from What Stop Leaders from Good to Great.
About the Author
Bin Yang is a global CEO adviser, leadership Doctor and the Managing Director of The Prince Synergy (www.theprincesynergy.com), a leading consulting firm that focuses on building exceptional leaders, teams, optimizing healthcare quality, and beating skyrocketing healthcare costs. For more information or to schedule an interview, lecture or appointment, please contact us at 310-668-1828.
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