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Saturday, August 05, 2006

Level 5 wanna bees

This article provides space to my unresolved thoughts which arose as I attended a lecture on "Leadership lessons from Shakespearean Tragedies". Lecture began with modest attendees but with time the class was full (and more) with students sitting where ever they can find a place. And if you are like most others and have heard anything on leadership, it is unlikely that you are not introduced to a buzzword "Level 5 leadership". But just in case you have not heard about it, here is the most official link on the subject. This idea is brought to you by Jim Collins. Concept got so much popularity that Jim wrote a full book "Good to Great". It is indeed an enlightening concept, and book is a must-read (if my forewords mean anything).

It was inspiring and impressive to see the number of students of my batch who wants to be Level 5 leaders, almost the whole class. The most common question that is raised: how do/can we become a level 5 leader? On the face of it, wow I am sitting with an enlightened group of people, who have raised themselves above the riches of world and are truly interested in building something sustainable without getting concerned about who will get the credit for it. But is that true? Is this what the class is really interested in? May be they are, but I have reasons to believe otherwise. This is where the quotation fits best "ignorance is bliss". Most people don't even understand what a level 5 leader is? And yet most people would want to become level 5 without even understanding what they want to become.

In my personal and insignificant opinion, I guess most of us wants to be level 5 because the very popularity of the concept. Because, the level 5 people discussed in the book were the ones who created world's most enduring and successful organizations. Because, these level 5 are regarded as most successful and accomplished individuals. Because, level 5 leaders are highly successful. Because, the most people around the world now thinks that it is the best leader one could be. Because, most people want to celebrated and remembered as a level 5 leaders.

But this is not exactly what a level 5 leader is. The things mentioned above are just incidental. These were not the things that level 5 leaders worked for. These are not the things that they wanted to achieve. In fact they didn't even know that they would be able to build such enduring organizations. They didn't even know that someone like Jim Collins will make them famous after half a century. This is not what motivated them and this is not what they went for. In fact they were exactly the opposite. They never tried to create something enduring, they just did what they thought was right and was the only way to do things. And "everything" else just came along. They didn't take decisions to get that "everything". A decision like whether or not I should become a level 5.

So what's the point of all this? Well the point is once you have even a moderate understanding what a level 5 leader is, you will have no doubt about how to become a level 5. Because once you understand what level 5 leader is and you truly like the idea of being a level 5 and lead that life, well you already are a level 5 leader. Because once you know about it, then there is no other path for you but to follow what a level 5 leader walks on. So you see, you either are a level 5 or you are not, if you already are a level 5; your transformation to level 5 depends only upon when you understand the concept and think that this is right path. And if you are not a level 5, and wants to become one, the only reason is that you haven't understood what it means to be a level 5.

Now the big question: would I be successful if I follow the level 5 path?
Dude, it is a very insignificant question. You still haven't got it, success and popularity are just incidental, they are immaterial. They don't mean anything to a level 5. This is not why they follow the path, they just follow it. If you are a level 5, there is no other path that you will walk on (at least as soon as you come to know about this path), whether or not you achieve success on this path.

Please, the article is no assertion that I have understood what a level 5 leader is. But I have understood it enough that I now know that I am not a level 5 and hence I will never be one. To me it’s just not worthed to be a level 5. Article is written with a modest attempt to make people think twice before they think/claim that they want to be level 5 leaders. So the key to become level 5 according to me is to know more and more about it and have a better understanding.

End Note:
As I said "If you understand what a level 5 leader is, and you still want to become one, well guess what, you already are one."

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