In Jim Collins’ bestselling book, Good to Great he shares how organizations move from being just good to great. Besides focusing on hiring the right people, confronting brutal facts, and developing a culture of discipline, Collins describes how the organizations were led by unique individuals. He called them “Level 5” leaders. These Level 5 leaders were unique because they were humble and had a strong professional will towards excellence. I’ll never forget the examples he shared on how the Level 5 leaders would take credit for a team’s poor performance while giving credit to others when things went well. This is not typical in most organizations.
Over my twenty plus years in Human Resources and as a professional coach it was very rare for me to encounter leaders like this. I encourage you to take time to think about individuals you’ve interacted with that were humble and had a sincere drive to succeed. Hopefully, your memories take you back to people that you reported to or had as mentors. Having a humble and driven leader is one of the most transformational experiences you can have professionally.
How can you emulate a Level 5 leader’s ability to be humble? Here are a few tips:
Know Yourself – Look in the mirror and conduct an honest self-evaluation. What are your strengths? What motivates you? In difficult times, what behaviors do you tend towards? Do you have a tendency to take credit for others’ work? Or, do you openly push praise onto those around you? I encourage you to take personality assessments that will help in your self-discovery process. Through that, understand your current opportunities and develop an action plan that will get you to a point where you have the ability to practice humility in good and bad times. Conversely, understand and openly accept your strengths, leading through your actions.
Appreciate Others – This seems like an easy thing to do, but can you really do it? We tend to see the world through our own mind’s eye, forgetting that there are seven billion people on this planet who all have different perceptions. None of us are always right or wrong. The trick is to celebrate and embrace each other’s differences. Each unique perspective that you learn and appreciate will assist you becoming better at the traits that you see as an area of development personally. Try not to compare yourself and do not form an opinion about someone because of your fears about how they might take a job opportunity from you (as an example). Be objective. Find and surround yourself with people who are smarter than you in the areas you are not passionate about. Do not be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of respect. Respect for the other person’s knowledge.
Take Risks – Do not be afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes are one of the conduits to learning effectively. How many people willingly touch a hot stove after they’ve burned their finger? Few. How many tech companies are asking their employees to spend a certain percentage of their workweek on innovative projects? Many. They are saying to their employees that it is okay to take risks because mistakes foster learning, which fosters creativity, and ultimately, revenue for the company through new products and services. By accepting that mistakes are normal, you’ll be creating opportunities to take responsibility. By taking risks and responsibility for your mistakes, you are building trust and credibility, further showing how you are humble.
Be A Lifetime Learner – Since we are habitual creatures, we tend to enjoy consistency. As you go about your development process, be sure to learn how to insert disciplined learning opportunities in your life. Make the time each week where you can connect with a mentor, take on challenging roles, and learn from in-person trainings or webinars. The additional education will help to put you in a place of understanding. The understanding will help you accept others’ opinions and actions as valid, even if they are the opposite of your opinion. Validating others’ ideas will help spark thought in you and put you closer to a place of humility.
Give Back – A great way to demonstrate your new skills is to share them with others. Find an opportunity to volunteer your time, talent, or treasure. Regardless of your stature in the community, treat all others as equals and give of yourself openly. Be gentle when others respond to something you’ve done with negativity. Stand your ground, but do so with respect for their position on the topic. I also encourage you to lead with passion. When you absolutely love something, people sense your genuineness. Humility will grow out of the repeated feeling you get inside of the satisfaction of giving to others.
It is rare to interact with people who are Level 5 leaders. Although uncommon, by understanding yourself, appreciating others, taking risks, learning each day, and giving back you will certainly become a Level 5 leader faster.
Sher Lynn, the Generational Guru and best-selling author of Ties to Tattoos, Turning Generational Differences into a Competitive Advantage, is a speaker, coach and trainer in the area of Human Resources and Talent Management. Sher specializes in helping employers maximize their human capital by collaborating across the generational gap. Her expertise in human capital management and organization includes: workforce planning, company culture, training, assessments, HRIS implementation, regulatory compliance, strategic alignment, payroll, compensation and benefit programs. Learn more at generationalguru.com.