Level 5 Leaders Need Level 5 Employees

By: Guest | August 25, 2010 | 

During a recent chat with Gini Dietrich, we were talking about how the majority of leadership resources and articles are geared toward CEOs and other upper level executives and managers. What about Generation Y? Are we supposed to sit back and wait to see if our career leads us to CEO level in order to be a leader? I don’t think so. Level 5 leaders need level 5 employees, and there is a lot that Gen Y employees can do to help lead their organizations forward.

Last year, Gini wrote an article on CEO Leadership Skills: What Does It Take To Be Level 5? Level 5 leadership, coined by business consultant Jim Collins, refers to the peak of a hierarchy of leadership characteristics. I read a couple of Collins’ books in graduate school (“Built to Last” and “Good to Great”) and learned all about how CEOs can achieve “tip top” leadership status. Fabulous, but I am not a CEO. Most of us are not. I challenge each of you to rephrase Collins and ask yourself what it takes to be a level 5 employee.

A few answers Gini gave for “What does it take to be a Level 5 CEO?” in her article:

  • Surround myself with super smart people
  • Stop doing things that don’t make the company money
  • Lead and inspire people by leading by example, even when I’m not talking
  • Spend time daily thinking, being creative, and reading
  • Spend more time outside of the office marketing the firm and being our own brand ambassador

My thoughts on these?

Your CEO should not be the only one trying to reach level 5!  Even an intern can (and should) possess leadership qualities. Stop doing things that don’t make the company money? All employees should practice this one. Spend time daily thinking, being creative, and reading? Rinse and repeat. You get the idea.

Top 4 Tips for Generation Y Leaders:

  • Push yourself – Push yourself to learn a new skill, fill gaps where you can learn more, and continue to define your strengths and improve your weaknesses.
  • Be innovative – Do not underestimate the unique knowledge and perspective you bring to the table. Suggest a new project. Speak up.
  • Inspire colleagues – Motivate and encourage!
  • Go beyond the “8 to 5” – Leaders network with community members and other industry professionals whenever the opportunity arises.

Do not let a title discourage you from believing that you can change and strengthen your company from the bottom up.

  • This is exceptional. Thank you for posting such a concise, clear and actionable piece. All companies, leaders, associates and employees would benefit from reading this and applying the timeless bullet points of how to invigorate, drive and create great businesses. Thanks again.

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  • Great post Courtney. It’s nice to see some very enlightening thoughts coming from Gen Y-ers in Nashville. I’m in a very similar position as you and can relate with everything you wrote. Thanks for the inspiration, Courtney and thanks Gini and Daniel for introducing me to another Gen Y Nashville deep thinker!

  • What an excellent post. I am reminded how important it is for me to recruit employees who desire to be level 5’s. I have not done a good job in this area in the past, or it is harder than I thought to determine on the front end of the relationship their intentions. Do you have any recommendations on how to cull this out earlier?

    • John – Gini may be able to speak better to the hiring point, but my initial answer as far as determining on the front end is to recognize drive in a potential new employee or intern. This can be tricky to do in an interview setting or based off a resume, but if you research them from a social media aspect (do they blog? twitter?) and combine that with your conversations with the person, you can usually tell if they are driven. I think that drive and passion to succeed is the best predictor of future leadership success.

  • Great topic, and great points! Gen Y has a lot to offer…and anyone with a Level 5 desire is someone to know! No matter what our level is, we should aspire to reach Level 5!

  • As smarty pants Courtney and I discussed, leaders are at all levels, no matter their position in a company. I love how she took that conversation and Jim Collins’s theory about CEOs and developed into what employees can do to not only climb the ladder, but also help grow a business. As an employee, if you contribute to the bottom line and fit the culture, you’ll always have a job.

  • Great job, Courtney, and on target for Gen Y people but I would guess not wrong for anyone in any other generation at any other level of leadership either. I find myself starting over in life at every age. The challenge in this economy for everyone to to challenge themselves. Those who think they can stay status quo will experience job loss, those who are exceptional may still experience job loss but they will have learned the skills to take on the next challenge.

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