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.