According to business author Jim Collins, there are two things that distinguish good leaders from great leaders, which he calls Level 5 leaders. Before I get into those two things, let me take you through the first four levels.
A Level One leader is a highly capable individual who uses their talent, knowledge, skills and work habits to make a positive contribution to the organization.
A Level Two leader is a contributing team member who helps achieve group objectives and works well with others.
A Level Three leader is a competent manager who is able to organize people and resources to achieve predetermined objectives.
A Level Four leader is an effective leader who gains commitment in pursuit of a compelling vision and stimulates the group towards high-performance standards.
All these leadership levels are important. So what distinguishes a Level 5 Leader from the rest?
The first is Personal Humility. Great leaders are not egocentric. They’re not necessarily even big personalities. They talk more about the mission and the people they work with than themselves.
Collins uses the metaphors of the window and the mirror to illustrate this type of leadership. When things go well, Level 5 leaders look out the window. They give credit to those they lead, the circumstances and even luck.
When things go poorly, Level 5 leaders look in the mirror. They know the buck stops with them and they take responsibility.
This type of humility elevates everyone in the church. It encourages people to give their best efforts because they know that when things go well, credit will be shared and when things go poorly, they won’t be blamed.
The second thing that distinguishes a Level 5 leader is what Collins calls Professional Will. The professional part means they are focused on the mission, not on personal gain. They are playing an infinite game. The will part means they are persistent and resilient.
Collins describes this as a fierce resolve to achieve the mission of the organization. They understand that sustained excellence is challenging. They are willing to point everyone toward the mission and stay focused on that, not on their own power or status. They maintain that focus and resolve during periods of uncertainty and adversity.
I believe faith-based leaders can be Level 5 leaders because we believe in the grace of God. We know that it’s not about what we do but how we let God work in us and through us. That means we can never take credit for the good that happens but can only give thanks to God. And, that same trust in God’s grace can sustain us through the most challenging times.
The Center for Vital Leadership is a ministry of the Baltimore-Washington and Peninsula-Delaware Conferences