All professions, businesses, organizations and ministries have people who are clambering to get to the top. Some push and shove. Some step over the fallen and struggling. Some just show themselves to be superior in talent and gifting. One way or another, getting to the peak ahead of everyone else is the goal. Leadership is great. It’s important. It’s necessary. It’s an honor. It’s needed. But what if the way to the top was actually down?
The leader who changed the pivotal measurement of millenniums said, “Whoever wants to be the greatest of all must become the servant of all” (See Mark 10:42-45). Jesus rattled established leaders and wanna-be leaders with his declarations of this new model of upside down leadership. Even his closest followers struggled to change their patterns of trying to climb the ladder.
Jim Collins made popular the concept of the Five Levels of Leadership through his book, Good to Great. Collin’s research unexpectedly revealed the greatest companies are led by leaders who put their organizations in a position to do great things without them.
Who exactly is a Level 5 leader? Collins describes Level 5 leader as Humility + Will = Level 5. They are the nurturing leaders who do not want credit but want success to sustain over a longer period of time, long after they are gone.
Level 5 leaders are modest and possess the capability to transform an organization from good to great without portraying themselves as wizards with magic wands. They prefer talking about the organization and the contribution of other people but rarely about their role or achievements.
Leadership expert, Robert Greenleaf and others have identified this upside down approach as servant leadership. Level Five Leadership and Servant Leadership have in common the heart of a leader who walks and leads with humility. Mark Sanborn writes, “If you use your title to get things done, you’re not really leading.”
I’ve discovered that authentic leaders always rise to the top through influence, not authority. Influence is always a result of caring for those you lead instead of coercing those you lead. And true followers follow out of commitment, not compliance.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine if you are an upside down leader?
Are you constantly climbing the ladder or intentionally going down the stairs?
Is your greatest concern for the success of your organization or your own success?
Are you focusing your responsibility toward others in your organization or emphasizing their responsibility to you?
Do you look for ways to serve the least of your organization or expect them to serve you?
Are you most often bragging about yourself or other team members around you?
I close by reminding you what Jim Collins said, “It’s not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious–but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves.” How are you moving toward the next level of leadership?
QUESTION: When have you seen Level 5 leadership in action? Share it below.