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Martin Schray


I think you are right on. I manage a small team and my first year I thought I was doing a great job. Each year since then I have improved, but I realize more and more just how much I have to go to be really good. In fact although I am improving I see the bar getting higher and higher as I consider what good or beyond good really looks like. I think If your a level 5 leader you realize all the things you have to do to improve and that keeps you from even considering that you are a level 5 leader.


Dan Wooldridge

I once learned a definition of humility that seems to speak to this. Humility is not that you think of yourself less, but that you don't think about yourself at all, focusing instead on others.

Keith McDonnell

I know I'm going to come off sounding like Yoda here.....

You shouldn't have to point out your outstanding personality traits. They usually stand out on their own.

Chetan Dhruve

Bob, I completely agree with the definition of 'leader' as “someone people follow” (especially Chris Yeh’s qualifier CHOOSE TO) – in fact, I would narrow it down further and say, “A leader is someone who is elected”. I had sent you (with your permission) a copy of my book, “Why Your Boss is Programmed to be a Dictator”, in which I make the same point. We need to look at leadership as a system (as in Systems Thinking) comprising the leader and follower (or boss/subordinate), because in leadership, it takes two to tango.

The most important thing about leadership is not the leader, but the ‘emergent property’ of the leadership system. If a leader is elected, freedom emerges; if someone has power over you but you don't have a vote, that person is a dictator (by definition); fear is the emergent property. We’ve built our nations on this profound, yet simple, concept.

Arata Mitsumatsu

I this a hypothesis? I thought its more of a logical fact :-)

A person brags
"I am a modest level 5 leader"

Isn't something logically wrong with this picture?

by the way I understand and agree about all the other posts on different leadership style.

level 5 leaders are people who made good into great. not those who made garbage to great or sustained great to great.


you are very likely right Bob. Real "Level 5 Leaders" give credit to their teams because they realize that credit doesn't get depleted when its passed around. Leaders create an environment and their people make things happen.

Frederic Lucas-Conwell

Why would you want to test this hypothesis about Level 5 leadership? What would then be the conclusion? Narcissism is not such a bad quality for being creative, although other words with close content like individualism or authoritative, might be preferred (You know more than anybody else on the subject). How should we qualify some true creative leaders and entrepreneurs in the Valley ? Humble ? Do we want them to fake that they might be humble? Or at least cool their jets sometimes, when it’s too much and bothering. You might be right! Humility might have some virtues with these people from time to time. But then …
Jim Collins book gives recognition to some people who have a distinct style than the popular charismatic style. These leaders unlike others, don’t need to go on stage to be acclaimed. I have trained hundreds of executives and managers to the Predictive Index method over the years on different continents. What refined measures of personality like PI tell (and I am not referring to MBTI, DISC, CPI or such other techniques here) is that people can succeed and lead with different styles. And when they try to fake about their style (as properly measured) they will most of the time fail. Leadership and success does not just depend on them, their qualities . It also depends on their environment, their capacity to know themselves and their limits, and to manage a team composed of different people with different styles, including individualistic, authoritative and charismatic ones. Who gets to the top leadership position is the one who succeed in that : getting the right people on the bus. Motivating them. That was a key point in my reading of Collins on leadership 5 (and also of Barnard and Drucker). Thanks to correct Bob if you think I am dumb wrong.


Like saying you're "cool," the claim to be a "level 5 leader" invalidates itself.

John Stanko

Thanks, Bob. Not sure I agree with you. It reminds me of the old story of the man in a church who got a blue ribbon for the humility award. The church then took it away from him when he wore it.

I think the issue for a true Level 5 leader is that it's not as important to them to be considered one as it is for the counterfeit Level 5s.

I have studied servant-leadership and endeavored to apply the principles for the last 12 years. I work from a position of influence as a consultant in the work that I do. I make my gifts and time available to all, whether "great" or small. I think I exhibit many of the traits that would be consistent with Level 5 leaders as best I understand the concept. Push comes to shove, I think I could call myself an aspiring Level 5 and would have the goods to back it up. Others perhaps would disagree.

There are many who are legends in their own minds in every walk of life, why not bogus Level 5s? I am not ready to write off everyone who says they are Level 5s, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. If they can back it up with the evidence, then I have no problem with them identifying themselves as such. If they can't, well, their delusion should not cast a bad light on those who are Level 5s. At the end of the day, owever, the greater testimony for Level 5s is not what they think, it's what others think.

Joseph Logan

Ricky Gervais told Steve Carell that everyone knows a David Brent (Michael Scott in the US), and if you don't--you're him. Seems like a similar rule would apply here. David Brent would be the first to tell you that he was once a Level 5 leader but has actually transcended into Level 6, yeah?


I agree, Bob. Then, again, I am occasionally accused of being too cynical.

It seems to me that every leader and business manager would like very much to be a Level 5 leader both for themselves and for the good of their company. On the other hand, only a narcissist would self-assess themselves so positively. It is for this reason that I take some solace in the fact that I am quite certain that I am not a Level 5 leader.

Matt Moore

Bob - This reminds me a lot of the Ruler of the Universe in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.'s_Guide_to_the_Galaxy (scroll down to "Ruler of the Universe")


I see you've been fraternizing with Jack Welch.

Pamela Slim

I have to agree with you Bob!

Many view Level 5 not as a state of being, but a badge to attain and show off. The antithesis of what a real Level 5'er would do.

Still love Good to Great. Asshole Rule too of course!

Have a great weekend.


Joe F

I wouldn't say the hypothesis is cynical. By definition, Level 5 Leadership requires humility which would seem to exclude those who claim they have achieved that rarefied level.

Andrew Meyer

I agree with you and the other people making comments so far. If a leader says they're a "level 5 leader", I have the same shocked reaction as I do to hearing something move in a trash can.


You said it yourself: "humble and relentless leaders ... putting the needs of the organization ahead of their own needs"

Leaders who do this won't describe themselves in anything as crass as 'levels' and the people who do aren't humble!

Darin W

I think you are right on the button. Level 5 leaders would rarely admit to being one. I'm not sure they would even admit to being a leader, and would most likely praise the executives that work for them for most of the organizational success, while being the first to take the blame.

Mike Ramm

The leaders of Level 5 are modest people focused primarily on their work instead of on themselves. Claiming that you are a Level 5 leader means you are far from modesty, which means you cannot be at Level 5 indeed.

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