Level Five Leadership in Lean


Level Five Leadership: The Pinnacle

Whether we are talking about a businessman, a football coach, or a teacher; there is one thing they all have in common…they are leaders. But what level of leadership are they?  How do they treat their employees?  What do they think about results and deadlines?

Every leader operates at his/her level. According to John C. Maxwell, there are five levels. In his book, “The 5 Levels of Leadership,” he describes five leadership levels that lead to a phase of leadership maturity. For the past few weeks, we have looked at the other four leadership levels. In this blog post on this topic, we discuss Level 5: The Pinnacle.

A leader who reaches Level five is rare. Not only is leadership at this level a culmination of leading well on the other four levels, but it also requires high skill and some natural leadership ability. It takes a lot to develop other leaders so they reach Level 4; that’s what Level 5 leaders do. The individuals who reach Level 5 lead so well for so long that they create a legacy of leadership in the organization they serve. Think of the reverence Jack Welch used to receive.

Pinnacle leaders stand out from everyone else. They are a cut above, and they bring success with them wherever they go. Leadership at this high level lifts the entire organization and creates an environment that benefits everyone in it, contributing to their success. Level 5 leaders often possess an influence that transcends the organization and the industry the leader works in.

In a Lean Enterprise Institute blog on Lean Leadership, Jim Womack (2006) said that every organization must address the 3Ps: purpose, processes, and people. He believes that most organizations struggle because the purpose is not defined, the processes are not specified, and the people are not engaged. In his view, these 3Ps are the responsibility of the leaders and managers of Lean organizations.

Womack further believes that one problem in traditional organizations is that leaders tend to have a vertical focus, and managers think vertically to optimize their area, department, or function.

Lean managers think horizontally, in the direction that value flows through the organization. A level 5 leader in a Lean organization can quickly:

  • Assess the gaps in their leadership systems and organizational structure that need to be addressed to allow the culture of problem-solving and continuous improvement to develop.
  • Identify core behaviors and practices that characterize lean leaders.
  • Clarify their role as a leadership change agent.
  • Develop an action plan that addresses identified gaps.

Most leaders who reach the Pinnacle do so later in their careers. This level is not a resting place for leaders to stop and view their success. It is a place from which they make the greatest impact of their lives. That’s why leaders who reach the Pinnacle should make the most of it while they can. With gratitude and humility, they should lift as many leaders as they can, tackle as many great challenges as possible, and extend their influence to make a positive difference beyond their organization and industry.

Leadership Assessment1

Read the following ten statements and place a checkmark next to each one you agree is true for you. Answer using your first instinct. Please do not skip questions, and do not go back and change any of your responses.

Level 5

  • I can name several specific people whom I have encouraged to speak hard truths to me, and they do.
  • I am using my influence to instill values in my organization.
  • The course of my organization is set by me or by a team of which I am a part.
  • I have developed many leaders who are developers of leaders.
  • I enjoy the interaction and friendship of a small circle of leaders with whom I am taking the leadership journey.
  • I am still at the top of my game, and the positive impact I am making is strong.
  • I can name at least one person who would be ready to step in and take my place should I leave my current position.
  • I influence outside of my organization.
  • People from outside of my specific industry seek me out for leadership advice.
  • I am using my influence and resources for causes greater than myself or my organization.

In leadership, you are only as good as the lowest level you’ve mastered. I want to remind you that even if you scored high in one of the higher levels (see the self-assessment in my previous blogs) if you scored poor on a lower level, your leadership is on that lower level. That is where you will need to give your attention when working with people to improve your leadership ability.
1 The 5 Levels of Leadership, John Maxwell

A special thanks to Cheryl Archer for developing this blog post!

As always it is an honor serving you and I hope that you and your company are getting better every day!

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