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Will you be a Level Five Leader?
Ed Hanchett

Will you be a Level Five Leader?

I recently attended a leadership development conference and was intrigued by the question “Will you be a Level Five Leader?”. I’ve read books and studied leadership all of my career and I’ve never heard of a Level Five Leader. Perhaps you’re familiar but I suspect some may not be. In short, you don’t become a Level Five Leader until you resign or retire – and then gaining such status is purely dependent on what happens after you are gone!

The designation is earned if, and only if, the organization or department that you led thrives after your departure. 

That’s an interesting perspective since most of our focus on leadership is on how you are leading now, in your current role. Are people contributing, are they following, are the engaged and motivated? Those are the attributes we typically think of and while important, it begs the question that as a leader, are you leading well enough that your people, your team, will thrive after you are gone?

Obviously, you won’t know the answer until, well, you’re not there anymore. It’s not like you can do a test to see if you will be a Level Five Leader. 

The session was too short for a complete roadmap to be developed so I’ll offer my perspective or “take away” – I believe that to ultimately become a Level Five Leader, it starts with whether you are a Micro or a Macro Manager. Are you heavily involved in everything that your team is doing or are you giving your team the freedom to do their job?

As a leader, it is your responsibility to create the culture, to define and explain expectations, goals and objectives. You are responsible for selecting the right people and making sure they are in the right position – but frankly, if you need to be involved in every decision or action, you’ve either made bad hires and you are a poor leader. In other words, If you are a Micro Manager, you’re never going to be a Level Five Leader – ever.

Frankly, to gain the designation of a Level Five Leader, you have to be confident – in yourself and most importantly, in your team. You must trust your team to with effective decisions and most of all, believe they will do what is best. If you have done a good job of articulating expectations and be a solid resource when needed, that is exactly the outcome you will experience. 

Depending on the stage of your career, earning that designation may be sometime in the future or it may be just around the corner. Regardless, preparing your team for success on the day you are no longer present is one of the best legacies you can strive for as a leader – a Level Five Leader.
 

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