Unlocking the Black Box of Level 5 Leadership
These eleven companies demonstrated spectacular results, beating the overall stock market by 6.9 times for a minimum of 15 years. Walgreens, for example, had bumped along as a very average company, tracking the general market for forty years. Then, in 1975, Walgreens started increasing in value. From 1975 until 2000, every $1 invested in Walgreens beat $1 invested in tech superstar Intel by nearly two times, Coca-Cola by eight times, and the general stock market by over fifteen times.
One crucial component of all eleven of the “good-to-great” companies was they were led by what Jim calls “Level 5 leaders.” These leaders channeled their ambition away from themselves toward a larger goal of building a great organization, demonstrating a paradoxical blend of humility and professional will.
“All of the companies in the study that went from good to great had Level 5 leadership in key positions, including the CEO, at the pivotal time of transition,” Jim writes.
Jim does not, however, outline a formula or framework for becoming a Level 5 leader. Instead, he refers to the process mysteriously as a “black box.”
In Conscious Business: How to Build Value through Values Fred Kofman takes on the challenge of unlocking the “black box” of great leadership. To become a “Level 5 leader” he identifies a set of seven skills and attitudes which he refers to as “Conscious Business,” including unconditional responsibility vs. unconditional blame, essential integrity vs. essential selfishness, and emotional mastery vs. emotional incompetence.
“Consciousness is the ability to experience reality, to be aware of our inner and outer worlds,” writes Fred. “To live consciously is to be open to perceiving the world around and within us, to understand circumstances, and to decide how to respond to them in ways that honor our needs, values, and goals.”
Fred quotes Nathaniel Branden: “Living consciously is a state of being mentally active rather than passive. It is the ability to look at the world through fresh eyes… Living consciously is seeking to be aware of everything that bears on our interests, actions, values, purposes, and goals.”
When we are more conscious, we better perceive our surroundings, remember what’s important to us, and envision more possibilities.
Fred contrasts this mindset with being unconscious, asleep, or mindless: “To live unconsciously means to be driven by instincts and habitual patterns.”
Reflection: What is my highest ambition professionally? Who or what has influenced this desire? Am I dreaming big enough?
Action: Journal about my answers to these questions.