Research has shown that many of the most effective leaders are humble. Although determined to achieve their vision, they are more interested in getting the job done and building something great than press clippings or personal credits. Many leaders find themselves caught in political battles, expending their energies on trying to move personal agendas forward instead of driving toward what is best for the organization. Empowering leaders, however, are more effective when they set their ego aside, let go of power politics and personal agendas, and professionally focus on building organization and human capabilities.
Level 5 Leadership
In his book, Good to Great, author Jim Collins performed an in-depth study of companies that proved to be far more successful than their more traditional counterparts. He found that one of the distinguishing features of these companies was the personal nature of their leaders, which he labeled Level 5 Leadership. The other levels of leadership (1-4) are categories of people who fit into various traditional leadership stereotypes.
Collins wrote, “Compared to high-profile leaders with big personalities who make headlines and become celebrities, the good-to-great leaders seem to have come from Mars. Self-effacing, quiet, reserved, even shy—these leaders are a paradoxical blend of humility and professional will. They are more like Lincoln and Socrates than Patton or Caesar.” (pp. 12-13)
Level 5 Leadership is also characterized by subjection of personal interests to the welfare of the larger group or organization. In addition, this type of leader also demonstrates ferocious determination to achieve vision and goals. Level 5 leaders are willing to make whatever sacrifices are necessary for the success of the company. They tend to discount their own contributions when their organizations succeed, and also insist on personal responsibility if their organizations are performing poorly.
Building Organization Capability
In the spirit of level 5 leadership, empowering leaders become more effective when they set their ego aside and unselfishly focus on building organization capabilities. These leaders empower the organization by identifying and developing key capabilities critical to accomplishment of the vision and competitive strategy. A key capability for a growing software company, for example, is often the need to develop a network of partners in the industry who are connected to dominant potential clients. Developing such a network enables the organization to market through these trusted relationships, achieving desired strategy and growth both quickly and on a broad scale. This kind of unselfish and focused leadership empowers the organization to move forward in significant and strategically critical ways.
Building Human Capability
Empowering leaders also effectively develop human capabilities within the organization. Delegating key responsibilities, brokering major change initiatives within the organization, and sponsoring capable rising stars are all unselfish ways leaders can promote individual and organization development. These leaders know that if they can find talent within the organization and match it up with emerging strategic opportunities, it creates excitement and energy, and will move the organization deliberately forward.
Effective leaders empower employees in the organization by providing clear objectives, key resources, training, and support for initiatives that are mission critical. When employees know the limits of the playing field, and are given the resources, tools, and responsibility to make things happen, it turns them loose to take the initiative and move their part of the organization to the next level. This is one of the most powerful ways empowering leaders motivate employees and build commitment in the organization.
Research shows that great level 5 leaders blend professionalism and humility to grow their companies patiently and successfully. When empowering leaders set their personal and political ego agendas aside and develop organization and human capabilities, they are more effective as leaders and lift their companies to new heights. These leaders empower the organization by identifying and developing key capabilities critical to accomplishment of the vision and competitive strategy. They develop human capability by sponsoring initiatives, promoting individual development, and providing clear objectives, resources, training, and support. Perhaps most importantly, as these leaders unselfishly develop organization and individual capabilities, they not only improve their organization’s performance, but build the shared commitment and confidence of everyone involved.