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John C. Maxwell claims that leadership is the ‘process of influence’ – that it is a verb, a ‘doing’ word not a noun. He argues that influence is as inevitable as being alive. Obviously influence can be wide or narrow, deep or shallow, positive or negative – or a complex concoction of it all, but we ALL exercise a form of leadership because we cannot avoid influencing others on some level.

The important question is: are we positively leading others to better and greater things?     

In the context of business, Maxwell famously uses his 5 Levels of Leadership to illustrate the steps towards the highest expression of leadership:

LEVEL 1: Position People follow you because they have to

 LEVEL 2: PermissionPeople follow you because they want to

LEVEL 3: ProductionPeople follow because of what you have done for the organisation

 LEVEL 4: People DevelopmentPeople follow because of what you have done for them

LEVEL 5: PinnaclePeople follow because of who you are and what you represent

Jim Collins, and his research team, discovered something quite shocking about Level 5 leadership in his study Good to Great. His systematic search, through the Fortune 500 companies trading from 1965, isolated eleven companies that consistently performed 3 times above the market. ALL eleven companies had Level 5 leaders at the top; including the C.E.Os.

These Level 5 leaders were ALL characterised by their personal humility and ambition for their company rather than themselves. These leaders were modest, self-effacing and understated; workmanlike – more plow horse than show pony. They were leaders who attributed success to factors beyond themselves, but always took responsibility for things when they went wrong.

In stark contrast, the comparison companies in the study all had high-profile charismatic leaders who were often head-hunted by company boards because they thought they needed flashy leaders who had the gift of the gab; leaders who knew how to talk themselves up and obviously (seemingly) lived successful lives.

The difference is … the great companies had the real deal – they had the leaders that were truly great in character. The C.E.Os at the great companies lived modest lives; they were not in-your-face successful, but scratch the surface and you found a stable family life and hundreds of people who had benefited from the leader’s gentle but significant influence.

Moreover, Collin’s study argues that Level 5 leadership was the FIRST prerequisite for a company to be great.

A leader who is wise and reserved; whom people follow because they lead others to be wise leaders as well – is the very first uniting factor of a great company. These Level 5 Leaders were the complete opposite of the egotist who tries to do everything themselves and for personal glory.

Your business may be good if you’re only a Level 1 leader, but it won’t fly unless you are the real deal – it doesn’t matter how good your systems are or how talented your chef … your business will always reflect you. Make sure you are always growing as a leader; a life-time spent trying to be the real deal – is a life well lived.

10/03/2016 Mr Hospitality