In his groundbreaking book Good to Great, Jim Collins introduced the world to the concept of “Level 5 Leadership.”

At the time, I was five years into my tenure as CEO of a fledgling social purpose

real estate venture known as More Than A Roof. 

This concept resonated deeply and made an indelible impression on me.

I made it my mission to be an ever-learning student and practitioner of Level 5 Leadership.

Here’s how Collins’ 5 Levels are summarised as a quick recap.


Level 1:

You are a competent individual. Your leadership starts with your good individual skills. You make productive contributions through your talent, knowledge, skills, and good working habits.

Level 2:

You are a committed team member. Your leadership involves excellent team skills. You contribute your individual capabilities to the achievement of group objectives and work effectively with others in a group setting.

Level 3:

You are a competent manager. As a leader, you develop and practice excellent management skills. You organize people and resources to effectively and efficiently pursue predetermined goals.

Level 4:

You are recognized as an effective leader. Your leadership means demonstrating a commitment to and pursuing a clear, compelling vision and stimulating higher performance standards.

Level 5:

You are a top executive. You build enduring greatness at the highest leadership level through a curious blend of personal humility and professional will, becoming the key to creating a great organization.

Here’s the Kicker!

Based on Collins’ extensive research, organizations spearheaded by Level 5 leaders consistently outperform their sector by a margin of three to one over time.

Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that kind of result?


The Professional Leader Vs. Amateur Difference 

Based on all the above, here are some hallmarks of Level 5 Professionalism 


Personal Humility vs. Ego-Driven Leadership

Level 5 leaders have earned and learned a measure of personal humility. In fact, they are known for their humility. They credit others and external factors for success while taking personal responsibility for failures.

They recognize that they don’t know what they don’t know, and this humility is blended with intense professional will.

This particular combination of qualities fosters a genuineness that shines through and attracts people to a cause.

I’ve found that true pros do not aspire to become larger-than-life personalities or unreachable icons.

On the other hand, amateur leaders often rely on a more ego-driven, self-serving style that is all about personal recognition and credit.

Focus on Lasting Legacy vs. Short-Term Results

Level 5 pros aim to create a lasting legacy and work towards the organization’s long-term success. It’s a bigger vision that will carry over and continue to grow after their departure.

They foster an organizational culture that supports the long-term vision.

Amateurs often have a default mindset that relies on personal gain or short-term wins that serve a personal agenda.

While there certainly are situations that call for immediate short-term results, having that as a primary strategy doesn’t work.

Developing Successors vs. Maintaining Power

Level 5 leaders select and develop superb successors, wanting their organization to become even more successful well into the future. Succession planning and consistent leadership development are top of mind.

Other leaders may focus more on maintaining their power and influence within the organization.

Beyond these broad-stroke Level 5 mindsets and approaches, there are innumerable Amateur Vs Professional Comparisons.

 Curated from a Farnham Street Blog

 Here are some of my favourites :

  • Amateurs focus on dividing the pie. Professionals focus on growing the pie.
  • Amateurs stop when they achieve something. Professionals understand that the initial achievement is just a launchpad for the next step.
  • Amateurs are reactive. Professionals are proactive.
  • Amateurs want to win the moment. Professionals want to win the decade.
  • Amateurs wait for someone to recognize their positional, tap them on the shoulder, and give them an ample opportunity. Professionals go show people what they are capable of with no expectations.
  • Amateurs are kind-of -in. Professionals are all-in.
  • Amateurs focus on the outcome. Professionals focus on the process.
  • Amateurs believe they are good at everything. Professionals understand their circle of competence.
  • Amateurs see feedback and coaching as someone criticizing who they are. Professionals know they have blind spots and seek out thoughtful criticism.
  • Amateurs value doing it once. Professionals value doing it consistently.
  • Amateurs rely on willpower. Professionals focus on creating an environment that turns desired behaviours into success habits.
  • Amateurs wait until they feel like it. Professionals do it when they don’t feel like it.
  • Amateurs show up to practice to have fun. Professionals realize that what happens in practice happens in games.
  • Amateurs focus on identifying their weaknesses and improving them. Professionals focus on their strengths and partnering with people who are strong where they are weak.
  • Amateurs predict. Professionals position.
  • Amateurs think knowledge is power. Professionals pass on wisdom and advice.
  • Amateurs focus on being right. Professionals focus on obtaining the best outcomes
  • Amateurs worry about what they see. Professionals worry about what they can’t see.
  • Amateurs focus on expedience. Professionals know that haste can make waste.
  • Amateurs focus on the short term. Professionals focus on the long-term.

Amateurs focus on putting other people down. Professionals focus on making everyone better.

Professionalism In Leadership Summary

To summarize, Level 5 Leadership over time cultivates a culture of success and innovation, fosters excellence, promotes responsibility and accountability and wins loyalty.

There you have it!

Until next time.

Questions?  Comments?

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