Levels of Leadership – Which Level are Yours?

In there a way to measure how good a leader are we? In the typical maturity model (like CMMI for software or system integration development), there is a rating of 1 to 5 with 1 meaning non-existence or ad hoc, 2 for managed, 3 for defined, 4 for quantitative managed and 5 for optimizing. That is probably a good measure for a process, or process-control to be more precise. What about this more intangible things called “Leadership”? How do we measure the quality or level of leadership.

Leadership is about leading and managing people to accomplish a mission together.  Achievement of the mission is the outcome measure of the team – leader + the people/followers. What about just the leader alone? How do we measure him besides the outcome measure of goals accomplishment. We are left with the other key parameter – the people or the followers. What do the followers think of their leader? This was in fact what Lao Zi did, writing in about 2600 years ago in Dao De Jing Chapter 17.  Below is a mind-map of the Chinese and the English translation:

If we go by Level 0 as no leadership, or not a leader, then we can based on Lao Zi’s rating and come out with the rating as follows:

  1. Level 1: Not a leader. May be a competent individual or worker.
  2. Level 2: A leader that is despised and hated by his followers.  Lao Zi explained that such leader lack integrity. The followers do not trust him. This is likely that such leader tries to lead them by spinning stories and telling them lies. He lead them by hiding information, distorted stories, hiding truth and try to manipulate them through their lack of knowledge. It may work for the short term but the people found out the truth.
  3. Level 3: A leader that they feared. The leader rules  by strict laws and punishments. He rules by creating fear.  Follow me exactly or else. He is likely the behavior of an autocratic leader.  His model of people is Theory X – people are lazy and need to be forced to work hard.
  4. Level 4: A leader that people love and honor and praise. This is a leader that show concern for his followers and take good care of them. He is also a leader with wisdom that do things productively, rightly and fair gaining the respect and praise of his followers. He probably practices situational leadership and servant leadership.
  5. Level 5: A Invisible leader that no one know! This is because the people thought that they accomplished the mission by themselves! Or they accomplish the mission together. The credit belongs to no one but everyone in the team! The leader does not see the accomplishment of the team as more important than himself. He just want to see the mission accomplished and the team succeeds. Once mission is accomplished, he does not fight for rewards or credits but give the rewards to his people. He step down and step out quietly.  This is the principle of Lao Zi’ of  Self-directed team or “Non violating the Way/Dao Action management” 无为而治.

We are see the progress, from non-leader, lousy leader (despised and hated), fearful leader, loved and honored leader and self-directed or self-managed team (invisible leader).

How productive is such team?

No leadership is a gathering, may be social, and does not accomplish any mission (no one set the mission).

Bad leadership do not accomplish much, may be continued the loss-making.

Fearful leadership accomplish mission with minimum standard.
The people, due to fear, do the very minimum to satisfy the standard requirements. Why? Because any attempt to do new things may end in mistake. Any such mistake will be heavily punished. Hence, it is better for people to do as little as possible to minimize mistakes. This kind of leadership may still work well in situations and processes that are stable and well known. However, in situation of changes, such leadership and method will fail.

In this world of knowledge and conceptual economy, of increasing complexity and increasing pace of change, the knowledge to do things well does not reside in a few people, whether the chairman, CEO or COO, by every where in the organization. It is better to consolidate and aggregate the wisdom of everyone in and even without (the customers, the suppliers, partners etc) to define the strategies and work together to accomplish the mission and vision of the organization. This present world needs the leadership of level 4 and 5 to succeed, especially in the long run.

It may be good to compare with Jim Collins (‘Good to Great’ Book Author) Level 5 Leadership. The levels are:

Level 1 Capable Individual
Level 2 Contributing Team Member
Level 3 Competent Manager – Organizes people and resources to achieve predetermined objectives.
Level 4 Effective Leader – Motivates people to achieve a clear compelling vision with high performance standards.
Level 5 Executive – Humility+Will Power to accomplish great and lasting missions with people.

Jim Collins has the additional descriptions for the Level 5 Leader:

  • Face the facts and handle the realities. Do whatever is right and needed. Stick to Core Values.
  • Right person on the bus in the right Seat and Wrong person off the bus and set the direction.
  • Hedgehog perseverance to be the Best =Passion of People + What Organization Best at + Its Best Economics
  • Culture of Discipline = Disciplined People, Disciplined Thought, Disciplined Action.
  • Use of Technologies as Accelerators
  • Flywheel – build up from small and increases to breakthrough.
  • Core Values: Focus on Organization, People, and NOT self. Be Ethical.
  • Succession Planning for creating Lasting Organization

The qualities of Jim’s Level 5 Leader is like Lao Zi Level 4 The Loved and Honored Leader.  It is close to Lao Zi’s Level 5 The Invisible Leader. The Ancient Chinese Classics has also much to say about Leadership and cover much greater depth than the Level 5 Leadership. It is summarized in “内圣外王” –  A Saint within will make a King without. Great leadership comes from a strong inner character and wisdom. I will cover this more in future. A short post with the Christian perspective is in How to be King.

Level 1 Capable Individual
Level 2 Contributin Team Member
Level 3 Competent Manager
§Organizes people and resources to achieve predetermiend objectives.
Level 4 Effective Leader
§Get simulates the group to achieve a clear compelling vision and high performance standards.
Level 5 Executive
§Humility+Will Power to accomplish great and lasting missions with people.

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