How to become a level 5 leader

It takes a special kind of leader to take a team from being good to a state of greatness. These “Level 5 Leaders” as illustrated in the book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t are integral for the future success of how we interact with each other, at work and at home.

At the end of this article is a video from with a fantastic presentation by one of Google’s “Search Inside Yourself” program founders on their leadership initiative.

Compassion is the keystone to creating a Level 5 Leader -the practice of being mindful both formally and informally at work and home is one of our most powerful tools to develop the capacity for compassion.

Mindfulness is engaged when you choose to be in the present moment, without judging what is happening. It is very much intertwined in cultivating emotional intelligence and most notably an integral component in Daniel Golemans definition of self-awareness.

When we engage a mindful state throughout our day; becoming aware of our breath, body sensations, emotions, feelings and thoughts we create the capacity for insight to arise. This insight or “high resolution imaging in realtime of our emotions and thought” as described in Google’s SIY Leadership initiative, allows us to respond skillfully in the present moment.

Another valuable skill that is cultivated by being mindful, is the capacity to access inner calm which leads to resilience – a resilience that trumps reactivity to negative stressors and judgments towards others and in turn providing us with the capacity to contemplate and reflect before we act.

Interacting in a meaningful, kind and compassionate way with ourselves and our colleagues is an integral element of becoming a level 5 leader, as they cultivate feelings of trustworthiness, respect and motivation.

How compassion is linked to becoming a Level 5 Leader:

A level 5 leader has two essential qualities in addition to affluence in their present role; being humble and ambitious, compassion cultivates three essential skills to make this happen:

  • Affective: “I feel for you”
  • Cognitive: “I understand you”
    • Both these skills support “being humble”
  • Motivational: “I want to help you”
    • Supports the growth of ambition (for the greater good)

Research has found that because a level 5 leader has a driving ambition for the greater good – they actually don’t feel the need to inflate their own egos’ to achieve what it is that they wish to achieve.

When a leader embodies a higher purpose as their driving ambition for growth, it helps to provide a constant reminder to the “bigger picture”, towards a greater good beyond themselves.

In addition, the ability to understand and empathize with people inhibits/tones down possible “excessive self-obsession”, a state that can turn a critical scenario or relationship sour, very quickly.

Practicing compassion also has an incredible effect when cultivated within the culture of a company –  introducing it into the workplace creates a collaborative and effective workforce, each employee inspiring the next towards the greater good of the organization.

Below is a video from Chade-Meng Tan giving a comprehensive overview of how they do this at Google. 

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion ~ Chade-Meng Tan

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