5 Traits of a “Level 5” Leaders

“Level 5 Leaders is the term coined by Jim Collins to describe the highest level of leadership. There’s a complete chapter describing the traits and ethics of a level 5 leader in his book Good to Great.


A level 5 leader may not just be the CEO of the company, they might be just a junior manager who is doing the best he can in his position to manage a team.


Qualities each level possesses:


Level 1: Highly Capable Individual

You have the skillset and knowledge to do the work well.


Level 2: A Great Team Player

You help your teamwork a lot more efficiently and productively. Your team is better with you on the team than without you.


Level 3: A Competent Manager

You are capable of handling and managing a team to achieve specific tasks and goals. 


Level 4: Effective Leader

They can steer the company towards better results and opportunities. They keep the company working at a higher level and in an efficient manner.

Level 5: Great Leader

A level 5 leader has the qualities of all 4 levels and has humility along with it. The trait of thinking that you are no better than others is something that makes them stand out to do better than the most.


5 traits the all Level 5 leaders display:

  1. Great Team Player

A level 5 leader is a great team player and team builder too. They know who should be on the team and what kind of work should be assigned to them. Moreover, the team is better off with him on the team than without him.


  1. Perseverance

This quality is hard to develop and usually can only come with experience and time. A level 5 leader needs to have the strength and will to keep the team and company together even when the conditions are not in favor.

  1. Accepting the Brutal Truth

Accepting the brutal facts means understanding when things are not in their favor and accepting the reality without being delusional about the goals.


Example: It’s your son’s birthday and you wanna take him skiing. Now the news forecast says that there is a good chance that it’ll snow. So it is crucial that you accept the brutal fact that it’s not a good idea to go skiing even if it breaks your son’s heart.

  1. Sharing Credit for Success and Taking Responsibility when necessary 

Good leaders and managers always put their team in front to take the credit. They like to do it despite being a crucial contributor to the project.


At the same time when things go haywire, they act as a wall to protect their team and take responsibility. They will also step up to help when things are not going as well as expected even if it was not their work directly.

  1. Humility

This trait is something that everyone should possess, but only a few do. It means that they lack ego and are down-to-earth people who are humble enough to have all the above qualities.

Well, these are just 5 traits and qualities that a level 5 leaders possess, there are a lot of other dimensions that add up as well when deciding who should run a company. Read the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins to dive deep into this discussion.

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