Getting the Very Best From Your People

“If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes good, we did it. If anything goes really good, then you did it. That’s all it takes to get people to win”.

-Paul “Bear” Bryant Former University of Alabama Football Coach

What is the single greatest thing that could limit the growth of your business? What is the single greatest thing that could FUEL the growth of your business?

If you are the President of your company, the answer to both of these questions is… “you”. YOU, as the leader of your company, are the single greatest key to its success.

I was recently reminded of the importance of leadership when I read "Good to Great" by Jim Collins. Good to Great is a national bestseller that revealed the lessons the author and his research team learned by studying a handful of companies that made the leap from being “good” companies to being “great” companies. Companies like Walgreens, Kroger, and Gillette, that not only achieved greatness, but sustained it. The Good to Great criteria was so stringent that only 11 companies made the cut.

So what did these companies have in common? Well, a number of things of course, but perhaps the greatest commonality was something Jim Collins referred to as “Level 5 leadership”. All of the “great” companies studied for this book had a “Level 5” leader (on a scale of 1-5) at the helm before and during their ascension to greatness.

So what is a Level 5 leader, and what separates him from, say… a “level 4” leader?

One of the most unique things about a “Level 5” leader is “a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will”, to quote Mr. Collins. They are highly driven, but they’re also quite genuinely humble. Not timid or meek, but humble.

How much do you have in common with these great leaders? Here’s a two-question test to find out:

1) Who do you blame when things go badly in your business?

A) Economic conditions

B) Luck

C) Congress

E) My employees

F) Me

2) Who gets the credit when things go well? (Use the same multiple choice answers above)

I’ll give you the answers in a moment.

Many people are quick to accept credit and even quicker to shift blame. The most exceptional thing about Level 5 leaders is that they are exactly the opposite. When things go well, they look out the window to find the reasons. When they go badly, they always look in the mirror. This is not to say that great leaders don’t hold their staff accountable, but they always start by holding themselves accountable. So as you’ve probably guessed by now, a Level 5 leader’s answer to the questions above would be: 1) F & 2) B & E.

The character and humility these leaders exhibited allowed them –and fact in drove them– to build up the people around them. There is no greater hallmark of an exceptional leader.

Shift credit, accept blame, and help others excel. That’s how Level 5 leaders do it… and it’s hard to argue with the results.