Good to Great

by

Jim Collins

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Collins and his research team coin the term Level 5 Leader to describe the unique qualities that CEOs of good-to-great companies tend to have. In contrast to the stereotype of the charismatic, revolutionary leader, Level 5 Leaders are humble, self-effacing, and unwilling to take personal credit for their companies’ success. They are ambitious, but they channel this ambition toward their companies rather than their own egos. Additionally, Level 5 Leaders are relentless and energetic in pursuing their goals. Far from being meek, they often make bold, forceful choices in leading their companies, but those choices are always based on their beliefs about what is best for the company as a whole. Level 5 Leaders also set their executives and successors up for success, rather than trying to consolidate power within themselves. The unique combination of humility and drive is the defining duality of Level 5 Leaders.

Level 5 Leader Quotes in Good to Great

The Good to Great quotes below are all either spoken by Level 5 Leader or refer to Level 5 Leader. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Possibility of Transformation Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper Collins edition of Good to Great published in 2011.
Chapter 2  Quotes

The business media called the move stupid and Wall Street analysts downgraded the stock. Smith never wavered. Twenty-five years later, Kimberly-Clark owned Scott Paper outright and beat Procter & Gamble in six of eight product categories. In retirement, Smith reflected on his exceptional performance, saying simply, “I never stopped trying to become qualified for the job.”

Related Characters: Jim Collins (speaker), Darwin E. Smith
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

Level 5 leaders are a study in duality: modest and willful, humble and fearless. To quickly grasp this concept, think of United States president Abraham Lincoln (one of the few Level 5 presidents in United States history), who never let his ego get in the way of his primary ambition for the larger cause of an enduring great nation. Yet those who mistook Mr. Lincoln’s personal modesty, shy nature, and awkward manner as signs of weakness found themselves terribly mistaken, to the scale of 250,000 Confederate and 360,000 Union lives, including Lincoln’s own. While it might be a bit of a stretch to compare the good-to-great CEOs to Abraham Lincoln, they did display the same duality.

Related Characters: Jim Collins (speaker)
Page Number: 22-23
Explanation and Analysis:

Level 5 Leaders look out the window to apportion credit to factors outside themselves when things go well (and if they cannot find a specific person or event to give credit to, they credit good luck). At the same time, they look in the mirror to apportion responsibility, never blaming bad luck when things go poorly.

Related Characters: Jim Collins (speaker)
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:
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Level 5 Leader Term Timeline in Good to Great

The timeline below shows where the term Level 5 Leader appears in Good to Great. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2 
The Importance of the Right People Theme Icon
Duality and Contradiction Theme Icon
Collins characterizes Smith as an example of a Level 5 Leader . Level 5 Leaders “blend extreme personal humility with intense professional will,” and though they... (full context)
Duality and Contradiction Theme Icon
Collins notes that Level 5 Leaders are always characterized by not one, but two defining traits: modesty and fearlessness. He gives... (full context)
The Importance of the Right People Theme Icon
Additionally, Level 5 Leaders are often devoted to ensuring that the company thrives after they are no longer its... (full context)
The Possibility of Transformation Theme Icon
Collins notes that in interviews for the book’s study, Level 5 Leaders rarely talked about themselves, instead commending others for their companies’ success. Those who knew these... (full context)
The Possibility of Transformation Theme Icon
Focus and Consistency Theme Icon
Duality and Contradiction Theme Icon
In conclusion, Collins reiterates that Level 5 Leaders are not just humble. Rather, they balance their humility with a relentless drive to accomplish... (full context)
Chapter 9
The Possibility of Transformation Theme Icon
Focus and Consistency Theme Icon
...a flywheel process. Similarly, Hewlett Packard and other Built to Last companies often had consummate Level 5 Leaders at the times of their success. (full context)