This week’s topic revolves around leadership and followership. Although there were no lectures this week, the readings themselves managed to flip my way of thinking about what I thought I knew, upside down and around. This seems to be the pattern each week from learning, teamwork and now to leadership and followership. Seriously what have I been learning this whole time?
From my personal experiences and from what I have been taught, leadership looked like one charismatic person being able to lead, or motivate people to follow that one person. This has been shaped from my primary activities, where one kid was chosen to lead everyone in “jump-jam”, to high school, where head-girls and class reps were chosen. Also factors like the media and family played a huge role in forming my ideas about leadership. From these same experiences I have also learned to differentiate followership from leadership. Although followership didn't seem to play as an important role as leadership, I myself preferred being in the role of followership due to my shy nature.
Jim Collins (2005) article about leadership contrasted with what I thought a great leader should be. Jim emphasized the superior ability of level 5 leaders in transforming "good companies into great companies" (Jim Collins, 2005). To be a Level 5 leader one needed to have a combination of personal humility and professional will. Level 5 leaders therefore showed characteristics such as modesty, willfulness, shyness and fearlessness. They also are passionate in their company rather investing heaps in themselves. Rather than being egoistical and charismatic, Jims study showed level 5 leaders were quiet and modest. I was quite skeptical at first when I read through Jims reading because I have seen very outgoing and charismatic leaders succeed. But was soon reassured that Jim refers to level 5 leaders as not the only factor to have to create a great company, but it certainly does help having a level 5 leader. I do not know if I have followed anyone who has had this "level 5" leadership quality but I'll definitely be on the lookout now. It's quite depressing though when Jim mentions he is unsure whether level 5 leaders are born or can be developed (Jim Collins, 2005). In my opinion level 5 leaders can be developed, however this development needs to be done from a younger age, we grow and learn from what is around us. For level 5 leaders to have strong faith in the face of brutal reality and attain humility plus professional will, is not something you are born with but developed, well that's what I think.
So what does Jim’s article mean to me? For someone who prefers following roles, it gives me hope that although I do not have to have the outgoing and charismatic traits that people usually look for in a leader, I can be a great leader even without these. So many times have I passed on a leadership role because I thought I was better at following but as Kelly R. E. (1988) stated “good leaders know how to follow and set an example”. In saying that being a leader and becoming a level 5 leader are two different things. However I hope to develop my leadership skills from level 1 to level 5, to do this I believe I need to shying away from leadership opportunities and get more practice in leading through actively seeking or accepting leadership roles. Whether or not level 5 leaders can or cannot be developed, well I hope to disprove that.
Collins, J. C. (2005). Level 5 leadership: the triumph of humility and fierce resolve. Harvard Business Review, 83(7/8), 136–146
Kelley, R. E. (1988). In praise of followers. Harvard Business Review, 66(6), 142--148