Am I a Level 5 Leader? Or Do I Need to Be the Smartest Guy in the Room?

This morning I read an incredible, mindset-shifting article about marketing by Avinesh Kaushik (read it immediately... after reading this post, that is).  The article had all kinds of implications for the work that I do with my day job. It made me want to evaluate and rethink everything we're doing in our marketing strategy, and I can't wait to start.

A bright person would share the article with key members of the team so they could feel so inspired. But there was this annoying feeling that I couldn't escape. I didn't want to share the article directly with my CEO or anyone else on the team.  Why? Because that would give away my power. If they've read the article too, we're on an equal playing field. I lose my advantage. I'm no longer the smartest person in the room – such a base, stupid, neanderthal emotion of self-interest.

Maybe it's just me, but apparently I have an ego. And it gets hungry and needs to be fed. And the more I feed the ego, the more it grows (so I'm told). It's too easy to let insecurity dictate how we interact with co-workers, bosses, and even clients.

In his popular business tome, Good To Great, Jim Collins describes a level five leader as having a combination of personal humility and professional will.  The professional will part seems easy for most of us. We want to succeed. But if you look at it in the right egocentric light, personal humility appears counter to the objective of professional will. If I want to get ahead, I need to receive the credit for all the things that go right in this company. But it's not about you (thank you Rick Warren). If professional will is applied in a Level 5 Leadership way, it's about the company's success, not your own.

Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. It's not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest, Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious – but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves. (Good to Great, p. 21) 

I know the ego-monster will snap its jaws at me again (probably multiple times today). And if I really want to be the kind of business leader and person that I aspire to be I will have to recognize the monster when I see it, and work to starve it out. Good luck to the rest of you.