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5 Steps to Leadership

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It’s easy to think that leaders must fit a specific profile based on some of the commonalities we have seen in conventional leadership styles. Dominating personalities like Donald Trump, Winston Churchhill, Martin Luther King Jr. all stick out as the typical “leader.” At first, it is easy to assume that leaders should be somewhat intimidating and overbearing, unwilling to let anyone get in their way. However, creators of great organizations like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates don’t necessarily fit into the description of an intimidating overbearing type.

How do somewhat unexpected, maybe introverted personality types follow the 5 steps to great leadership? What role does personality play in achieving great leadership? Are there certain attributes in personalities that hold people back or help people along on the road to leading a team towards greatness? How can you, based on your unique personality, achieve your goals when it comes to leadership? These are some of the questions we will explore.

Jim Collin’s Level 5 Leadership

Jim Collins wrote about the characteristics of a great leader, what he called “the level five leader,” in his famous and iconic book, Good to Great. He discussed each of the 5 levels of leadership. At the first level, individuals are competent and skilled in a subject.  Level two is when people are able to contribute to a team using these abilities from level one. Individuals start to manage a team at level three. Level four is where leaders are able to pursue a vision for a company and lead a team toward that vision.  

The difference between level three and level four is management versus leadership. At level five, individuals reach the pinnacle. They are able to be “ambitious for the company rather than for themselves“. At the end of the 5 steps to great leadership, leaders have achieved a “self-effacing,” humility that enables them to forgo their individualistic desires to avoid pain and gain admiration in pursuit of a greater desire to build an organization that surpasses and outlasts them. 


Level 5 Leaders All Around

At the end of the chapter, Jim Collins relates how impressed and emotionally moved he was when great numbers of people approached him about the level five leaders they had identified in close proximity. Evidently, many people had noticed seemingly ordinary people producing extraordinary results. They were making this impact in the realms of education, public service, businesses, families, and spirituality. They said that they had difficulty contextualizing and understanding the function of these role models based on traditional views leadership. Bridging Jim Collins’s ideas on level five leadership to team efforts in diverse aspects of society allows us to learn what behaviors can be most effective in making an impact on our communities. 

Collins describes many level 5 leaders as modest, self-effacing, reserved, quiet, even shy.  A prime example he produced was Darwin Smith from Kimberly Clark. To contrast Darwin Smith, he points to a few exemplary level 4 leaders who compare themselves to “Rambo” and boast of their supposed abilities to run the country with less effort than they used to run their companies.  He states that level 5 leaders had “inspired standards not inspiring charisma.” However, later in the chapter, he also states that charisma and level 5 leadership are not mutually exclusive.  He gives the example of Sam Walton, who was a great leader and certainly had charisma and a huge personality.

Personality in Collin’s Good to Great

Personality keeps coming back as an important topic throughout his chapter on leadership, but in an open-ended manner that makes it difficult to define how exactly personality manifests in level 5 leadership.  Collins is careful not to define the level 5 leader qualities as personality traits, but mainly their strong ambition for the success of the company and the self-sacrifice they make in pursuit of that ambition. Consider Kontota and our mission to produce health and safety for our customers. Our leaders focus on that vision and our ambition is not to take credit but to create a social system that creates ongoing value for others.

After examining the primary behaviors and perspectives of great leaders, we can discuss the personality types and how they might relate with these ambitions and behaviors. The enneagram is a contemporary blend of ancient wisdom grouping personalities into 9 types and 27 subtypes.  The 9 types of personality are portrayed in a system that allows people to better understand their core fears, motivations and paths to personal development.  I’ll focus here on how each personality type can transition through the 5 steps to leadership. 

Type 1: Are You a Perfectionist?

Type 1 is described as being purist, formalist and a perfectionist.  Highly interested in rules and self-control, the type 1, desires to be “right” so as to evade criticism.  These individuals are willing to make sacrifices for a higher purpose, making them a good fit as level 5 leaders.  They are more concerned with doing things the “right way” than pleasing others just for the sake of it. They are disciplined and principled. Nevertheless, in their unhealthy form, they could get so caught up in getting things done the “right” way, that they get caught up on bureaucracy and waste too much energy trying to control others.  

They can forget about the ultimate reason “why” it is so important to perform at their best and lose sight of their mission, getting caught up in details that are irrelevant to their organizations ultimate purpose.  They can also fixate on other peoples’ flaws causing others to lose motivation and hesitate to follow their lead. Focusing too much on perfection can inhibit creative problem solving and adaptation.

Type 2: Do You Give More Than You Get?

Type 2 is described as thoughtful, giving, helpful and possessive.  This type is very caring and sensitive to others needs.  They can get stuck on trying to receive appreciation for their efforts by focusing too much on others’ responses or lack their of to their generosity.  Type 2 has an easy time devoting themselves to a cause because of their generous nature.  Nevertheless, when they are unhealthy, they can focus more on generating gratitude for their efforts rather than producing results for the organizations cause.  Pride is their “passion” or fatal flaw. When they focus on the cause rather than receiving credit for their efforts, they can move through the 5 steps to leadership.

5 steps to leadership

Type 3: Do You Focus on Impressing Others?

Type 3 is described as being practical, ambitious, focused, and concerned about image and others’ perceptions of them.  They focus on achieving goals as a means of validation and way of building their own confidence.  Their concern with others impressions can serve as a distraction from the pursuit of a greater cause.  Wanting to be the star of the show can get in the way of focusing on what’s truly best for the organization.  At their best, type 3s can find the confidence within themselves to recognize their own intrinsic value.  Moving on from this need to be perceived by others as worthy, they can focus all their attention on the greater function of the organization rather than how they are seen as a leader.  

Type 4: Do You Ever Feel Like an Outcast?

Type 4 is described as creative, personal, reflective and revealing.  They want others to view them as unique. At their best, they are capable of remarkable creative expression and deeply in touch with their own and others’ emotions. They are not afraid to stand out in pursuit of their goals. Their ability to empathize helps them connect with others and eventually lead them to greater self-understanding. Connecting with others is an important aspect of leadership because it creates trust and builds relationships. However, focusing too much on emotions can serve as a distraction from the greater goals and functions of the organization. To achieve level 5 leadership, type 4s must balance their talent for empathy and creative expression with a larger ambition for the organization as a whole.

Type 5: Are You A Minimalist?

Type 5 personalities can be intensely focused on innovation and invention. This makes them highly capable of producing great results. However, they can sometimes be isolated and disconnected from others. Involving others in the pursuit of an organizations vision is crucial to building lasting success. Therefore, type 5s need to focus on trusting others and including them in their innovative pursuits. Without trust, it is not possible to build a lasting organization that surpasses and survives beyond the leader.

Type 6: Are You A Devils Advocate?

Type 6 personalities are suspicious types that often doubt themselves and others. They are incredibly concerned with safety and risk aversion. Their critical thinking skills can protect their organization and all its members from harm. However, it can cause paranoia and distrust. It is important to learn to let go and allow others to take some control of an organization for it to grow beyond the one leader. Great organizations are social systems that do not rely on only one great leader.

Type 7: Do You Pursue Excitement as a Distraction?

Type 7, “The Enthusiast,” tries to drown out negative emotions (mainly fear) by taking on exciting risks and pursuing activities that make them feel distracted. They tend to be adventurous and cheerful. However, there is a deep sense of unrest. They can be highly productive because they are so active. Their optimism and productivity is inspiring to others. It helps others to produce results as well. However, since these personality types tend to resist negative emotions, they sometimes can deny difficult truths. They can run away from problems and lack the discipline to take unpleasant actions as needed. In order to achieve the 5 steps to leadership, they need to face problems head on and not avoid them.

Intro to the Enneagram

Type 8: Do People Call You Controlling?

Type 8s, the “challengers,” are deeply in touch with their anger. Showing vulnerability can be very uncomfortable with their own, and sometimes others’ vulnerability. They don’t necessarily like conflict, but they tend to be comfortable confronting others. These types are the typical leaders we think of because of their charisma and extraversion. They are concerned with power and control. Sometimes these types of leaders can help bring an organization to the next level with their discipline and influence. However, since they are so controlling, they often do not implement a system that can withstand in their absence. Therefore, they have to build the infrastructure to be able to step away without letting the business fall apart without them. They can do so by teaching and trusting others to follow in their footsteps as independent leaders.

Type 9: Would You Do Anything to Have Peace?

Type 9, often referred to as the “Peace Maker” is extremely conflict averse. They often twist themselves into a pretzel to avoid having to confront others and deal with conflicting interests. When they are unhealthy, they tend to shut down, shut people out, and lose themselves in isolated activities or laziness. They care about harmony more than anything and don’t want to put effort into reaching an understanding through challenging discussions. Nevertheless, when they are healthy, they can be great leaders. They have an easy time focusing on others and not drawing attention to themselves. They can also be very stable and great listeners. Based on the 5 steps to leadership, they help others to take the lead and create value independently, thereby providing a social infrastructure that can eventually withstand their absence or limited involvement.

team work

If you would like to take a quiz to identify your type, follow this link.

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