I was rereading the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins the other day and it occurred to me that with all the talk about sustainability in business we should revisit some of those basic concepts covered in that book. The chapter on Fifth Level Leaders really hits home with what it takes to create organizations that are excellent and have a prayer to be sustainable.

An interesting question came to my mind.

“What if our current elected officials adopted the concepts of a Fifth Level Leader?”

What is a Fifth Level Leader? It is a leader who has two major attributes. The first is a will to succeed no matter what is happening. The second is paradoxical to the first. That is to have a great amount of humility and modesty.

The will to succeed is for the organization not for oneself. This is a foreign concept to most leaders since they are usually focused on themselves first and then the organization. Fifth Level leaders work hard at whatever needs to be done and will not settle for anything less than what will meet the long term objectives of the organization.

What would happen if political leaders became so entrenched in making the organizations they serve succeed that they did not even worry about re-elections because the results would be so overwhelmingly successful that re-election would come automatically? When service is placed above self, good things happen.

The humility needed to be a Fifth Level Leader is the ability to give credit to everyone and everything else when things go well. When things go wrong, a mirror is placed in front of the leader and blame is apportioned to him alone. The organization’s Buck stops with the leader.

Fifth Level Leaders leave the place better than they found it and cultivate the next generation of leaders to carry on the organization. As Collins says, “most leaders hope the place implodes after they leave so it makes them only look better”. This short-sighted thinking of a lot of leaders does not create sustainability.

Is your organization led by Fifth Level Leaders? If not, what are you doing about it? Although it is not easy to find or develop this type of leader, a Fifth Level leader  will only improve the organization. How will you get from Good to Great?

We look forward to your comments on this kind of leadership.

Jeri Quinn

Jeri Quinn from Driving Improved Results is an executive coach, management consultant, speaker and author who focuses on communication in her work with executives and companies. She is the author of The Customer Loyalty Playbook, 12 Game Strategies to Drive Improved Results in Your Business. With more than 40 years as a serial entrepreneur.

Quinn has worked with executives and teams in over 40 industries, spoken at major business expos including New York City’s Javits Center, facilitated business development and extraordinary customer service at institutions such as MoMA and AIG, and has partnered with New York City, The Kauffman Foundation, Citibank, Merrill Lynch, HSBC, and Signature Bank to educate their clients.


She can be reached at:

I told people what I was doing


Now I want to share the change journey. Will you join me? Sign up for my personal insights into how to make big change happen.

Get Our 5★ Rated Book

Customer Loyatly Playbook - 12 Game Strategies to Drive Improved Results in your BusinessRead First Chapter Free




Thank you. I will reply within 24 hours, unless this is a weekend or a US holiday.