The Trouble with Leadership Theories


Several years ago a client of mine, Rob, fell in love with Jim Collins’s book Good to Great. Within a month he had given copies to everyone on his team.  Soon after, language from the book made its way into Rob’s everyday speech. One idea he especially loved was Level-5 leadership. “If we want to be great,” Rob would say, “we need more Level-5 leadership.”

I quickly grew tired of hearing him say it. His references to it were too vague and preachy. I could tell that his team was growing tired of it too.

Eventually, I asked Rob what Level-5 leadership meant to him. And more importantly, what it looked like in his organization. Not in a sound bite, but in his own words.

His answer:

  • We need a vision of this company for the next 10 years. We’ve spent too much time resting on our successes from the past 10. Either we come together as a team to figure it out or we’re going to drift into oblivion.
  • We have to be focused on building something bigger than our own bank accounts. We’ve lost sight of a broader purpose.
  • Our success has to start with our people. We have to inspire them to want to build something great alongside us. We have to be crystal clear about what the vision looks like in action. Then we have to walk the talk ourselves.

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Doug Sundheim

Doug Sundheim

Doug Sundheim is a consultant and executive coach with over 15 years of experience in growing businesses and helping others do the same. He works with leaders and teams of Fortune 500 companies and entrepreneurial firms to help them maximize their effectiveness. You can follow Doug on Twitter @DougSundheim and find out more about his services at

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