So by now you may be wondering what sort of mild mannered "Clark Kent's" are these Level 5 leaders? In a way they really are an interesting dichotomy of "Clark Kent" and "Superman". Mild and unassuming in their personal approach, helpful and supportive of their team and successors and yet...Superman when it comes to commitment to doing what is right for the company - no compromise - and the same drive and commitment to see results. All, and I mean all, of their energy is funneled into those areas.
Collins highlights that these Level 5 leaders were driven to see results and never hesitated to make the hard choices, sell of large chunks of the company, fire relatives and do whatever was needed to make the company great. What is interesting is that these individuals operated with a certain unbreakable congruency of thought and action. I call it behavioral integrity in which thought (manifested statements regarding desired approach and goal for the company) and action (behaviors and decisions made in pursuit of those stated goals) are always aligned. There was a singularity of focus in word and deed. The way they maintained this focus and drive was to cultivate the habit of setting targets and measuring often and being brutally honest with themselves about the results.
When I was quite young there was a potato farm located not too far from where I lived. I was getting just old enough to know that I wanted more than my allowance provided and so decided to walk over to the farm that fall to get a job picking potatoes. If you have ever picked potatoes you know it is back breaking work and quite frankly not a lot of fun. (There were no machines, these potatoes were all hand picked.) My first day on the job I noticed that besides myself there were about 8 other kids on the crew and on the second day there was one more, I had invited my friend to come with me to make some "easy" money. I noticed quickly that even with ten kids picking potatoes not that many sacks got filled on any given afternoon. To say there was room for improvement was an understatement. Fortunately my friend had the same mind and work habit that I did and we decided to quantify our work and set targets. We were paid for each 50lb sack we filled and so most of the kids would decide to pick 3 or 4 sacks per shift. I don't know why but that just wasn't a sufficient motivation for me so my friend and I decided to use a different measure - we would work by row. Now these rows were quite long usually about a 1/4 mile in length. I did not like finishing my shift with a row undone so we decided to start each shift with a fresh row and target to do the entire row that shift which typically worked out to around 10 sacks. So we would not distract each other we would pick rows side by side and start at opposite ends and see who could complete their row the quickest. We determined we would not leave that day until we had each done an entire row. Well it was dark when we got done, but we did it. The next day we worked at shortening the time to do a row and by the end of the week we set a new target of a row and a half for each shift and by Saturday afternoon we hit that target. On the following Monday after school when we showed up, none of the other kids were there and we asked why? As it turned out my friend and I were picking as many sacks between us as all the other kids combined so the owner and his wife told us we were getting a raise and the field was ours! You know the work did not get any less back breaking and I never went on to become a tycoon in the potato industry but I did learn a valuable life long lesson. Figure out what you have to "do" to succeed, and measure frequently how that behavior is working. Drive for results.
I use this example not because I want to toot my own horn but rather to point out what I believe is a fundamental value and truth regarding this trait and all the other traits for Level 5 leadership - that they are things you can cultivate whether you are picking potatoes (think about it, what we were doing fit the model just in a different setting), working on the line or occupying an executive suite. These qualities or traits are really good habits to develop and they will serve you well regardless of where you are in your career progression. Being driven to produce results is work and often hard work but it does pay off. As Collins highlights from a discussion with one of those Level 5 leaders when asked about the difference between himself and a CEO from a comparison company he summed it up this way: "The show horse and the plow horse - he was more of a show horse and I was more of a plow horse." (Collins, Good to Great)
Today look at what you could "do" differently to boost the bottom line for your role and the company, practice doing it and at the end of the week or month ask yourself - did this change get me the results I was looking for? If not, why not and make changes. If yes then examine what other changes in the way you "do" things could produce similar results. That is being results driven.