March of 2019, I went with a group of guys to Bandon Dunes on the Oregon Coast. We went there to play golf. While we were there, we saw Patrick Mahomes QB for Kansas City. He seemed like a very nice man. He will be playing in the Super Bowel this Sunday, and hopefully KC will beat the Forty-whiners. But this blog post is not about him, it is about Andy Reid. In my opinion Andy Reid is a level five leader. The reason I say this is the description I read today in the Wall Street Journal. Andrew Beaton started his article with “the iconic image of Andy Reid, the 61-year-old coach who has the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl, doesn’t picture him standing, scowling or stomping on the sidelines this season.” The picture is of a man pensively observing what is happening on the field then making decisions that lead to victory.
Beaton’s article continued using terms like self-awareness, philosophy, offensive-mind, no ego, smart, and successful. Reid has been a head coach for 21 years. Fourteen of those years were with the Philadelphia Eagles and now “the last seven in Kansas City.” His success can be seen in the fact he has made the layoffs 15 times. “The only thing missing from his resume is a title.” As I read this article, I was amazed at just how Reid is a level five leader.
The level five leader was made popular by Jim Collins in his book “Good To Great,” published in 2001. In this book we read of Collin’s idea around the flywheel concept leading from build-up to breakthrough. To accomplish this the organization must begin with level five leadership, then get the right people on the bus (First who – then what), confront the brutal facts, transcend the curse of competence, create a culture of discipline, and lastly look for technology accelerators. However, the first step is what I want to discuss in this blog, level five leadership.
When describing level five leadership Collins states, “We were surprised, shocked really, to discover the type of leadership required for turning a good company into a great one! Compared to high-profile leaders with big personalities who make headlines and become celebrities, the good-to-great leaders seem to have come from Mars.” Collins found that successful leadership involved a combination of humility and will, something he called level five leaders. The research Collins commissioned was not supposed to focus on executive leadership. “I gave the research team explicit instructions to downplay the role of top executives so that we could avoid the simplistic credit the leader or blame the leader thinking common today.” As much as Collins wanted to ignore executive leaders, the research team “kept pushing back. No, there is something consistently unusual about them. We can’t ignore them.” They found that these high performing organizations were led by, what they ended up calling, level five leaders.
What are the characteristics of this type of leader? The description begins with “modest and willful, humble and fearless.” Whenever I think of those characteristics I immediately think of Abraham Lincoln. He was the humble leader of the United States during its most difficult challenges. Yet, his will kept us together. Collins describes several modern CEO’s that met the description of humble yet fearless.
Another characteristic described by Collins is a compelling modesty. “In contrast to the very i-centric style of comparison leaders, we were struck by how good-to-great leaders didn’t talk about themselves.” When interviewed these leaders would talk about the company and the contributions of others. Each of these individuals were expressing true modesty. But as modest as they were, they had an unwavering resolve.
Collings describes this characteristic, “it is very important to grasp that level five leadership is not just about humility and modesty. It is equally about ferocious resolve, an almost stoic determination to do whatever needs to be done to make the company great.” I think these descriptors apply to Andy Reid. Reid’s success has been attributed to both his humility and his strength. “He has no ego,” and “The people who know him best say that Reid’s success has always been derived from a willingness to incorporate unusual, often unpopular perspectives. In effect, he became one of the smartest people in football by never acting like he was one of them.” Reid has exhibited a resolve necessary to be a coach who has finally taken his team to the Super Bowl. I hope KC wins. In fact, I think they will 35 to 21, KC over the whiners.
And that is my thought for the day!