As Collins explains in Good to Great, Level 5 leaders are those “who lead with a powerful mixture of personal humility plus professional will. Every good-to-great transition in that research began with the emergence of a Level 5 leader who deflected attention from himself, maintained a low profile, and led with inspired standards rather than inspiring personality.”
That is, Level 5 leaders have an “extra dimension: a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will. They are somewhat self-effacing individuals who deflect adulation, yet who have an almost stoic resolve to do absolutely whatever it takes to make the company great, channeling their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. It’s not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious — but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution and its greatness, not for themselves.”
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t was published by HarperBusiness (October 16, 2001) and is available in a paperbound edition.