One of the biggest debates in management schools and books is around the subject of leadership.Yet, despite our increasing celebrity-obsessed popular culture, business leaders seem to have a surprisingly low profile, with one or two exceptions such as Richard Branson. The recent targeting (scapegoating?) of bank leaders has also brought a few more unfamiliar names into the spotlight.
What makes a great leader? The author Jim Collins described the concept of ‘level 5 leadership’ in his book Good to Great (probably my favourite business book). This is a person who shows a high level of personal humility and quiet determination to drive their companies forward. This is in contrast to the stereotypical image of a charismatic individual who everyone imagined to be the natural leader.
I came across this list of the top 10 CEOs on Jim Collins’ website. This is from a few years ago now (2003) but I am sure the basic principles and criteria used by Collins are still valid, although I do wonder how the recent recession would influence his choice.
With a general election coming up, perhaps we can use this list to help us reflect on the leadership qualities that are really important, rather than just going along with the media bias towards the colourful and telegenic candidates. Dare I suggest that Gordon Brown may fare better using Collins’ criteria than some other candidates?
Here are Collins’ top 10:
No. 10: David Packard, Hewlett-Packard co-founder
No. 9: Katharine Graham, Washington Post Co.
No. 8: William McKnight, 3M
No. 7: David Maxwell, Fannie Mae
No. 6: James Burke, Johnson & Johnson
No. 5: Darwin Smith, Kimberly-Clark
No. 4: George Merck, Merck & Co.
No. 3: Sam Walton, Wal-Mart founder
No. 2: Bill Allen, Boeing
No. 1: Charles Coffin, General Electric’s first president
To read in full what Jim Collins has to say about this subject and why he chose those people, have a look here.
Who would your number one business leader be?
Who would your number one non-business leader be?