Level 5 leadership

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By Optic Editorial Board

Have you ever heard of Level 5 leadership? It’s a concept that was first advanced by business consultant and author Jim Collins in his book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap And Others Don’t. And while the Las Vegas City Schools district isn’t a business, the concept is a good one to consider when hiring the district’s next superintendent.

According to Collins (after a five-year study), Level 5 leaders tend to create the greatest success stories in the world of business — not as success stories themselves but by creating the most successful companies. Collins even came up with a simple formula to explain the concept: “Humility + Will = Level 5. “ Moreover, he described such a leader as a “modest and willful, shy and fearless” — in other words, a paradox in many ways.

Level 5 leadership challenges the idea that great leaders need to be high-profile, larger-than-life CEOs who manage with the force for their personalities. Instead, the best leaders are more collaborative, and don’t mind taking a back seat to the successes of their subordinates.

Or, to put it even more succinctly, Level 5 leaders place the success of the group above their own.
So how does this relate to the East district’s needs? For one, it would do wonders for teacher morale.

Imagine a superintendent who presents problems and asks for solutions from the district’s rank-and-file? Or someone who seeks to improve the district’s quality of education by turning to teachers and students for solutions. Then imagine a superintendent, after having arrived at a potential solution, doing everything within his or her power to make it happen — without caring about who gets credit for the success.

The district needs someone who leads by example in abstract areas, such a moral behavior, integrity and high expectations. And with all those standards comes transparency, a necessary ingredient for any bottom-up problem solving. In our mind, these personal characteristics are just as important as the professional qualifications.

Everything’s in place for a good superintendent’s selection process: A teachers- and citizens-based screening committee will have a say in the process, while three new school board members will ensure that a fresh perspective is applied to the final selection. Here’s hoping we get a new and better kind of leader out of the process.