Leaders who can take an organization from good to great are like Darwin Smith, the mild-mannered lawyer of Kimberly-Clark who, named CEO, transformed the stodgy old paper company. Over 20 years, Smith outperformed giants like 3M, Coke and GE.
Smith embodies what is called Level 5: someone who combines extreme personal humility with intense professional will.
Personal humility: Shows modesty, shuns adulation, never brags. Acts with calm determination and relies on standards, not charisma, to motivate. Channels ambition into the company, not the self. Grooms successors. Looks in the mirror to take responsibility when something goes wrong.
Professional will: Acts as a catalyst to create superb results. Shows unwavering resolve to do whatever it takes to produce the best long-term results, no matter how difficult. Sets the standard for building a great team; will not settle for less. Credits others.
— Adapted from “Level 5 Leadership,” Jim Collins, Harvard Business Review.