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2006: Issue 24

Level 5 Living

In the frequently referenced book Good to Great, Jim Collins presents the concept of Level 5 leadership as the pinnacle in a hierarchy of executive capabilities:

Level 1:  Highly Capable Individual
Level 2:  Contributing Team Member
Level 3:  Competent Manager
Level 4:  Effective Leader
Level 5: Level 5 Executive

His contention is that companies which have sustained greatness over time have had CEOs who are Level 5 Executives: “build enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.” And provides additional distinction in the following:

“Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company.  It’s not that they have no ego or self-interest.  Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious—but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves.”  (Good to Great, pg 31)

Recently I took the opportunity to watch an interview of Warren Buffett, Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, whose name I had seen often at the top of the lists of America’s wealthiest, but a man I knew little about.  He also is the man who some say “stunned” the country when he announced in July of 2006 that he would give away his fortune, worth billions of dollars, to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in their mission to reduce the inherent inequities in our world.

While Jim Collins did not mention him in his book, Warren Buffet exemplifies the attributes of a Level 5 leader and furthermore, if you extrapolate these qualities to the greater arena of life, he exemplifies what I now refer to as Level 5 living.  Let me share with you a few reasons why.

Mr. Buffett states in his interviews some version of “I love what I do.”  “It is my passion.”  “I enjoy going to work.” You can see in his face and hear in his tone his sincerity.  He doesn’t have to elaborate for you to know that when that feeling stops, he will to, and move on to something else he loves. When evaluating companies for investment/purchase, he looks for CEOs/Managers who have a passion for what they do, believing that is an essential quality in order to optimize the success of any company. Given his track record, I’d say he has a valid point.  

He knew early on in his life that he would accumulate wealth, and he and his wife made a conscious decision that they would give it back to society –the place from whence it came.  To that end, they set up their own foundation in the early 1960’s, seeing it as the vehicle to distribute the monies. And what changed his mind is an example of another attribute of Level 5 leadership and living….he found someone who was already doing it well, with whom he was in synch with their purpose and values, and he saw no need to replicate it. Putting it simply, he found another vehicle to reach his goal, “what can be more logical, in whatever you want done, than finding someone better equipped than you are to do it?” (A conversation with Warren Buffett, FORTUNE Magazine, June 25, 2006)  He had a purpose, a goal and a plan, and the willingness to be flexible and modify it for the greater good of the whole.

Warren Buffett is also comfortable publicly acknowledging his mistakes.  In Berkshire Hathaway’s annual reports, he frequently cites the mistakes that the company made during the year, accepting full responsibility for them, and going onto explain what he learned from them.  Exhibiting confidence and humility, minimizing arrogance.

Perhaps what is most striking, particularly in today’s era of “make more spend more”, Mr. Buffett leads a relatively simplistic life, citing his one extravagance as a private jet.  He has lived in the same house for 30+ years in Omaha Nebraska.  He drives his own car, shops for himself, and claims his ideal evening is spent in the comfort of his own home, watching a ball game and eating popcorn. He truly could buy anything he wants, and he has chosen to keep those wants simplistic, believing that accumulating material things would simply complicate his life and thus, risk his satisfaction. 

And finally, Mr. Buffett embraces generosity.  Criticized in the past for not giving away money fast enough, his plan was to maximize his accumulation, believing that as the value of the money grew so would the potential for the good that could be done with it.

As you can see, I have a new found fondness for Warren Buffett and an interest in learning more about him; however, it should be no surprise to have discovered that is not as easy as it may seem.  Most people of his stature have written at least one book….not him. He has had many books written about him; had MBA classes instituted in his name, designed to pass on to others his keys to investment success; and held many interviews. But overall, he is a man who is most comfortable staying out of the limelight, living his life as he chooses, designed to maximize his happiness and satisfaction, and by doing so, giving more than just billions of dollars away.       

This is a wonderful time of year to exhibit the attributes of Level 5 living.....opportunities to share hugs and smiles; treasure the simple joys; acknowledge our blessings; give generously, and not just money; review our year’s accomplishments; acknowledge our mistakes and identify their teachings; do something for the good of the whole; and decide our purpose for the coming year.  Imagine what our world would be like if we all lived a level 5 life daily.


What can you do differently, beginning today, to live a level 5 life or be a Level 5 leader? 

Do you do what you love?

Do you love what you do?

Founded in 2003 and based in Roanoke, Virginia, Extra Ordinary Living works with individuals, organizations and teams to identify possibilities, create opportunities, remove obstacles and through deliberate action, optimize results.

Usually the first question we are asked, is why Tiberius? Our trivia friends can often identify the references……yes, Tiberius was the 2nd Roman emperor, and yes, Tiberius is the middle name of James T. Kirk from Star Trek. One of our life mottos and business principles is “to learn from the past, look to the future while living in the present.” Thus, Extra Ordinary Living.

As Professional Coaches, we are trained to listen, to observe and to customize our approach to our clients needs.  We provide tools, support, structure and accountability to help our clients unleash their full potential and optimize results.  The best thing about coaching is it is all about you – the client, and what you want.  We may share our opinions and give you advice, but it is up to you to pick and choose what you want to accept.  We suspend judgment and will support you in your decisions. 

As Professional Speakers, our messages are inspirational while imparting useful, practical and memorable information in a fun and dynamic way to help our audiences live  extra ordinary lives.  

The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.
– Joseph Campbell

Janet Crawford, MHA, MBA
Professional Certified Coach

A publication of Extra Ordinary Living,  Extra Ordinary Living is written for aspiring individuals striving to make a difference, and wanting to explore, experience and excel in all aspects of their life.

“…a very rich person should leave his kids enough to do anything but not enough to do nothing.”
– Warren Buffett, 1986

“Level 5 leaders look out the window to apportion credit to factors outside themselves when things go well. At the same time, they look in the mirror to apportion responsibility, never blaming bad luck, when things go poorly.“
– Jim Collins


In honor of Thanksgiving, I want to thank you for your support. I wish you an enjoyable Thanksgiving, and a year filled with health, happiness and peace.