Characteristics of Level 5 Leadership – Darwin Smith
Born to be a Leader
A leader is not the one who leads others to the right path, but a true leader is the one who takes every effort to make others feel comfortable while on that path and motivating and guiding all take everyone across a journey of learning and enlightenment to achieve a common goal that becomes a goal for all because of him. Many leaders have been born through the ages, but one such great leader to make a significant change in the lives of the people he became associated with and the world around was Darwin Smith, who became the chief executive of Kimberly-Clark in 1971 and nothing was same again.
Darwin Smith took charge of Kimberly-Clark, an old paper company that was already deep down the stock market index and through the twenty years that it was functioning before Smith joined the company had suffered losses and eventually was 36 percent behind the market. Before taking the charge, Smith was the in-house lawyer who was not only very mild but also the least attention seeking. Yet when he was chosen to become the CEO, he proved to be the best choice ever and continued to be so for twenty years (Collins, 2001).
A leader is known by his qualities and the qualities that reflect a true leader are not just any random features but well-tailored characteristics that make a leader an exceptional one. The hierarchy of leadership points out that there are five different levels of categories that may be a reflection of any leader and of them the level 5 is the highest level that highlights leadership capabilities. These kinds of leaders not only let their ego and self-needs of least priority but also channelize their effort for the benefit of the betterment and goal achieving of the organization(Blagg & Young, 2001). These leaders are ambitious and they take every initiative to lead the organization to success. Smith was one of those leaders who qualified to be a level 5 leader as the man blended “extreme personal humility with intense professional will” (Collins, 2001) and took the company that lagging behind in the stock market to such a height that it became a pioneer. The company became the leading company in the paper-based consumer products category and with dedication and determination, Smith directed the company towards an achievement of accumulation of cumulative stock returns that were “4.1 times the general market” (Collins, 2001).
The man who had been diagnosed by nose and throat cancer and was only given a year to live, proved that even death could not beat determination, and he went on to live twenty five years more to prove that. the man never let anything influence or come in between his work and deliberately choosing a low key profile, he spend his life by dedicating it to the welfare of the company and making it achieve great success.
When he took the decision of shifting from their traditional practice of producing coated paper, that was already a doomed preposition in the market, and instead wanted to focus on consumer paper-products, he was warned of completion from key players like Procter & Gamble, but that did not deter him. The rest is history. This is essentially being an exceptional leader who dares to take risks and challenge to usual and create a masterpiece while on the go(Collins, 2001).
A study conducted in 2013 by Institute of Education (IoE), London, analyzed and found that leaders are required for ensuring good quality in education and that leadership qualities reflected the success of both the pupils and the institution. Professors David Woods, Dr. Chris Brown and Chris Husbands pointed out that certain essential characteristics were required to be an effective “school leaders” and of them consistency, being ambitious for the success of the students, ability to break down the barriers and motivate, being professional, being evaluation expertise, promoting and providing opportunities, supportive and strategic were found to be the most desirous. Being a level 5 leader requires one to go beyond self-interests and look into the bigger picture that demands the welfare of the greater group (Morrison, 2013).
In case of educational settings, level 5 leaders, who are already capable of mixing will, humility and professionalism, are pioneers who would help achieve balance in the education system. A successful education system is made up of successful leaders, who are motivated by inspiring leaders to aim for success (Leithwood et al., 2004). The interests of the students come before the leader and had Smith been a leader here, he would have directed students towards success, just like he directed the company that was drowning towards a shore that was rich with resources. After Smith joined the company as a CEO, he did not send time investing in his image but instead focused on developing the image of the organization. In fact, once he was asked by the Wall Street Journal to describe his management style to which he had replied that his was “eccentric”, and while replying he had been wearing clothes that were unfashionable, posed in quite a farm boy style and maintained a profile that would not really be imagined for a Kimberly-Clark CEO. But that was his leadership style: low key but effective. And that is what should matter in the long run.
Education systems are awaiting such leaders who would sacrifice personal motives and work towards the welfare of the students and encourage them to bask in the rich resources that the system has to offer. Opportunities are many, but utilizing the right one at the right time can be identified be a selfless leader who knows its value and makes every effort to make it useful for the group or the entity it is serving and throughout the process be like a guiding shadow to help in times of adversities.
Educational leadership plays a crucial factor not only in the lives of the students but also in the society it serves and functions. These leaders make significant transformations in the society as they motivate and transform the students that become prepared to function in the society. Effective leaders influence effective education and makes positive impact on improving learning and thus it is important to promote effective leaderships. These leaderships can be in any form but emphasizing that irrespective of what position or role the leader may be officially playing, as an educational leader they need to be capable of thinking beyond and looking beyond the perceived and visible limits.
Leaders like Smith are examples of how sheer determination and positive stubbornness can help sail through even in times of tough competition from industry biggies, defatting which is a challenge in itself. Running an entity cannot be without risks and a true leader is not afraid of risks.With every stride he knows there can be challenges, but he takes every step to diminish the fear, throw light on the path and help one in case they falter, all along remaining a leader who guides and not a supervisor who overshadows.
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