Level 5 Tiger

In the classic, Good to Great, Jim Collins introduces the idea of level 5 leadership.  He defines a level 5 leader as someone who “builds greatness through a paradoxical combination of personal humility plus professional will.”

Since reading Collins work, I am always on the lookout for such a leader.  I think I may have found one.

Auburn Tiger head football coach, Gene Chizik is in the midst of the perfect leadership storm.  With all the news swirling around his star player, Cam Newton, as well as the pressure of attempting to remain undefeated and win a National Championship, Chizik appears to be passing the test.

On Saturday, I was in attendance with 87,450 others to witness Auburn clinch the S.E.C. Western Division title with a win over the University of Georgia.  War Eagle!

Chizik is demonstrating level 5 in a couple of ways.

First – personal humility.  A year ago, Auburn hired the little known Chizik to take over their football program.  The coach came in and began immediately preaching family and team.

While other schools have hired big named media magnet coaches, Auburn chose not to.  Now that the team is having success, Chizik is still rarely seen in front of a camera.  When he is, credit is always deflected to the Auburn “family.”  Say what you will about Chizik, but there does not appear to be any evidence of arrogance in him.

Second – professional will.  The coach has a dilemma on his hands with how he handles his Heisman hopeful QB, Newton.  In the face of a firestorm of media scrutiny, Chizik made the decision to play Newton on Saturday.  Was it the right decision?  For U.G.A. it wasn’t.  For Auburn, time will tell.

Chizik will have to live with the consequences of his decision.  He is risking his own reputation by supporting Cam and it very well could blow up in his face.

Onlookers are skeptical.  The press is killing him.  Even fans wonder what is true and what is merely allegation.  But one thing is certain.  Chizik is resolved.

If you want to be a great leader, you can learn a lot from Coach Chizik.  Namely, be quick to share credit and even quicker to accept blame.  And once you know the right thing to do, commit to it fiercely and stand behind your team.

“Personal humility and professional will.” They are the hallmarks of level 5 leadership.

Both present in the coach.  Are they present in you?



Who do you know that is demonstrating level 5 leadership?

Leave a comment

Matthew Critten

11 years ago

Even though I am not an Auburn fan, I can appreciate the message.


11 years ago

Matt, you will be glad to know that the Coach once made a stop in Iowa!

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