Leadership and Sustainable Performance by Jim Collins

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Leadership is the key component of any technology company’s success in the long run, which allows overcoming obstacles. However, the existence of multiple styles and features seems confusing from the perspective of their suitability to business goals, whereas transitioning to higher levels correlates with CEOs’ personalities. Hence, the purpose of this essay is to demonstrate the feasibility of the approach for meeting this objective developed by Jim Collins.

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The principal idea of this scholar is the presence of opposing qualities in a leader, which determine the sustainability of implemented measures. They are referred to as “personal humility and professional will,” which means that one should be able to not only demonstrate professional competencies in the workplace but also possess seemingly soft characteristics (Collins, 2001, p. 66). This conclusion was made after conducting research on numerous CEOs of present-day companies and comparing their circumstances to distinguish good managers from those who are great (Collins, 2001). In this way, the findings confirmed that the above elements correspond to significant achievements.

From this point of view, the fact of belonging to Level 5 leadership, which implies having the mentioned abilities, is important for effective operations. It allows not only performing a positive business shift but also maintaining the results of such progress, whereas good CEOs are incapable of sustaining them (Collins, 2001). Therefore, it is critical to thoroughly examine the way great leaders navigate organizational challenges to prove their greater efficiency.

Leadership and Sustainable Performance in the 21st Century

The extent to which Level 5 leadership plays a crucial role in the sustainable performance of contemporary organizations can be revealed through assessing the situations of technology companies. More specifically, the conduct of their leaders can shed the light on the dependency of the appropriateness of their critical decisions on their characteristics. Thus, for example, one of such entrepreneurs in the field, who manages to successfully cope with challenges is Elon Musk. His approach for sustainability is based on transformational leadership alongside high competency (Kholghi, 2021). In other words, he emphasizes the need for sharing a passion to benefit from available skills.

Another leader, who can be viewed as great, is Jeff Bezos, and his methods are similar to those of Elon Musk. Even though Bezos is mostly known as the founder of Amazon, he also launched Blue Origin, which is a human spaceflight company (“Jeff Bezos leadership style,” 2021). The success of all his endeavors is usually ascribed to the creation of a vision-driven environment and maintaining organizational excellence (“Jeff Bezos leadership style,” 2021). He is also a transformational leader, who prioritizes the motivation of people working for the business as much as their professional characteristics. Therefore, these two examples prove that sustainable performance in the 21st century requires soft qualities as per Collins’ work.

Personal Humility in Driving Sustainable Performance

These leaders managed to found successful companies operating with regard to sustainability because they heavily relied on their personal humility. This concept means that authenticity and honesty is their main strength, and the lack of excessive confidence help them present themselves in a favorable light (Kholghi, 2021; “Jeff Bezos leadership style,” 2021). As follows from their communication methods, both Musk and Bezos are oriented on the improvements in employee sustainable performance, which they perceive as the key to transitioning to a higher level (Jiang et al., 2017). This intention correlates with the concepts of transformational leadership and serves as evidence of the importance of personal humility for technology companies with an emphasis on people’s perceptions.

The adoption of this approach to managing business affairs, in the long run, corresponds to the consideration of ethics. Thus, according to Caldwell et al. (2017), humility is an essential component of an ethically-relevant leadership, which promotes trust. This characteristic also increases the commitment of employees to the organizations and develops followership (Caldwell et al., 2017). In the case of Elon Musk’s Tesla, the focus on this aspect of the matter can be seen from his particular attention to the contagious enthusiasm of workers combined with the lack of hierarchy in communication among them (Kholghi, 2021). In turn, Jeff Bezos highlights the critical role of the same elements while prioritizing small teams ensuring everyone’s inclusion in the decision-making process (“Jeff Bezos leadership style,” 2021). In this way, the interests of all participants are addressed.

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Professional Will in Driving Sustainable Performance

The second part of a great leader’s personality, as per Collins’ research, is a professional will, and its importance for driving sustainable performance is conditional upon the increase in work engagement. In other words, entrepreneurs, who can build positive relationships with their employees on the grounds of respect for well-developed professional skills, are extremely efficient (Gemeda & Lee, 2020).

The outcomes of their decisions tend to be positive since they are oriented toward assigning tasks to people concerning their abilities. This intention is accompanied by the presentation of an appropriate role model in which they comply with the requirements, which they demonstrate to others (Gemeda & Lee, 2020). From the perspective of scholars, its combination with seeming shyness provides better results than when only one of these components is developed in leaders (Collins, 2021). Hence, it can be viewed as an excellent complement to soft skills, which determine a CEO’s positive image.

This conclusion is supported by the founders of Tesla and Blue Origin because they correspond to the specified regulations. Thus, Elon Musk is known for promoting innovation in his company while engaging all the employees in the process of sharing ideas and developing strategies (Kholghi, 2021). In turn, Jeff Bezos is reported to be a long-term thinker, who highlights the critical role of curiosity in his workers, which should be added to operational excellence for meeting sustainable objectives (“Jeff Bezos leadership style,” 2021). These conclusions underpin the fact of these people belonging to the category of Level 5 leaders.

Level 5 Leadership: The Ultimate Factor to Sustainable Performance

Considering the above factors determining the success of Tesla and Blue Origin, it is reasonable to suggest that Level 5 leadership is the ultimate factor to sustainable performance. This stance can be supported by performance measurement and management, and this theoretical approach means following pre-defined stages: design, implementation, use, and refresh (Bourne et al., 2018). As follows from the definition of personal humility and professional will discussed in the previous sections, soft skills alongside competence create excellent leaders. They manage to efficiently elaborate their products or services, introduce them to the market of operation, maintain long-term demand, and readjust them to customer needs.

Moreover, the compliance of the descriptions presented by Collins in his article with this management theory is enhanced by the psychological aspect of the matter. According to a recent study, the positive effects of leadership on sustainable performance are amplified by the so-called psychological empowerment (Iqbal et al., 2020). It means that the degree of safety perceived by employees leads to improvements in operations (Iqbal et al., 2020). From this perspective, the indirect influence of soft skills, also referred to as personal humility, on the efficiency of competence allows considering Level 5 leadership as the condition for boosting progress.


To summarize, the framework developed by Jim Collins, in an efficient instrument for analyzing the dependency of companies’ performance on leaders’ qualities. According to it, personal humility is complemented professional will in great CEOs, and their distinction from others is in the presence of both characteristics. As follows from the analysis of Elon Musk’s Tesla and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, the conditions of contemporary markets required them to comply with these rules. The former implemented them by emphasizing the importance of passion and showing competence, which served as a role model. The latter used a similar approach while highlighting curiosity, creating a vision-driven environment, and maintaining excellence.

These findings correlate with the performance management theory and its stages, and this fact allows considering Level 5 leadership as the principal condition for achieving success in the long run. They also comply with the principles of psychological safety, which can be ensured only if both aspects of a great leader’s personality, as per Collins, are well-developed. Therefore, the recommendations for present-day technology companies are to assess the presence of the mentioned abilities in their leaders to promote sustainable development. Moreover, these conclusions can serve as guidance for businesses, who struggle to select their leaders. In the end, the success of their operations is mostly conditional upon proper management, and the transition to new levels is possible only if they possess the critical abilities.

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Bourne, M., Melnyk, S., & Bititci, U. S. (2018). Performance measurement and management: Theory and practice. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 38(11), 2010-2021. Web.

Caldwell, C., Ichiho, R., & Anderson, V. (2017). Understanding level 5 leaders: the ethical perspectives of leadership humility. Journal of Management Development, 36(5), 724-732. Web.

Collins, J. (2001). Level 5 leadership. The triumph of humility and fierce resolve. Harvard Business Review, 79(1), 66-76.

Gemeda, H. K., & Lee, J. (2020). Leadership styles, work engagement and outcomes among information and communications technology professionals: A cross-national study. Heliyon, 6(4), e03699. Web.

Iqbal, Q., Ahmad, N. H., Nasim, A., & Khan, S. A. R. (2020). A moderated-mediation analysis of psychological empowerment: Sustainable leadership and sustainable performance. Journal of Cleaner Production, 262, 121429. Web.

Jeff Bezos leadership style. (2021). Small Businessify. Web.

Jiang, W., Zhao, X., & Ni, J. (2017). The impact of transformational leadership on employee sustainable performance: The mediating role of organizational citizenship behavior. Sustainability, 9(9), 1-17. Web.

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Kholghi, B. (2021). Elon Musk leadership style: Strategies for excellence. About Leaders. Web.

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