Blog: The Wheat Sheaf

Level Five Leadership

We are facing a crisis… a leadership crisis. That is what the experts at Harvard Business School are telling us – that the men and women that lead our organizations and institutions are simply not equipped to deal with the complex problems that we as a global society are facing. They claim that we cannot solve the world’s problems with the same leadership that created them. Furthermore, leaders today are not trusted and this is something that our industry is not immune to. When is the last time you attended a conference and “social license” was not on the agenda? So how do we demonstrate the kind of leadership that rebuilds public trust and allows us to overcome some of the very complex challenges facing the agriculture sector today?

As part of the Masters of Arts in Leadership program at Royal Roads, we are exploring what is referred to by Richard Barrett, founder and chairman of the Barrett Values Centre, a Fellow of the World Business Academy, and Former Values Coordinator at the World Bank as the New Leadership Paradigm. It is a concept that challenges traditional assumptions that leadership is something only accessible to the powerful elite or individuals at the upper echelons of our organizations and institutions. It is a theory that suggests that collective or inclusive leadership is what is required to solve the very complex challenges facing the world today. So what is standing in the way of leaders that could prevent them from taking a more inclusive approach to leadership? Some experts, including Barrett, believe that it is our corporate philosophy, often expressed in our organizations’ vision and mission statements that set us down the wrong path. Think about the vision or mission statement for your organization…. does it reflect an ambition to be “#1 in our industry” or “#1 in the world?”  Barrett states for this new leadership paradigm to occur that corporate culture needs to embrace a shift from being #1 in the world to being #1 for the world.

So just how is this achieved? Many of us are familiar with the book Good to Great (2001) where author Jim Collins introduces his concept of “level five leadership.” Level five leadership refers to a form of leadership that is steeped in personal humility and an almost obsessive dedication to the organization’s vision and mission. It is this type of leadership that is not only needed at the very top but that must permeate the entire organization in order to foster an environment that is ultimately conducive to the kind of collective approach required to take on the most challenging problems facing our sector.  

When faced with this question I asked a mentor of mine; how did you achieve this in your organization? His response “we hire (and fire) to our values.” Sounds simple and fairly straight forward, but in order to do this, you have to know what your values are and you have to be committed to hiring to those values (and firing to those values) at every level of the organization. It does not matter if it exists only at the top. A collective leadership approach requires alignment and engagement at every level.

With that, I am pleased to invite the man behind those words, Kim McConnell, Founder of AdFarm, to tell us why it mattered to him that his company’s values were reflected in every individual that worked at his marketing firm.


Erin Gowriluk
Government Relations and Policy Manager
Alberta Wheat Commission


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