M Coaches Are Level 5 Leaders

Submitted by smotheringD on December 16th, 2011 at 5:11 PM

I was on my way to a conference out West Tuesday and was skimming the chapter in Jim Collins' modern business classic, "Good to Great" on Level 5 leadership.  Collins' team of "blue chip" graduate students invested on the order of 15,000 hours of research identifying and examining 11 companies out of the Fortune 500 which demonstrated exceptional performance (3x the market average sustained over a 15 year period).  The data showed empirically 6 common characteristics that operated in all the great companies, one of which being "Level 5 Leadership".

Level 5 leaders are unique in that they combine extreme humility with tremendous, even fierce, passion for their company (team).

When I got off the plane, who did I see on the shuttle but none other than Coach Funk.  I got behind him on the escalator and congratulated him on a great season, exceeding all expectations.

He immediately corrected me, "Well, we had a couple weeks there when we should have played better and we didn't accomplish our main goal...but recruiting is going well and we still have Virginia Tech..."

These guys are Level 5 to the bone.


Perkis-Size Me

December 16th, 2011 at 5:55 PM ^

We could not ask for a better man to lead this program. Every time hoke speaks, you can feel the love and passion he has for michigan.


"We would have walked to the University of Michigan."

"Is this where you want to be forever?" "Yes. No doubt."

Hardware Sushi

December 16th, 2011 at 6:48 PM ^

If Brady Hoke wants to act like Mike Krzyzewski (other than being perceived as arrogant, which I don't agree with but ok, what are his major flaws?), dominate year-in, year-out and win 4 national titles, I will be very happy with him as our head coach.


December 16th, 2011 at 9:38 PM ^

To not be somewhat arrogant could equally be derided as not taking advantage of your success and many would not believe it and call it a false modesty, or question his non-public persona.

The bigger the spotlight the blurrier the lines get.  The one between cockiness and confidince is not that large to begin with. I have no problems with Coach K's attitude.


December 16th, 2011 at 6:51 PM ^

Coach Hoke constantly deflects all attention to the seniors or his assistants. I have a son who plays hockey at West Point and they employ the same principle there.  The sophomores run the Beast Barracks initiation for the incoming freshmen.  My son is a senior this year and while his class load has diminished slightly, his supervisory and administrative responsibilities have increased.

By holding the senior class in such high esteem, it gives the underclassmen something to aspire to, high standards of responsibility, integrity and accountability.

We are very fortunate to have the coaches we do.

Sione's Flow

December 16th, 2011 at 7:17 PM ^

If you really want to know how awesome Brady Hoke and company are, here's an example, I was having a conversation with an old friend of mine who lives in Atlanta, a die hard Bulldogs fan. He naturally hates Urban Meyer due to the Georgia/Florida rivalry.  So I was expressing my deep disdain for tsiO as well.  When I told him how the Hokester refuses to call them anything other than Ohio and that as the coach of SDSU, he wouldn't wear red because it was a primary color of Ohio.  My SEC born and bred amigo now has a second favorite team the Wolverines of Michigan all because of the passion of Brady Hoke.


December 16th, 2011 at 8:04 PM ^

That's odd, because my BIL down in Little Rock—who grew up in Arkansas and is a diehard Hogs fan—said he wanted a Michigan ball cap for Christmas.

Who would ever have thought in a million years that Hoke would change the rivalry so that people down in Georgia and Arkansas would be rooting for us.


December 16th, 2011 at 7:50 PM ^

I definitely think they are at least Level 4. I don't think we will know if they are true Level 5s until they have to pick a successor. A leader can be charismatic, team oriented, passionate, and good natured (like Hoke and Co.) but if the right person isn't picked to succeed the leader then that leader is probably Level 4. Hopefully we won't have to find out for sure for many years to come.


December 16th, 2011 at 8:33 PM ^

I respectfully disagree.  Collins said the key difference between 4 and 5 was that 4's wanted, craved and sought attention while 5's deflect it.  When things go right, the team and supporting cast gets the credit.  When things go badly, it's their (level 5 leader's) fault.  Level 5's are accountable and take responsibility for all mistakes and failures.  But they won't take the credit for any successes.

Mattison has done the exact same thing all year.  Every time a journalist asks about 'his defense' he corrects them, "It's not my defense, it's their defense."

Have you ever seen Coach Hoke squirm when Brandy tries to give him a compliment on IMF?  Denard does the same thing.  It's part of the culture.

How about when Coach Hoke became incensed when the guy at the introductory press conference questioned whether Michigan was a premier coaching job.

"Who says that???  I'm serious..."


Passion???  You gotta love it.



December 17th, 2011 at 10:22 AM ^

smothering D,These are great points,very observant.

I agree with you and it is so exciting to have people running the program who share the pride that we all feel.The players feel it too and I only look forward the next event,Sugar Bowl,Signing Day,Spring Ball,2013 Recruits,Summer/Fall training,Start of 2012 Season!

It's All Good



December 17th, 2011 at 10:17 AM ^

I made the same observation yesterday when someone asked me to compare Hoke to Meyer, and I considered it an apples-to-oranges comparison.  Meyer seems to me like a level 4 (which is still a very effective leadership style, btw).  But if you read the book, it's obvious that Hoke fits the description as well as any football coach could.  I'm guessing that Brandon, with his background in business, recognized this early on.


I'm wondering who would be the "Chainsaw" Al Dunlop of college coaches? 

Swayze Howell Sheen

December 17th, 2011 at 11:17 AM ^

Hoke is the anti-CEO, which is what this OP misses entirely.

CEO culture has become driven by people who:
(a) think they are really great
(b) think that very few people could do their job
(c) think they deserve to be hugely compensated for what they do

Hoke is the opposite of all of these things. He constantly deflects attention to himself (even describing himself as "just a d-line coach"), focuses on players, and loves his institution. If CEOs were more like Hoke, the country would be in better shape these days.

With his constant humility and demeanor, Hoke has won over a number of supporters of "the previous administration", myself included. He is a real model for what someone in a leadership role should be like.



December 17th, 2011 at 12:07 PM ^

I don't think the OP missed the point, I think the OP was talking about what an ideal CEO should be. Which is what Hoke is (at least from what we've seen so far).

And I think it's probably better to leave discussions of the economy to other blogs better suited to that topic.


December 17th, 2011 at 1:52 PM ^

Coach Schiano, you need to read the book (or at least the second chapter).

The 11 Good to Great companies all had CEO's which despised the spotlight.  This is one of the defining characteristics of Level 5 leaders (CEO's or coaches).

The type of CEO you describe was also discussed in detail and is classified as a Level 4 leader.  These are the larger than life, charasmatic, savior types that as ColoradoBlue pointed out are still very effective leaders.  The problem is that they know that they're very good leaders and they don't mind reminding you...often.  Iacocca and Patton were strong Level 4's and they often surrounded themselves with weak 'yes men' so when they left their position the organization they ran typically floundered.

What better way to affirm their greatness after their departure?

Hoke is one of a very rare breed of leaders/CEO's that realize that it's not about them.  It's about the enduring greatness of the organization they serve.  They are fiercely dedicated, loyal and passionate.

Your observations are correct about Hoke Coach.  You just didn't realize that Collins found 11 very Hoke-like CEO's at the top of the 11 Good to Great companies.