I’m reading the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins, recommended to me by my conservative friend Lea. The book talks about “Level 5 leadership” being one of the required conditions for a company to achieve greatness.

Level 5 leadership isn’t at all what you’d expect it to be. Level 5 leaders are humble, a little awkward when it comes to slick media sound bites. But behind the scene, they demonstrate single-minded determination to achieve solid results. Once exceptional results are achieved, they tend to be leaders who give credit to their employees or even luck. They build things that are solid, that last. They’re the best of what American capitalism offers. They’re kind of American like apple pie.

According to Collins:

The recent spate of boards enamored with charismatic CEO’s especially rock star celebrity types is one of the most damaging trends for the long term health of companies and if this trend persists – if we see a triumph of celebrity over leadership and we maintain our misguided mix-up between those two concepts – we will see very few great institutions the next century.

It occurred to me as I read this passage that this zillionaire show-off CEO is substantially part of the picture I think many liberals have in their brain when they think of big business. They notice what’s wrong with big business, not what’s right with it… not the “Level 5 leadership” that’s out there and does capitalism proud. Slick zillionaire leader boy (or girl) isn’t good for anyone, if you follow Collins thinking; not for America, not for capitalism, not even for their company. This person is a distortion, an aberration, an example of the excess that tends to always create trouble (in River City, that starts with “t” that rhymes with “p” that stands with pool).

That got me thinking that maybe liberals tend to throw the baby out with the bathwater when they’re talking what’s wrong with big business. They develop a hostile tick about “big business.” And I’m thinking that conservatives tend to throw the baby out with the bathwater when they’re talking what’s wrong with government… “big government.”

All this baby throwing out when really the problem we all share isn’t either the business or the government but the excess that exists in both?

What would happen if liberals attended to the excess that exists in government and conservatives attended to the excess that exists in corporate America? What would happen if we demonstrated “Level 5 leadership”, reaching for greatness within our own general sphere of influence? Where might we be then?