Running a business requires the right skills, attitudes and personality. Running an outstanding business requires a high level of skills, positive attitudes and an unmatched personality. The ability to steer a business from the verge of bankruptcy, obscurity or average performance to a global presence and respect calls for extraordinary leadership abilities, personal will  and dedication. These features also include the ability of an individual to see the world in a different perspective. Different scholars have come up with different methods of categorizing business leaders in trying to explain why some are powerful achievers, others average performers and yet others are leaders, who cannot put a mark in their area of responsibility.

There are five categories of business leaders, according to business author, Jim Collins. The utmost and most coveted level is what the author calls ‘Level 5 Leadership’, which is reserved for the best leaders in performance, attitude and ethics. A ‘Level 5 Leader’ is one can combine all these without losing the key focus in business. Such a leader sets a business on the path of success by sacrificing self importance and ego, while making everyone feel recognized and valued. This leader sets proper succession strategies that guarantee the continuity of the success story long after exiting from the scene. Above all, humility is a key characteristic that defines this leader.

Literature Review and Leader’s Profile: Bernard Arnault

Bernard Arnault of France is the focus of this paper and discussion. He is one of the richest and most successful businessmen in the world. According to Forbes, he is the richest man in Europe and fourth richest in the world with a net fortune of close to US$ 41billion. He deals in luxury consumer products ranging from perfumes to luxury bags and general beauty products. He has built his business empire over time through strong leadership, as well as innovations and ability to make tough decisions. He has excelled in luxury consumer cosmetics and beauty products business, a field that has no connection with the engineering course that he studied at the university. During a previous interview with CNN’s Lorraine Hahn (2005), the host to the program TalkAsia, Arnault talked about mixing creativity with a business sense, so as to reach the success levels that his company enjoys. This must have been one of the reasons why, in 1976, he convinced his father to sell the construction division of their company and concentrate on other ventures, which he believed were profitable.

Examples and Explanation of Leadership Qualities

Arnault’s leadership qualities are the main reason, why the company has some of the most renowned brands in beauty and cosmetics. Among these are brands like Givenchy perfumes and cosmetics, wines and spirits, jewellery and watches. When he joined his father in business in 1971, he convinced him to dissolve the construction division of his company for the lucrative real estate and holiday accommodation ventures. Getting into a company and, within five years, being able to make such a bold decision on a family business must have required strong leadership skills. This is because, despite his young age, he could see emerging opportunities and was even able to convince his experienced father to adopt the tough decision. He became the CEO and president of the company within five years later, and this gave him the chance to pursue his ambitions. In 1981, his ambitions saw him leave France to start several businesses in the United States of America where he established Ferinel Inc. This move was strategic in that the USA has a large and lucrative market.  During the following years, he was able to engage in mergers and acquisitions that catapulted the company to even greater heights. This was through his hands-on style of leadership and a knack for taking risks. However, it was his creation of LVMH Company in 1987 that put the company in a new path of growth that saw it acquire fifteen times the company value, within ten years.

Level 5 Leader or Not

Bernard Arnault knows when the time is right to make an acquisition or a merger. He is certainly one person, who likes taking risks and making decisions that he feels are right, regardless of the situation. He is always looking for individuals with the right knowledge to lead the development of competitive products in the market. During the interview with CNN as mentioned above, he mentioned creative individuals like John Galliano, Eddie Slimman, Marc Jacobs and Christian Aqua as part of the reason why his brands are among the best in the world. This emphasizes his team work spirit and the ‘we’ attitude, rather than the ‘I’ attitude most, which successful leaders in business normally employ. As a business leader, who has achieved incredible results, Arnault is not media savvy, and even during the interview as outlined above, the interviewer mentioned that much is not known about his private life. This is an indication that his ego does not prevail in his business ventures. These achievements and attitudes undoubtedly place Bernard Arnault as a ‘Level 5 Leader’ in business.


To acquire ‘Level 5 Leadership’ is a hard task to accomplish. However, the team spirit and strong leadership skills that have made Arnault create such a monumental business empire as LVMH and his reserved attitude easily make him attain the status. The team spirit and inclusion of his own children in key positions, in the company, indicate that Arnault has set the stage right for a continuation of his legacy after he leaves the scene. Certainly, these are qualities of an outstanding business leader.

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