Life and Lessons for and by next CEOs


5 Levels of Leadership

I recently completed my journey through two books by John C Maxwell, Mentoring 101 and 5 Levels of leadership; You can find these books in my Book List 2013. Mentoring 101, is a pocket guide book, but what I found was that most of Johns teaching in the pocket book was wrapped up in similar approach in level 4 of the 5 levels of leadership.

In my life I have experienced vast differences in managing and leadership styles, from the “I am only here because it was not my choice and I will make your life hell” to the “I am here to help guide you to excel at your job and grow into somebody that can help others in return”. These are the two extremists of the management world. In my opinion all managers are not necessarily leaders.

Being in a leadership position, does not automatically make you a leader. This becomes more obvious as one progresses through Johns book. I am going to try and highlight the most important lessons that I have learned, along with a bit of my own opinion. What is necessary to understand, is that in the journey of leadership, one can only progress to the next level once you have mastered your current level. I will be going into more detail on how to identify which level of leadership you are in a follow up post.

  1. Position – The first level of leadership. If you are on this level, then the only influence you have as a leader is that which comes with the job title. People follow you because they have to. Positional leadership carries the rights that are granted to you by the position. Many managers find themselves on this level, and use their position to forcibly gain followers and to force down influence. Reaching Level 1 may make you a manager, but how you execute the job is what will define you as a leader. On this level you will rely on rules and policies to manage your subordinates. Your subordinates will only execute tasks that are expected of them and will rarely grant you extra time or effort. Leaders in this level usually find it difficult to work with people over whom they have no influence, as these types of people tend to be more independent. Position is the only level that does not require ability and effort to achieve. Anyone can be appointed to a position.
  2. Permission -The second level is based on relationships. On this level, people follow you because they want to. When you like people and treat them like individuals who have value, you begin to develop influence with them. You develop trust. The environment becomes much more cohesive. In this level, the one redirects your agenda away from yourself and your position, and towards your team. Start developing relationships with your team; get to know them beyond the boundaries of the work place. On this level one starts to build solid, lasting relationships. You can like people without leading them, but you cannot lead people well without liking them.
  3. Production – Many leaders have reached this level and stopped growing. Leaders at this level is defined by the things that they get done. Good leaders don’t just create a pleasant working environment. They get things done! Leaders at this level have the ability to create results. This in turn results in the leader gaining influence and credibility, which are naturally followed by more people following them as a result of what they have done. A leader at this generally results in the work getting done, morale improvements, increase in profits go up, staff turnover goes down and goals are realised. It is at this level that one’s influences starts to grow exponentially and leading and influencing others becomes fun.
  4. People Development – At the level, leaders become great because of their ability to empower others. They use their position, relationships and productivity to invest in their followers and develop them until those followers become leaders in their own right. As a level 4 leader, one starts to reproduce oneself in developing other leaders. Production may win games, but people development wins championships. On Level 4, teamwork goes to a very high level as a result of the deepened relationships and loyalty. Performance increases, as the team has now developed into many leaders. Level 4 leaders change the lives of the people they lead. Accordingly, their people follow them because of what their leaders have done for them personally.
  5. Pinnacle – The highest and most difficult level of leadership is the pinnacle. While most people can learn to climb to Levels 1 through 4, Level 5 requires not only effort, skill and intentionality, but also a high level of talent. Only naturally gifted leaders ever make it to this highest level. What do leaders do on Level 5? They develop people to become Level 4 leaders. Developing leaders to the point where they are able and willing to develop other leaders is the most difficult leadership task of all. Level 5 leaders develop Level 5 organizations. They create opportunities that other leaders don’t. They create legacy in what they do. People follow them because of who they are and what they represent. In other words, their leadership gains a positive reputation. As a result, Level 5 leaders often transcend their position, their organization and sometimes their industry. Level 5 leaders leave a legacy.

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