How to Climb and Conquer The 5 Levels of Leadership
A business executive. A softball coach. A classroom teacher. A volunteer coordinator. A parent.
Whether you’re one of these things or all of these things, one thing remains true: You are a leader. But where are you on your leadership journey, and where do you go from here? Over my years of teaching about leadership, that question exists at the heart of so many leaders. Everyone wants to know where they stand and how to get to the next level. And you are probably no different!
That’s why I developed The 5 Levels of Leadership. I wanted to help leaders understand and increase their effectiveness. Read on to identify where you are now, and the steps you must take to work your way up to Level 5—the pinnacle of leadership.
Position: People follow because they have to.
The lowest level of leadership—the entry level, if you will—is Position. It’s the only level that requires no ability or effort to achieve. After all, anyone can be appointed to a position! While nothing is wrong with having a leadership position, everything is wrong with relying only on that position to get people to follow. That’s because it only works if you have leverage (such as job security or a paycheck) over your followers. At Level 1, people only follow if they believe that they have to.
But the news is not all bad about this level. It is a prime place for you to begin investing in your growth and potential as a leader. Use your time at this level learning to lead yourself—through priorities and self-discipline—and you’ll be ready to move to the next level.
Permission: People follow because they want to.
At this level, people choose to follow the leader. To grow at this level, leaders work on getting to know their people and connecting with them. You can’t lead without people, which means you need to learn to like people if you want to lead well.
When you like people and treat them as individuals who have value, you begin to develop positive influence with them. Trust grows, which usually leads to respect. Level 2 is where solid, lasting relationships are built that create the foundation for the next level.
Production: People follow because of what you have done for the organization.
On this level, leaders who produce results build their influence and credibility. The Production level is where leaders can become change agents. Work gets done, morale improves, profits go up, turnover goes down, and goals are achieved. The more you produce, the more you’re able to tackle tough problems and face thorny issues. Leading and influencing others becomes fun, because when everyone is moving forward together, the team rises to another level of effectiveness.
It’s important to note here that the goal with the 5 Levels is not to move away from one level to grow at a new level. Instead, these five levels of leadership build upon each other. In other words, Level 3 leaders still need to do the things that make Level 2 happen. They just add Level 3 strategies to the mix. And as they become effective at Level 3, they are ready to layer on the goals of the next levels.
People Development: People follow because of what you have done for them.
Your goal at this level is to identify and develop as many leaders as you can by investing in them and helping them grow.
The reason is simple: When there are more leaders, more of the organization’s mission can be accomplished. The people you choose to develop may show great potential for leadership, or they may be diamonds in the rough, but the main idea is the same: When you invest in them, you can reproduce yourself.
The more you raise up new leaders, the more you will change the lives of all members of the team.
Pinnacle: People follow because of who you are and what you represent.
The highest level of leadership is also the most challenging to attain. It requires longevity as well as intentionality. You simply can’t reach Level 5 unless you are willing to invest your life into the lives of others for the long haul.
The commitment to becoming a Pinnacle leader is sizeable, but so are the payoffs. Level 5 leaders develop Level 5 organizations. They create opportunities other leaders don’t. They create a legacy in what they do. Their leadership gains a positive reputation. As a result, Level 5 leaders often transcend their position, their organization, and sometimes their industry.
If you’re like me, you have goals. You want not only to achieve success, but also experience significance. You want to make a difference. The level of leadership you attain is more dependent on your influence than any other factor. You just don’t know how many lives you’ll touch. All you can do is develop your influence so that when opportunities come, you can make the best of them.
Never doubt the power of one person of influence.
Read next: Everything You Need to Know to Become a Great Leader
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2020 issue of SUCCESS magazine.
Photo by Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock.com
John C. Maxwell, an internationally respected leadership expert, speaker, and author who has sold more than 18 million books, has been named an inaugural SUCCESS Ambassador. Dr. Maxwell is the founder of EQUIP, a non-profit organization that has trained more than 5 million leaders in 126 countries worldwide. A New York Times, Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek; best-selling author, Maxwell has written three books that have sold more than a million copies.
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