What You Need to Know About The Fourth Level of Leadership

UPDATED: September 11, 2023
PUBLISHED: December 31, 2022
employer nurturing professional growth of employee is level 4 of leadership

In SUCCESS magazine’s February 2012 issue, I wrote about the third level of leadership, Production, from my book The 5 Levels of Leadership. Now, I would like to acquaint you with leadership Level 4, People Development, which few leaders achieve. On this level, leaders gain influence by developing others to become effective leaders. After all, people follow you because of what you’ve done for them personally.

How leadership level 4 helps you succeed.

Here are a few insights to help you to understand and work toward Level 4 of leadership:

1. People development sets you apart from most leaders.

To expand your organization and its potential, focus on growing leaders. You must value their dreams and believe they are worth the investment of the time, effort, energy and resources needed to develop them. As you search for people to develop, look for individuals with leadership potential who are open to growth and instruction, regardless of title, position, age or experience.

Achieving Level 4 of leadership allows you to serve people in a special way. To help people reach their potential, get outside yourself and adopt the attitude of speaker and master salesman Zig Ziglar, who said, “If you will help others get what they want, they will help you get what you want.”

2. Leadership level 4 assures that growth can be sustained.

If you want your organization to thrive without your continuous personal involvement, you must develop leaders. This is a lesson I learned after I left one organization and many of the things I built ceased to thrive—or in some cases, even to exist—after my exit. As a Level 4 leader, you can ensure the future of your organization when you:

  • Transfer ownership of work to those who execute the work.
  • Create an environment of ownership where each person wants to be responsible.
  • Coach the development of personal capabilities.
  • Learn fast—and encourage others to learn quickly as well.

Leadership is the art of helping people change from who they’re thought to be to who they ought to be. By helping your people reach their potential, your organization as a whole will reach its potential.

3. People development empowers others to fulfill their leadership responsibilities.

Many organizations are limited by leaders who hold leadership positions but can’t lead. Because they can’t empower and motivate, their area of responsibility suffers and their people go nowhere. But there is another kind of leader who also limits an organization: the competent person who won’t share responsibility.

People development shares responsibility for getting things done. It invites people into the process of leadership, and that’s good because many things can be learned only through experience.

When established leaders focus on people development and empower others to lead, everybody wins. The first benefit comes to the people being led. When new leaders are developed, they become better at what they do and help everyone who works with them to do the same.

The second benefit comes to the organization. Every developed leader adds more horsepower. Expanding leadership also enables the organization to increase its territory and take on new initiatives.

The final benefit comes to the leaders doing the developing, because new leaders share the load of responsibility.

To empower others, leaders must set the right expectations. Individuals at Level 4 of leadership take responsibility for providing training, tools and opportunities while creating an environment conducive to development. The up-and-coming leaders take responsibility for their growth through their choices, attitude and commitment.

4. People development empowers the leader to lead larger.

Insecure leaders worry about their position and standing. They have a hard time investing in others because they fear someone will take their place. If you have insecurities, you must overcome them to reach Level 4 of leadership.

Many leaders don’t want to share responsibility because they don’t want to lose any of their power. But when good leaders share power, it doesn’t take anything away from them. It actually gives them something valuable: time. Level 4 leaders are freed to do important thinking, envisioning and strategizing, which will take the team to the next level.

Delegating can be difficult, especially if you believe the person won’t do the task as well as you would. However, it’s short-term thinking to do the work yourself rather than developing others to do it. Here’s my test for delegating: If someone on my team can do one of my tasks at least 80% as well as I do, then I give them the responsibility. To be an effective leader, you must move from perfectionist to pragmatist.

Your goal isn’t to make others think more highly of you. It’s to get your people to think more highly of themselves. Set your ego aside so team members share their ideas. Give your team members credit so everyone shares a sense of pride.

5. Level 4 of leadership provides great personal fulfillment.

In the organizations I have led, developing people has been a high priority. I tell the leaders who work for me, “Your job is to work yourself out of your job.” I want leaders to figure out how to do the job with the highest level of excellence, recruit a team, develop each member, model leadership, find a potential successor, train and develop that person, and empower them to lead in their place. Once they’ve worked themselves out of a job, they are ready to move up to the next one.

Not only does people development bring the organization success, and leaders advancement, but it also gives them great satisfaction. We are most fulfilled when we forget ourselves and focus on others.

In addition, we are often closest to people when we help them grow. In the process, they often become lifelong friends.

Helping others grow and develop brings joy, satisfaction and energy to a leader. If you can achieve Level 4 of leadership, you will create a sense of community where victories are celebrated, gratitude is evident and loyalty is shared. Level 4 is the sweetest of all the levels a leader can achieve.

How to achieve level 4 of leadership.

Mastering these behaviors will help you reach leadership Level 4:

  • Recruit well. Know what you are looking for in terms of chemistry (likability), character, capacity and contribution.
  • Put the right people in the right position. Be willing to move people around. Positioning people well is often a process.
  • Show others how to lead. Model what you want to see: authenticity, servanthood, growth, excellence, passion and success.
  • Equip others to do their jobs well. Help them learn and grow, and they will equip others in turn.
  • Teach people to do life well. There’s more to life than work and career.
  • Enable people to succeed. Releasing work to others is an essential link to developing them as leaders. Trust them, believe in them and hold them accountable.
  • Evaluate those you develop. Measure where they are in leadership development and consider how independently they function. Give them feedback that helps them function without your input.

This article was published in February 2012 and has been updated. Photo by fizkes/Shutterstock

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