The 5 Levels of Leadership provides clear steps for leadership growth. Lead people well and help members of your team to become effective leaders, and a successful career path is almost guaranteed. In the beginning of the book, author, John C. Maxwell talks about how he conceived each level as a practice that could be used to lead more effectively. As time went by, and he used and taught the levels, he realized they were actually principles. Here’s the difference: a practice is an action that may work in one situation but not necessarily in another. A principle is an external truth that is as reliable as a physical law.
Each of the sections of this book is dedicated to one of the 5 Levels. In them you will learn the upside of the level, the downside, the best behaviors for that level, the beliefs that help a leader move up to the next level, and how the level relates to the Laws of Leadership, your understanding will be enhanced by seeing how they fit into the 5 Levels. But even if you are new to the laws, you will understand the basic concept behind each and how it is applicable. There is also a growth guide for each level.
This blog post includes an overview of the 5 levels and how they fit together.
Level 1 – Position
Position is the lowest level of leadership– the entry level. The only influence a positional leader has is that which comes with the job title. People follow because they have to. Positional leadership is based on the rights granted by the position and the title. Nothing is wrong with having a leadership position. Everything is wrong with using position to get people to follow. Position is a poor substitute for influence. People who make it only to Level 1 may be bosses, but they are never leaders. They have subordinates, not team members. They rely on rules, regulations, policies and organization charts to control their people. Their people will only follow them within the stated boundaries of their authority. And their people will usually do only what is required of them. When positional leaders ask for extra time or effort, they rarely get it. Positional leaders usually have difficulty working with volunteers, younger people, and the highly educated. Why? Because positional leaders have no influence and 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.
Level 2 – Permission
Level 2 is based entirely on relationships. On the Permission level, people follow because they want to. When you like people and treat them as individuals who have value, you begin to develop influence on them. You develop trust. The environment becomes much more positive — whether at home, on the job, at play, or while volunteering. The agenda for leaders on Level 2 isn’t preserving their position. It’s getting to know their people and figuring out how to get along with them. Leaders find out who their people are. Followers find out who their leaders are. People build solid, lasting relationships. You can like people without leading them, but you cannot lead people well without liking them. That’s what Level 2 is all about.
Level 3 – Production
One of the dangers of getting to the Permission level is that a leader may be tempted to stop there. But good leaders don’t just create a pleasant working environment. They get things done! That’s why they must move up to Level 3, which is based on results. On the Production level leaders gain influence and credibility, and people begin to follow them because of what they have done for the organization. Many positive things begin happening when leaders get to Level 3. Work gets done, morale improves, profits go up, turnover goes down, and goals are achieved. It is on Level 3 that momentum kicks in.
Level 4 – People
Level 4 leadership is about people development. It reflects your ability to develop and reproduce other leaders. This is the stage where your leadership gains depth, sustainability, and begins to extend your influence beyond what you can accomplish on your own. This is the result of investing into others and helping them become better people and leaders.
Level 5 – Pinnacle
Rare is the leader who reaches Level 5—the Pinnacle. Not only is leadership at this level a culmination of leading well on the other four levels, but it also requires both a high degree of skill and some amount of natural leadership ability. It takes a lot to be able to develop other leaders so that they reach Level 4; that’s what Level 5 leaders do. The individuals who reach Level 5 lead so well for so long that they create a legacy of leadership in the organization they serve.
Pinnacle leaders stand out from everyone else. They are a cut above, and they seem to bring success with them wherever they go. Leadership at this high level lifts the entire organization and creates an environment that benefits everyone in it, contributing to their success. Level 5 leaders often possess an influence that transcends the organization and the industry the leader works in.