Five levels of leadership

One of the great challenges of leadership – be it in the context of one’s career, one’s community commitments, or one’s ministry – is the balance of finding contentment and fulfilment in your role, tempered with a healthy drive to progress to the next stage. Maxwell’s conception of the ‘five levels of leadership’ puts a healthy and helpful framework around this desire to progress.

Leadership, he notes, is stratified into five fairly distinct levels:

Level one (the bottom of the pile): Position

At level one, leadership is about rights – people follow because they have to. Leaders lead within a very limited sphere – the confines of their job description. It is a place of beginnings – but leaders who become stuck here have decreasing morale and will probably leave.

Level two: Permission

At the second level, leaders have earned some respect – people follow because they want to. Level two is about building positive relationships and growth. Maxwell notes that staying too long at level two without progression can cause highly motivated people to become restless.

Level three: Production

At level three, your reputation precedes you: people follow because of what you have done. People like the results you’ve produced and they want to get on board – the people who follow you have a high motivation for success and problem-solving is easy because momentum is high.

Level four: People development

At level four, people follow you from a sense of loyalty – they acknowledge and appreciate what you have done for them – this level emphasizes empowerment of those you are leading. Maxwell praises this level, suggesting it is optimal for long-term, deeply grounded growth happens.

Level 5: Pinnacle/Personhood

The final stage is rarefied air: reserved for leaders who have spent years investing themselves into growing people or the organisation. People follow because of who you are and the values you represent.

Growth and progression are good and healthy things for all living organisms – leaders are no different. Self-aware leaders can clearly analyse where they are and think critically about where to go from here.

Take a few minutes to think about your leadership relationships.

Ask yourself:

On which step do I stand, in my relationships with those I lead?

Am I on the same level with each of them? (It is likely you are not)

Join the conversation – comment below with some proactive, practical things you are implementing to progress in your leadership relationships.

For more information about the five levels, check out Maxwell’s Developing the Leader within you.

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