Too often when people think of their journey into leadership, they envision a career path. What they should be thinking about is their own leadership development! Good leadership isn’t about advancing yourself. It’s about advancing your team. 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 most successful career path is almost guaranteed.

What are the 5 levels of leadership?


People follow you because they have to

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 title. People make it to only Level 1 may be bosses but they are not leaders. They have subordinates rather than team members. They rely on rules, regulations, policies, and organization charts to control their people.


People follow you because they want to

At this level, leadership is based entirely on relationships. When you like people and treat them like individuals who have value, you begin to develop influence with them. You develop trust by getting to know them and how to get along with them. At the same time, your followers find out who you are. You can like people without leading them but you cannot lead people well without liking them.


People follow because of what you have done for the organization

Good leaders don’t just create a good working environment but get things done. That is why they move to Level 3 – which is based on results. At this level, leaders gain influence and credibility and many positive things begin to happen. Work gets done, morale improves, profits go up, turnover down and goals are achieved. Leaders can become change agents through making difficult decisions that will make a difference. They can take people to another level of effectiveness.


People follow because of what you have done for them

Leaders become great not because of their power but their ability to empower others. This is what leaders do on Level 4. They use their position, relationships, and productivity to invest in their followers and develop them until those followers become leaders. At this level, 2 things always happen. First, teamwork goes to a very high level because the high investment in people depends relationships and strengthens loyalty. Second, performance increases because there are more leaders on the team and they help to improve everybody’s performance.


People follow because of who you are and what you represent

This is the highest and most difficult level of leadership because it requires not only effort, skills, and intentionality and but also a high level of talent. What do leaders do on Level 5? They develop people to become Level 4 leaders. They create opportunities that other leaders don’t. They create legacy in what they do. Their leadership gains a positive reputation. As a result, Level 5 leaders often transcend their organization and sometimes even their industry.

Excerpt from “The 5 Levels of Leadershipby John C. Maxwell.

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