What your Level of Leadership says about you
For those looking to grow into leadership or their leadership level, sharing a helpful framework for you.
Many will experience, or at least recognize, the Five-Level of Leadership, as described by John Maxwell in his book by the same name. Other speakers/leaders have described similar frameworks. As we discuss the various levels of leadership, think about where you might be in your current journey and where you might want to go. There is no correct answer to where you want to go with your leadership. However, there are limits on your abilities to achieve results in people or tasks based on which level you might be at.
Let’s look through the 5 Levels and what they would mean to you in your current leadership role, as well as where you are looking to grow your role to become.
- You are starting from the foundation, Position leaders. This first level is the level of Rights. People follow you because they “have to,” and they do not have a choice to follow you. They have to follow whether they want your leadership or not. Please think of the game, follow the leader from your childhood, you had one of your friends who was the boss, and you had to follow everything they said. Another example could have also been your first supervisor or manager at your first job; you needed the job, so you followed everything they said. At this level, you are also a task-focused leader, focused on controlling how others accomplish their assigned tasks. On this level, your influence will not extend beyond the lines of your job description. The longer you stay in the role, the higher the turnover and the lower the morale.
- As you evolve to the next leadership level, this is the Permission Level. This level is built on relationships. People follow you because they want to follow YOU. They believe and trust in you, and they don’t “have to,” but instead “want” to follow you. A great example of this might be within a group of friends, and there might be one who holds the center of gravity or the ability to help influence decisions made. While all are equal in friendship, one friend is trusted to help guide the group in the right way. Other examples of this could include peers in the work environment who might not have a formal leadership role over each other, but they will follow you beyond your stated authority. Having a manager who might have formal authority over you to complete work tasks and your trust to advise you on your career growth is another example. At this level, you are a people-focused leader; while you will ensure that tasks are completed, your main focus is on building relationships with others.
- As the evolution continues, your growth as a leader pivots back from people-focused to becoming task-focused again. At this level, you focus on “production” and the “results” that you can deliver in your work. Problems are fixed efficiently with minimal effort because of your momentum. People follow you because you have figured out ways to optimize systems, implemented new solutions to speed up work, and delivered outstanding results. They sense your success and want to be on the victorious team. You can’t ignore the position you have achieved at the lower level either; they need to be combined with this new level of success — people like what you and what you are doing. Your experience here has allowed you to see how things work and how to use people and processes to get results, and you are reaping the rewards from the lower levels.
- With the success of production and results, you pivot back to people vs. tasks once more in your journey. At this level, you are focused on “people development,” taking the lessons you learned yourself on the way up and helping your followers learn them too. At this stage, the level of reproduction, people are looking to your to help reproduce the results you achieve for yourself in them. People follow you because of what you have done for “them” and what’s in it for “them.” You are focused on developing the organization’s future leaders for the long-range growth and ensuring that the organization will grow as well as its people. The more leaders you can produce at this stage, the great your impact with be. Do whatever you can to achieve and stay on this level.
- In the last stage of leadership, “personhood,” people respect and follow you because of your values and what you represent. The ability to impact followers at this stage is predominately indirect and through the leaders you have developed and the concepts and processes you have created. Leaders at this level have spent years growing people and organizations, and their name and reputation precede them; they are often viewed as more significant than life. Examples include Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, John Maxwell, John F Kennedy, etc. You also return to being a focused task leader through accomplishing changes and developments you would not have previously had the influence to achieve.
As you look at your leadership journey, where would you say you are? Based on the brief explanations, are you at the level you hoped to be? In John Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership, an assessment can be used to self-assess yourself and assessments from contributors on your team for a 360 view of your leadership level. If you are looking for a guided offering for this, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.