April 1st, 2021
A title and a leader are two very different animals. A leader is someone who isn’t defined by title, a leader is defined by her actions and how people feel under her direction.
Management guru Simon Sinek says a leader is someone who makes their employees (or those in their Flotilla) feel safe. They inspire confidence and draw people into a circle of trust. Creating a safe space for people is not always easy.
Think about the leaders in your life, the great ones, the so-so ones and the monsters. Which do you think you are? If you’re like most people, it depends on the day. Becoming a consistently excellent leader is not innate for most of us, it’s something that must be learned.
To truly lead people the first thing you need is NOT a title. It’s the ‘permission to lead,’ from each individual to you.
John Maxwell, who is a New York Times bestselling author and world-renowned leadership expert, and also a really cool person to learn from, clearly outlines FIVE levels of leadership. They are explained more fully at https://www.johnmaxwell.com but this will excerpted overview will give you the idea:
Level 1 — Position
At Level 1, people only follow you if they believe that they have to.
This is the lowest level of leadership—the entry level, if you will—is Position. It’s the only level that requires no ability or effort to achieve. After all, anyone can be appointed to a position! While nothing is wrong with having a leadership position, everything is wrong with relying only on that position to get people to follow. That’s because it only works if you have leverage (such as job security or a paycheck) over your followers.
People who remain on the position level may find it difficult to work with volunteers. Why? Because position does not automatically result in influence, and volunteers are aware that they don’t have to follow anyone. They truly only follow if they want to.
But the news is not all bad about this level. It is a prime place for you to begin investing in your growth and potential as a leader. Use your time at this level learning to lead yourself – through priorities and self-discipline – and you’ll be ready to move to the next level.
Level 2 — Permission
At this level, people choose to follow because they want to. In other words, they give the leader Permission to lead them.
Level 2 is based on relationship. To grow at this level, leaders work on getting to know their people and connecting with them. You can’t lead without people, which means you need to learn to like people if you want to lead well!
When you like people and treat them as individuals who have value, you begin to develop positive influence with them. Trust grows, which usually leads to respect. And the environment becomes much more positive—whether at home, on the job, at play, or while volunteering. Level 2 is where solid, lasting relationships are built that create the foundation for the next level.
Level 3 — Production
On this level, leaders who produce results build their influence and credibility.
People still follow because they want to, but they do it because of more than the relationship. People follow Level 3 leaders because of their track record. The best leaders know how to motivate their people to GTD – get things done! And getting things done is what Level 3 is all about.
The Production level is where leaders can become change agents. Work gets done, morale improves, profits go up, turnover goes down, and goals are achieved. The more you produce, the more you’re able to tackle tough problems and face thorny issues. Leading and influencing others becomes fun, because when everyone is moving forward together, the team rises to another level of effectiveness.
It’s important to note here that the goal with the 5 Levels is not to move away from one level to grow at a new level. Instead, these 5 levels of leadership build upon each other. In other words, Level 3 leaders still need to do the things that make Level 2 happen. They just add Level 3 strategies to the mix. And as they become effective at Level 3, they are ready to layer on the goals of the next levels.
Level 4 — People Development
Your goal at this level is to identify and develop as many leaders as you can by investing in them and helping them grow.
Level 4 can be summed up in one word: reproduction. The reason is simple: When there are more leaders, more of the organization’s mission can be accomplished. The people you choose to develop may show great potential for leadership, or they may be diamonds in the rough, but the main idea is the same: When you invest in them, you can reproduce yourself.
The more you raise up new leaders, the more you will change the lives of all members of the team. As a result, people will follow you because of what you’ve done for them personally. And as an added bonus, some of those mentoring relationships are likely to last a lifetime.
So to grow at the people development level, you need to make investing in leaders a priority, and take intentional steps every day to help them grow. Do that consistently, for long enough, and you may begin to reap the rewards of the next level.
Level 5 — Pinnacle
The highest level of leadership is also the most challenging to attain. It requires longevity as well as intentionality. You simply can’t reach Level 5 unless you are willing to invest your life into the lives of others for the long haul. But if you stick with it, if you continually focus on both growing yourself at every level, and developing leaders who are willing and able to develop other leaders, you may find yourself at the Pinnacle.
The commitment to becoming a Pinnacle leader is sizeable, but so are the payoffs. Level 5 leaders develop Level 5 organizations. They create opportunities other leaders don’t. They create a legacy in what they do. People follow them because of who they are and what they represent. In other words, their leadership gains a positive reputation. As a result, Level 5 leaders often transcend their position, their organization, and sometimes their industry.