Tuesday, May 17, 2011

John Maxwell’s Five Levels of Leadership


On May 6, 2011, I had the privilege of attending the Chick-Fil-A Leadercast, which is an annual event where some of the world's best writers and speakers present a daylong seminar on leadership. The event is presented live in Atlanta and is carried throughout the world via webcast. I attended the event through the Kingdom Chamber of Commerce at Burlington County College.


The first speaker, John Maxwell spoke on the five levels of leadership, which is the subject of his next book. Initially, he taught that leadership is influence. Ultimately, a leader influences people. In the past, I have heard him say that if you think you are a leader and no is following you, then you are just on a walk.


According to Maxwell, the first level, and the lowest level, of leadership is the "Position Level". At this level, people follow because a person holds a title. This does not make the person a good leader. Instead, people follow because of obligation or authority. Under this type of leadership, the followers generally give the least amount of effort. They do not necessarily believe in the leader or the leadership, so they are not motivated to give their best. They tend to do the bare minimum.


"Permission" is the second level. At this level, people want to follow and generally like the leader. Relationships are the key to this level. Such leaders listen to their followers, observe their followers, learn from their followers, and have an attitude of service. Because people have given the leader permission to lead, they give more effort in their work.


"Production" is the third level. At this level, the leader is able to produce significantly more than at prior levels. The key is results. This leader produces more because he is a producer and better workers are attracted to, and want to produce more for, this leader. Followers see this leader producing, so they imitate him and produce more. At this point, momentum is created, which gets people excited and they do more. This momentum and excite can even salve problems that cannot be solved at lower levels. In explaining the importance of leadership, Maxwell explained that a train parked with a brick under its wheel will not be able to move past the brick. However, that same train, moving full speed, can crash through a brick wall.


"People Development" is the fourth level. This leader grows his organization by growing his people. He makes his people better. Then he puts his "better" people in positions where they are most effective. The steps for this level are (a) recruiting well, (b) positioning well, (c) equipping well, (d) the people produce, and (e) the people build other people (multiplication). Simply, you need to get the best people, put them in the right position, and equip them. Then they will do the work and multiply. This level is similar to some of the concepts taught by Jim Collins in Good To Great, where he talks about getting the right people on the bus and putting them in the right seat. Essentially, better people create a better organization.


"Pinnacle" is the fifth, and final, level. At this point, follow out of respect. The leader leads so well, for so long, that people want to follow the leader. This level takes years to obtain. I saw it as almost a legacy or a life-time achievement.


In evaluating your leadership level, Maxwell explained that you can be at different levels with different people. Someone may follow you because of your position or title; another person may give permission, while another follows as a result of people development.


It is good to hear these leadership principles and apply them to my work, family, and church. I need to remember that relationships are important and I need to help develop the people around me. I will be successful, as a business man, husband, father, and Christian, when the people around me become better.

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