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Advancing your personal leadership, one step at a time

The opportunity to lead is granted with a position, a title, a team, a set of responsibilities, and a seat at the leadership table. How one leverages those opportunities—the true measure of leadership—is how effectively one creates change and facilitates growth. At its core, asserts author and coach John C. Maxwell, “leadership is influence”: influence on your team, your peers, and, ultimately, on your organization.

Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership outlines a journey to progressively deepen that influence, step-by-step, through five levels defined largely by the source of a leader’s influence: that is, the reason people follow.

The first level, where all new leaders begin, is Position: the source of your influence is, simply, your title. People follow because you are in the leadership position, and for no other reason. “A great place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there,” says Maxwell.

The second level is Permission: leadership based entirely on relationships. People follow you because you’ve developed trust and a genuine rapport. (“You cannot lead people well without liking them.”)

On the third level, Production, leadership is based on results. At this level, leaders gain influence and credibility through their impact. “On Level 3, leaders can become change agents,” says Maxwell. That means tackling the difficult decisions and, in doing so, taking teams to a higher level of effectiveness.

On the fourth level, People Development, “leaders become great not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others,” says Maxwell, using “position, relationships, and productivity to invest in their followers, and develop them until those followers become leaders in their own right.”

At the top level, the Pinnacle, leading is about developing other leaders. Only naturally gifted leaders arrive here, says Maxwell, as it requires a potent combination of effort, skill, intentionality, and talent. The payoff: “Level 5 leaders develop Level 5 organizations.”

The climb, he says, requires “a combination of intentional growth and leadership experience,” as well as an appetite for increasing both self-awareness and risk. The benefits are enormous, says Maxwell: “Accept the challenge, give growth your best effort, and dive in. You’ll never regret it because there’s no better way to increase your positive impact on the world, and add value to others, than to increase your leadership ability.”

Betsy Reid is communications director at GCN and editor-in-chief of NOW.


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