Executive Leadership Podcast #1: Introduction to the 5 Levels of Leadership

In the first episode of our Executive Leadership podcast, John Maxwell Company’s Chris Goede introduces the Five Levels of Leadership, giving an overview of each level. This methodology will help you identify and enhance leadership development within your organization.

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Read the transcript below:

My name is Chris Goede. I am the VP of the John Maxwell Company where, along with John and a tremendous team, we have the privilege of serving companies worldwide to enhance their leadership culture.

Today, I'd like to talk to you about the Five Levels of Leadership. We believe that this methodology will give you a common language to be able to help you identify and enhance leadership development and the leadership culture in your organization.


Level 1

This is what we call the position level. John calls it the rights level. People follow you at this level because they have to. This is an entry level of leadership. This is where as a leader, you probably rely on rules, regulations, policies and probably the organizational chart. People are probably following you because they don't know you. But more importantly, they're probably following you because of that title.

And this is a great place to start, this is a place where we all start. We all start at Level 1. This place is given to you, and when I get ready to talk to you about Levels 2, 3 and 4, you're going to see that those are where we're going to earn our leadership skills -- our leadership accolades if you want to call it that -- and then we'll talk briefly about Level 5, which is also a level that is given to you in this influence methodology.

So, Level 1 is the position level. It's the rights level. You have leadership, not because of influence, but because of your title because of the title the organization has given to you.

Level 2

We call Level 2 the permission level. This is the level where you have relationships with those that you connect with and work with. People follow you as a leader because they want to, not because they have to. A lot of people take a look at this level and they say “Well I'm an I'm an introvert, I'm not an extrovert and I don't like to build relationships.” This level is really more about the ability to connect with your team. And as we get further into the series on our podcast, we’re going to talk a little bit further about the things that you can do as a leader to be able to connect with your team.

But ultimately, this is the level where people follow you because they're compelled to, because they want to.  You have connected with them. They do know that you value them and that you value people. And they will follow you for that reason. John says often that you can like people without leading them, but you cannot lead people without liking them. And to some extent that is so true when you think about it, and we'll dig into that a little bit more later.

Level 3

Level 3 is what we call the production level. This is really about results. And this is where people will follow you because of what you have done for the organization. I don't know about you, but I know that I like to be on winning teams. I've been on losing teams and I've been on winning teams, and to be honest I just like winning a little bit more. I want to follow a leader that I know that has produced and has won for the organization, and the best leaders that I know have the ability to connect at Level 2 and to be able to motivate their team and their people to produce at Level 3. This is where work gets done. This is where morale improves. Profits go up. And goals not only personally, but organizationally, are achieved.

Level 4

We move from Level 3 to Level 4. This is what we call the people development level. This is also known as the reproduction level. People follow you because of what you have done for them personally. So, let me back up again. As a leader, we're talking about influence. You have influence over people. Not because of a position or a title. It is leadership. But, in an organization you're given a title -- and it's great place for you to start.

The problem is, in corporate America, we see that 80% of people actually stay at that level. They don't put a plan in place to grow as a leader and begin to work their way through Levels 2, 3 and then 4 --  Level 2 being the permission level where you're able to connect and relate with those that you lead, Level 3 being the production level where you're able to produce for the team and you're bringing that team along with you on that ride, and, now at Level 4, it’s about how you take time to invest in those that you lead, so that you become a Level 4 leader to them.

It’s all about what you have done for them. In order to become a great Level 4 leader, you have to have the ability to empower others. You're going to have to use Level 2 and Level 3, and the influence that you built there. And you're going to have to use that to be able to invest and develop those in your team. I promise you when you figure out how to do this, this will change the lives of those that you lead. And I can think back to even some of the people that are on my team or my teams in the past that I have really worked hard on getting to this level as a leader. Those are some of my life long friends. This is a huge step in the leadership development at Level 4.

Level 5

Then we move to Level 5. Level 5 is what we call the pinnacle level. This is the respect level, where people follow you because of who you are, and what you represent, and what you've done for them, time after time after time. I often say when I speak in organizations, there are what I would call national figure level fives. For me, love sports. So does John. Matter of fact he makes a note of it in his book about some of the coaches that you look at that are Level 5 leaders. John Wooden be John's example. He was actually personally mentored by John Wooden. He's a level 5 leader to John.

You look at some national figures like Mother Teresa and others that are probably Level 5 leaders, but each of us have what I would call a personal Level 5 leader. Some of it may be a family member. Some of you may have leaders that you're thinking about right now that if your phone rang or they knocked on the door during this podcast, you would take that phone call, you would step out of the meeting. It is what they have done for you over time and you have awarded that and given that to them.

So Level 1 to Level 5 are really given to you. The work is really done and the responsibility for your growth as a leader is really done at levels 2, 3, and 4. At Level 5 --  let me let me touch on this a little bit -- as a Level 5 leader, you become a master of developing others to become Level 4 leaders. So when you get to Level 5, and you look at the team that you have around with people you've impacted in your life, they have then in turn taken what they have been taught as a leader and you see them developing and mentoring and coaching other leaders.

A lot of times, you'll see Level 5 leaders, and they'll have Level 5 organizations. They have the ability to create opportunities for other leaders that some people just don't see. In closing, let me summarize once again with you: Level 1 is the position level. It's the rights, people follow you because they have to. Level 2 is the permission level. It’s about relationships and connecting with people. They follow you because they want to. Level 3 is the production level. This is really about results. What are you getting done for the organization? What is your team that they are a part of getting done for the organization? Level 4 is the people development level. It's really about reproduction. This is where you are taking time out of what you are doing and spending time to invest and develop in those that you lead. And then finally, Level 5 --the pinnacle level. It's about respect. It’s about people following you because of who you are, and what you represent and have done for them.

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