The Five levels of Leadership
John C Maxwell wrote on the Five levels of leadership explaining the source of a leaders following. From a base level of power lead followership to the more evolved level of inspired followership, leaders operate at different levels.
I shall briefly cover the five levels of leadership and also discuss how to become a Level 6 leader.
Level 1 – Position (Rights)
At the base level of leadership, the key is the position; at this level people follow because they have to follow, because the leader is the ‘boss’. The Level one of leadership derives followership because of the authority that is given to the leader and the position, without which the person can’t lead. This level of leadership is essentially hierarchical and often prevalent in the bureaucracy, defense forces and political parties.
Level 2 – Permission (Relationship)
The leader operating at this level focuses on building relationship with the people. In order to enhance their leadership they strive to develop a relationship and this often results in people wanting to follow. Leader likes the people and the people begin to like the leader and are ready to move the next mile. So in this level leader’s ability to connect with people is very important.
Level 3 – Production (Results)
Leaders who drive results develop following because they ooze confidence and positivity. In this level the people follow because of the leader’s outstanding contribution to the organisation. They start to talk about the leader in term of the organization’s results. In Level 3 the leader starts to taste the feeling of success and a winning atmosphere and is seen as a person who can make things happen. Leader’s in commercial organisations enjoy this form of followership when the results of the entity are in a continuous uptrend.
Level 4 – People Development (Reproduction)
At this level, people follow because of what the leader has done for them, they love to follow the leader because of the interest the leader takes in developing them and the leader is feeling happy because the people are doing better, and become loyal to the leader and gives the leader the credit. This form of leadership is prevalent in academia.
Level 5 – Pinnacle (Respect)
At this level, people follow you because who you are and what you represent, it's the personhood level. The level-five leader, the Builder, strives not to reach a goal but to build an institution. Builders are legendary leaders such as IBM's Tom Watson Jr., Apple’s Steve Jobs, GM's Alfred P. Sloan, and Harpo's Oprah Winfrey. These people serve their institutions by managing for the long term and not allowing themselves to be seduced by the twin mirages of short-term profit or stock market valuations. They have a grand vision for the future of their organizations, and they infect others with their energy, enthusiasm, and integrity. These are the leaders we write books about, study, try to understand, and lionize.
The leader at level 6 – Transcendental
Making a difference
Builders are few and far between, but there is an even rarer type of leader who transcends the Builder: the Transcendent. Level-six leaders transcend their political party, their ethnic or racial group, and even their institutions. They focus on how to benefit all of society and are "global citizens,".
Leaders at this level are motivated by the need to make a difference to the world. They’re interested in creating mutually beneficial partnerships and strategic alliances with other individuals or groups who share the same goals. They will work with customers and suppliers and produce win-win situations.
They are active in the local community, building relationships that create goodwill. They know how important it is to look after the environment, going beyond mere compliance to operate in an ethical and environmentally-friendly manner. They also recognise and demonstrate inclusiveness in all their work.
When dealing with people, they display empathy, and actively find ways to help their staff find personal fulfilment in their work. They create a nurturing working environment where people can excel, mentoring and coaching staff, to build a pool of talent for the organisation. Their values are so embedded in their personalities that they make decisions intuitively. Level 6 leaders are at the top of their game. They are true servant leaders.
There is no better example of what it really takes to be a Transcendent than the first black president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. He was able to soar above hatred for his white jailers, the political tug of the African National Congress, the pull of his racial and tribal group, and the rejection by the Afrikaners to build a South Africa for all South Africans. Now in his 90s, he is perhaps the world's greatest living leader. Nelson Mandela’s leadership is so beautifully captured in the movie ‘Invictus’ where Morgan Freeman brings it out so powerfully.
The Dalai Lama, another Transcendent, mentioned that the first thing he does in the morning after he finishes his prayers is to ask himself, "How can I help to make the world better today?"
Imagine if our senior political and business leaders started their day by asking that question and acting on the answer. The world would be a much better place!