Lessons from The Five Levels of Leadership People Management Shepherding

Part 2 of a series examining John C. Maxwell’s book The Five Levels of Leadership

Previously, I introduced Maxwell’s book by sharing his own definition of leadership and a brief overview of his five levels of leadership.

To recap the 5 levels:

  • Level 5: The Pinnacle, developing other leaders to level 4
  • Level 4: People Development
  • Level 3: Production
  • Level 2: Permission
  • Level 1: Position

Today I’d like to share his Ten Insights into the Five Levels of Leadership as a foundation for understanding them.

Insight #1: It’s a building process.

  • You can move up a level, but each build upon the other. You cannot skip levels.

Insight #2: You are not on the same leadership level with every person.

  • It’s not like getting a degree and then you are finished. You must earn your leadership level with each and every person, so you may be at a level 4 with one person, but a level 3 with another, and they will respond to you based on that level of leadership.

Insight #3: The higher you go, the easier it is to lead.

  • Your influence increases with each level, however, it is not easy to get to the next levels.

Insight #4: The higher you go; the more time and commitment is required to achieve a level.

  • To get from level 1 to level 2 takes time to develop relationships. To get from level 2 to level 3 takes time to consistently achieve high productivity, which is more difficult than making friends!

Insight #5: Moving up levels is a slow process, but you can slide down levels in an instant.

  • The good news: the higher level you are, the more safety nets you have in place. The relationships you have built in level 2 or the reputation you have built in level 3 will provide much grace when mistakes are made.

Insight #6: The higher the level, the better the return.

  • Everyone benefits in the organization with a level 4 or 5 leader. Morale is better, production is high, the climate is healthy, and leaders are being developed.

Insight #7: Moving further up the levels always requires more growth along the way.

  • One must intentionally learn and look for experience to prepare for the next level. There is no coasting!

Insight #8: Do not be satisfied at your current level because you are limiting yourself and your organization if you stay where you are at.

  • There are two laws in effect:
    • The law of the Lid: your effectiveness is always limited by your leadership ability. If you are a 3 in leadership, your effectiveness will never be over a 3.
    • The Law of respect: People naturally follow people stronger than themselves. 

Insight #9: When you change positions or jobs you usually must start over!

  • Remember Insight #2! You are not at the same level with everyone! When with a new team, you now must earn your levels back! The good news: it will happen faster once you have obtained them before.

Insight #10: Climbing each level is a team sport.

  • You will need mentors and help from team members along the way, and you will need to be helping others, as well.

Now that we understand the dynamics of the levels, we will explore each level in depth for the rest of this series. Check in next time for Level 1: Position!

-Jan Jones

Check out this video of John Maxwell giving a short overview of his Five Levels of Leadership!