DoorRecently I dove into a brilliant book called The 5 Levels of Leadership by John C Maxwell.  Once in while, something like this just slaps me in the face with a reality check and gets me inspired!   I don’t know why I had not read it yet, but I am glad I picked it up, and it got me thinking, “What kind of leader have I been lately?”    So I got to work on taking my own personal notes, and even did some work on my whiteboards which is something I suggest you do with anything you are trying to learn – see my post on Are You Truly a Professional? Then Develop Yourself.  Without diving into the book in detail like a book report, I thought I would share with you the insights I gleaned and offer some suggestions on how to use it for yourself.

Start by asking yourself if you truly want to be a leader and inspire others, or are you content just holding onto your position in management?  Leadership is there for the taking, if you are willing to start working on YOU first.  Ego has no place in leadership, that’s what managers are for.

Here is a brief summary of the key points of The 5 Levels of Leadership.


The five levels according to Maxwell are:

  1. Production – people follow you because they HAVE to
  2. Permission – people follow you because they WANT to
  3. Production – people follow you because of what you have done for the ORGANIZATION
  4. People Development – people follow because of what you have done for THEM
  5. Pinnacle – people follow because of who YOU are and what you represent


I love writing these out for myself!
I love writing these out for myself!

After reading the book and taking massive amounts of notes, I decided to try and master the skills to be a level three leader, while working on my level four and five skills.  You have to work hard to move up each level and basically you start at level one with everyone.  Most managers stop at level two and those that can produce results with their team may not even be on level three.  Basically, to be a level three leader, you have to have a team that wants to work with you and you are producing results with them.  To go to level four and five, you have to start developing others and helping them to step up as leaders themselves.  But here are some keys to success at level three:

  • Don’t just have an open door policy – let it swing both ways and go out to connect with your people.  Don’t wait for them to come to you.  Do you know enough about everyone on your team?  Their concerns, goals, values?  What are some of the non-business things you know about them?  Evaluate where you are with each of your team members.
  • Leaders need to be authentic – can you admit your faults, your mistakes, and recognize your shortcomings?
  • Leaders are consistent in their attitude – Do you always have an optmiistic attitude, possess a listening ear, and present your authentic self to your team?
  • Use of CARE and CANDOR – this was a great eye opener.  Many managers are quick to point out flaws in their people.  Are you quick to explain what they have done wrong?  Do you take the time to care about your people before you are candid with them?  And do you allow them to be candid back to you?  One secret to being candid with your people is to “think, act, and speak in terms of who the person has the potential to become and to think about how you can help them to reach it.”  Here are some of the suggested questions to ask before being candid:
    • Am I sure this is their issue and not mine?
    • Have I invested enough in the relationship to be candid with them?
    • Am I willing to show how them how to do something and not just say what’s wrong?
    • Am I sure I am not speaking up because I feel threatened?
  • Only ask of others what you have previously asked of yourself – If you tell someone to do something, have you done it yourself before, and are you willing to show them how to do it?
  • Accept PERSONAL responsibility for the team’s results – don’t blame.

There is a lot of work to do to be effective at level three, but I would suggest starting there.  Here are the three steps you should apply immediately:

1. Create momentum for someone else TODAY

Pick up the phone and come up with some ideas with your team on getting something happening today.  In fact, go to them and help them do some work!  Pick up the phone and call customers, create some excitement and urgency.  Show them that you are in this together.  I made a commitment to do that this week with all of my teams and I challenge you to do the same.

2. Start being the leader that you would want to work with TODAY

What kind of leader are you REALLY?  Take some time to evaluate yourself and who you are being with your team.  Does everything revolve around YOUR agenda?  Have you taken the time to understand their concerns and also what they hope for in their life?  Find out about their life outside of work, and see if you can create a stronger bond.  What do they value?  I re-created a section of the book on my whiteboard here about doing a self-check:

This now stares at me in my home office! (click to enlarge)

3. Decide who’s agenda is most important TODAY

To be a successful leader, you need to understand that it has to be about them, and not you.  To work your way up to higher levels of leadership, it will require you to let go of old management ideas, and let go of having to control everything.  Read my recent post 4 Steps to Take Control of Your LIfe and Stop Feeling Sorry for Yourself  which has some great ideas for letting go of old behaviours and attitudes. Just let go.  Do everything to hold yourself to a higher standard and set an example.  Start fresh as a brand new leader TODAY.  Go and find out what is on your team’s minds and help them with their agendas.

So this was my slap in the face and I am inspired!  Get to work on your team and dig deeper.

“The size or worthiness of a leader’s vision often isn’t what detemines whether it will be achived.  The determining factor is usually the level of the leader.” – John C Maxwell. 

I would love to hear any of your thoughts and ideas on leadership – please feel free to comment!

Also, I will be speaking this Wednesday at 7:00 PM (March 21, 2012) at an event on the topic of “positive mindset for your business.”  If you are interested in attending, send me an email.

image:  anyjazz65
Joe Girard
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