A Glimpse Into John Maxwell’s Next Book: The Five Levels of Leadership

Posted: May 31, 2011

Diane Kuehn Founder & CEO


John C. Maxwell, the voice of influence at this year’s Chick-fil-A® Leadercast® hosted in Atlanta, GA and broadcast to more than 80,000 leaders from around the world last month, shared insights into The Five Levels of Leadership, his newest book scheduled to be released this fall.  Maxwell believes that leadership is an ongoing process, not a position. Leaders are always emerging, developing, evolving, growing and serving others. In his words, This means that anyone even one with little natural gifting can grow as a leader by learning this concept. The foundation of leadership is simple. It is built upon and around relationship, which in turn, are built on the principles of trust, connectivity, credibility, modeling behavior, sharing knowledge and developing people. A leader may be at different stages or levels with different individuals at different times.

The topic is not new. Maxwell admits, “I know that leadership has been divided into levels before, by communicators from Jim Collins to Bill Joiner. I didn’t create my concept because of a lack of material on the subject, but more because it explained levels in the way that was clearest TO ME. That enabled me to teach it with confidence and authenticity.”

Maxwell’s approach is simple, straight forward and one I believe will resonate with many. Here’s a short summary.

Level One (L1) leadership is based on a position. People follow you because they have to. It is dictated by corporate hierarchy, a clearly defined work environment and by roles and responsibilities. Followers at this level invest the least amount of time and effort required to fulfill their work day.

Maxwell defines Level Two (L2) leadership as permission relationships. It is here that people begin following you because they want to. Why? They like you and connect with you because as a leader, you listen, observe, learn and embrace the attitude of serving others, a concept commonly referred to as servant leadership.

Production best explains Level Three leadership which Maxwell says come from results. At this stage, people follow because of what you have done for the organization. You are leading by example, modeling productivity and therefore becoming more credible. The results stem from the law of magnetism in that who you are as a leader is who you will attract as followers. You begin building momentum, solving problems and others want to participate.

Level Four Leadership is built on developing people, the greatest asset of any organization. People follow leaders at this stage because of what you have done for them.  You are training others to do what you do and empowering them to train others.

Very few leaders may ever reach Level Five, the Pinnacle. It is here that leaders have done it so well, with so many people for so long that people follow you out of the deepest respect because of what you are and what you represent.

In one way or another, everyone is in a leadership position with the ability to influence others.