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Ascending the Ladder: Understanding the 5 Levels of Leadership

Updated: Jan 10



In the realm of leadership, one's journey is neither simple nor static; it is a multifaceted ascent through varying stages of growth and responsibility. "The 5 Levels Of Leadership" is a concept that delineates this journey into tangible, achievable stages, each with its own set of challenges and rewards. Just as a builder must first lay a sturdy foundation before reaching the apex of a structure, so too must a leader navigate these levels to achieve the zenith of their leadership potential. This article delves into these five critical levels, offering insights into how leaders can evolve from mere managers of tasks to revered architects of innovation and human potential.


Leadership is a crucial aspect of any organization or business, and understanding the different levels of leadership can greatly impact the success of an entity. The 5 Levels of Leadership, popularized by John Maxwell, provide a practical framework for leadership development and personal growth. Let's delve into how these levels can be applied within the corporate world.


Level 1: Position


At this entry level, individuals may hold positions of authority but may not necessarily exhibit true leadership qualities. Their influence is limited to their designated scope of power, and they rely on rules and regulations to maintain control. However, it's important to note that this level is simply a starting point, and individuals should aspire to grow beyond it.


Level 2: Permission

Transitioning to Level 2 involves a shift from relying solely on positional authority to building relationships and earning the trust of their team members. When leaders establish a rapport with their team based on trust and mutual respect, they can significantly influence and motivate their team members.


Level 3: Production


Level 3 leaders are focused on driving results and productivity within their organization. They are not only personally productive but also have the ability to drive productivity within their teams. Leaders at this level are instrumental in ensuring that their organization meets its objectives and performs at its best.


Level 4: People Development


Leaders who have reached Level 4 prioritize the growth and development of their team members. They invest their time and efforts into nurturing the leadership potential of others. By focusing on building up their team members, they create a high-impact environment that fosters growth and success.


Level 5: The Pinnacle


The pinnacle of leadership is attained by those rare individuals who have excelled on the previous levels and have the ability to develop other leaders. Leaders at this level leave a lasting legacy within their organization and industry. They exert influence that transcends boundaries and have a profound impact on those around them.

Applying the 5 Levels of Leadership within both personal and professional settings can lead to enhanced productivity, cohesive teamwork, and increased engagement among team members. By understanding and implementing these principles, individuals and organizations can strive towards achieving greater success and making a meaningful impact.


Now, let's further explore the 5 Levels of Leadership with examples from managers in the workplace.


Level 1: Position


Imagine a newly appointed manager who has been given the authority to lead a team. This individual holds a position of power by virtue of their title, but their influence is limited to their positional authority. They rely on their title to exert control, and their team members may follow directives simply because they are obligated to do so.


Level 2: Permission


Now, consider a manager who has transitioned to Level 2 by actively building relationships with their team members. This manager takes the time to get to know their employees, understand their strengths and challenges, and fosters an environment of trust and respect. As a result, team members are more inclined to willingly collaborate and contribute, not out of obligation but because they genuinely respect and trust their manager.


Level 3: Production


A manager who embodies Level 3 leadership is focused on achieving tangible results for their team and the organization as a whole. They set clear expectations, drive goals, and guide their team to accomplish tasks effectively. Their ability to consistently produce results and maintain high levels of productivity sets them apart as an influential leader in the workplace.


Level 4: People Development


At this level, a manager prioritizes the growth and development of their team members. They provide mentorship, coaching, and resources to help their employees reach their full potential. For instance, a manager may identify high-potential employees and provide them with opportunities for professional growth and leadership development, thereby investing in the future success of the organization.


Level 5: The Pinnacle

A manager who reaches the pinnacle of leadership not only embodies the qualities of the previous levels but also demonstrates the ability to develop other leaders. They create a lasting impact by cultivating a culture of leadership development within their team and the organization. They focus primarily on succession planning support and mentorship within their team and outwards. Their influence extends beyond their immediate team, leaving a profound and enduring legacy of leadership.


By observing and understanding how managers exemplify the 5 Levels of Leadership, individuals can gain insights into the practical applications of these principles within the workplace. This understanding can inspire managers to strive towards higher levels of leadership and foster environments that promote growth, productivity, and engagement among their teams.



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