Grace Smith
February 22, 2024

Around 83% of companies acknowledge the importance of leadership in their organization. Now, that is a pretty high percentage! It means that almost all countries across the globe know the relevance of leadership in organizational success.

But knowing is one thing, and implementing is another. Most companies are unsuccessful in developing compelling leaders in their organizations. It is because finding the right leadership style that fits the culture of the company and the employees is no small task. 

It's high time we took a closer look at the concept of leadership and analyzed it from a different angle. This blog aims to do precisely that.

John Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership

Many recognize John C. Maxwell as a renowned educator.

He was also a leadership specialist, lecturer, and author.

His bestseller book "The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential" was a major contribution to HR and the world as a whole.

Maxwell explains how to rise to leadership ranks in this book. He claimed all leaders advance until they reach the summit of leadership.

The approach helps leaders analyze their path and determine where they can improve. As the name implies, he divides leadership into five levels:

  • Positional Leadership 
  • Permission Leadership 
  • Production Leadership
  • People Development Leadership
  • Pinnacle Leadership 

Maxwell says that these 5 levels of leadership help leaders figure out where they are in their journey as leaders.

So, learning about these things and doing them well can help them become experts in their jobs. Each level in this model has its own set of habits, skills, and goals. At each level, there is a unique task that makes employees happy and productive.

John Maxwell's 5 levels of leadership

Leadership Level 1: Position

Position is the fundamental level of leadership or the starting point if you will. It's the only level that can be reached without any skill or work. Anyone can be put in a place, after all!

There is nothing wrong with being in charge, but there is a big problem with depending on that alone to get people to follow you. That's because it only works if you have something to gain from your fans, like a job or a paycheck. At Level 1, people only follow if they think they need to.

It might be hard for people who stay at the job level to work with volunteers. Why? Because having a job doesn't mean you instantly have power, and volunteers know they don't have to follow anyone.

They only follow if they really want to. There is some good news about this level, though. It is a great place to start putting money into your success as a leader. At this level, learn how to lead yourself by setting goals and being self-disciplined. Then, you'll be ready to move on to the next level.

  • Activities focus on exercising the authority granted by the position.
  • Making decisions based on positional power.
  • Providing direction and setting expectations as defined by the role.

Leadership Level 2: Permission

People may try their best when you ask them to do something. These people might want to help you because they feel cared for, trusted, valuable, and included in choices.

Try to get to know your workers better, even the ones who work on different teams or who tend to keep to themselves. When people see that you are honest, they are more likely to do their best. Level 2 is about relationships.

At this level, people follow because they want to. To put it another way, they allow the boss to lead them. For leaders to get to this level, they need to connect with and get to know their people. If you want to be a good leader, you need to learn to like people.

People will start to like you and respect you as a person when you treat them like they are valuable. There is more trust, and there is more respect. And the atmosphere gets a lot better, whether you're at home, at work, at play, or helping. Level 2 is where strong, long-lasting ties are formed that lay the groundwork for Level 3.

  • Building relationships and establishing rapport with team members.
  • Listening actively to understand others.
  • Creating a positive and supportive work environment.
  • Encouraging collaboration and teamwork.

Leadership Level 3: Production

At this level, leaders show how skilled and useful they are. They are focused on getting things done and getting results.

What a boss has done for the group is what makes them a leader. People follow a boss because they have a history of doing well.

You have spent enough time with your team at this point to be able to give clear, measured results at the Production level. Your work will now be adding to the company's bottom line. This level of your leadership starts to look good.

Because of the fame you have, you will start to shine in your company, as people who are productive tend to draw other productive people.

The people skills that production leaders learned at the previous level have been mastered. Because of this, they get along great with all of their workers. The people who work for these bosses can count on them to do great work.

  • Emphasizing results and achieving goals.
  • Demonstrating competence and effectiveness in tasks.
  • Setting high standards and expectations for performance.
  • Recognizing and rewarding achievement.

Leadership Level 4: People Development

Leaders at this level invest resources to create as many leaders as possible, understanding that more leaders can help the organization achieve its goals faster.

To effectively develop people, leaders must invest in their team consistently. They can conduct regular meetings, monitor employees' performance, and provide advice.

Leaders should continuously guide their employees, aiding their improvement and advancement to the next level. Training new leaders can significantly impact many team members' lives. With your support, others will be inspired to follow.

Some mentorship relationships may last a lifetime. To progress at the people development level, you must invest in leaders and help them improve daily. Persisting in this effort can unlock the benefits of the next stage.

  • Investing time and resources in the development of team members.
  • Providing mentoring and coaching.
  • Identifying and nurturing the strengths of individuals.
  • Delegating responsibilities to empower others.
  • Creating opportunities for growth and learning.

Leadership Level 5: Pinnacle

Maxwell calls this level peak leadership. In other words, he calls it Pinnacle leadership.

At this point, leaders have led before. They improve the firm and its employees over time. Leaders are defined by their character, ideals, and relationships.

Leaders are followed for their values and character. You need patience and hard work to become a great leader. You must be willing to spend a lot of time and effort helping others to attain this level of leadership. You may reach the peak of leadership if you keep growing and creating leaders who can make leaders. 

  • Focusing on legacy and long-term impact.
  • Exhibiting high levels of integrity and character.
  • Building a positive organizational culture.
  • Mentoring and developing other leaders.
  • Leading by example and embodying core values.

Leadership Competencies and Organizational Success

An organization needs excellent leaders for it to move toward success. The definition of success varies from organization to organization, but the fact that leadership spearheads the process remains the same.

It's high time companies started focusing on building desirable leadership skills in their employees, like levelheadedness, decisiveness, interpersonal and communication skills, and so on.

These elements are known as leadership competencies, which can be understood as the characteristics or skill sets that are desirable in a leader.

Each organization has its own idea of a leader. This is why it is always better to try and develop leaders from your existing pool because they are more attuned to the company culture and goals. So how do you do that?

You try to observe your employees a bit closer and find out the promising ones. Then give them the right set of training and development so that they can develop the right set of skills which would eventually make them a great leader for the company. It is a really wholesome process when you think about it.  

Leadership and Employee Engagement Go Hand in Hand

Efficient leaders create healthy workplaces, which increases employee engagement and organizational productivity.

Toxic bosses are the number one culprit when it comes to messing up workplaces and the productivity levels of employees. When you decide to focus on leadership and developing the right leaders, you make your workplace an excellent place for employees to be. So, if you are struggling with reduced employee engagement levels and want to shake things up, ThriveSparrow can help.

ThriveSparrow is an emplpyee success platform designed to help HRs refine and uplift their employees' experiences. The platform analyzes the feedback collected from employee surveys and help you see the pattern, which helps you pinpoint the employees with leadership potential whom you can groom to make exceptional leaders.

ThriveSparrow's Competency Summary gives managers a clear cut idea of an employee's performance across competencies.

Run performance assessments across your organization and access simplified group reports to help managers measure and assess their team's performance.