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If you want to grow – Levels of leadership

Posted by | June 15, 2015 | Leadership, Workplace

Via LinkedIn : If you want to lead, you need to grow. The only way to improve an organization is to grow and improve the leaders.

If you want to make an impact, start with yourself.
The leaders who do the greatest harm to an organization are the ones who think they have arrived. Once they receive the title or position they desire, they stop growing. They stop innovating. They stop improving.

One of my favorite sayings is, if you think you’re leading but no one is following, then you are only taking a walk. Leadership is accepting people where they are, then taking them somewhere.

Leadership traditionally begins with power of position. Someone joins the army, and he or she becomes a recruit, working to earn the rank of private. A person gets a job, and along with it usually comes a title or job description: laborer, salesperson, waiter, clerk, accountant, manager.

Position is the starting place for every level of leadership.

It is the bottom floor and the foundation upon which leadership must be built. Real influence must be developed upon that foundation.

There was a time when people relied heavily on position to lead, which is no surprise when you consider that, hereditary leadership positions were handed down from father to son or daughter within families.

Princes became kings and their decisions were law—for good or bad. Those days are gone, there are still nations with kings and queens, but even in most of those nations, such as Sweden, monarchs rule with the permission of the people, and the real leaders are elected. Position gives you a chance, but it usually carries with it very little real power, except in systems where the penalties for not following are dire.

There’s nothing wrong with having a position of leadership. When a person receives a leadership position, it’s usually because someone in authority saw talent and potential in that person. And with that title and position come some rights and a degree of authority to lead others.

Position is a good starting place. And like every level of leadership, it has its upside and downside. Let’s start by looking at the good things about the Position level of leadership.

Level 1 – Position

”Position” is the lowest level of leadership—the entry level. The only influence a positional leader has is that which comes with the job title. People follow because they have to. Positional leadership is based on the rights granted by the position and title. Nothing is wrong with having a leadership position. Everything is wrong with using position to get people to follow. Position is a poor substitute for influence.

People who make it only to Level 1 may be bosses, but they are never leaders. They have subordinates, not team members. They rely on rules, regulations, policies, and organization charts to control their people. Their people will only follow them within the stated boundaries of their authority. And their people will usually do only what is required of them. When positional leaders ask for extra effort or time, they rarely get it.

Positional leaders usually have difficulty working with volunteers, younger people, and the highly educated. Why? Because positional leaders have no influence, and these types of people tend to be more independent.
Position is the only level that does not require ability and effort to achieve. Anyone can be appointed to a position.

Level 2 – Permission

Is based entirely on relationships. On the Permission level, people follow because they want to. When you like people and treat them like individuals who have value, you begin to develop influence with them. You develop trust. The environment becomes much more positive—whether at home, on the job, at play, or while volunteering.

The agenda for leaders on Level 2 isn’t preserving their position. It’s getting to know their people and figuring out how to get along with them. Leaders find out who their people are. Followers find out who their leaders are. People build solid, lasting relationships.

You can like people without leading them, but you cannot lead people well without liking them. That’s what Level 2 is about.

Level 3 – Production

One of the dangers of getting to the Permission level is that a leader may be tempted to stop there. But good leaders don’t just create a pleasant working environment. They get things done! That’s why they must move up to Level 3, which is based on results. On the Production level leaders gain influence and credibility, and people begin to follow them because of what they have done for the organization.

Many positive things begin happening when leaders get to Level 3. Work gets done, morale improves, profits go up, turnover goes down, and goals are achieved. It is also on Level 3 that momentum kicks in.

Leading and influencing others becomes fun on this level. Success and productivity have been known to solve a lot of problems.

On Level 3, leaders can become change agents. They can tackle tough problems and face thorny issues. They can make the difficult decisions that will make a difference. They can take their people to another level of effectiveness.

Level 4 – People Development

Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.

That is what leaders do on Level 4. They use their position, relationships, and productivity to invest in their followers and develop them until those followers become leaders in their own right. The result is reproduction; Level 4 leaders reproduce themselves.

Production may win games, but People Development wins championships. Two things always happen on Level 4. First, teamwork goes to a very high level. Why? Because the high investment in people deepens relationships, helps people to know one another better, and strengthens loyalty. Second, performance increases. Why? Because there are more leaders on the team, and they help to improve everybody’s performance.

Level 4 leaders change the lives of the people they lead. Accordingly, their people follow them because of what their leaders have done for them personally. And their relationships are often lifelong.

Level 4 – Pinnacle

The highest and most difficult level of leadership is the Pinnacle. While most people can learn to climb to Levels 1 through 4, Level 5 requires not only effort, skill, and intentionality, but also a high level of talent. Only naturally gifted leaders ever make it to this highest level. What do leaders do on Level 5? They develop people to become Level 4 leaders.

If people are respectful, pleasant, and productive, they can establish a degree of influence with others and gain followers with relative ease. Developing followers to lead on their own is difficult. Most leaders don’t do it because it takes so much more work than simply leading followers. However, developing leaders to the point where they are able and willing to develop other leaders is the most difficult leadership task of all. But here are the payoffs: Level 5 leaders develop Level 5 organizations. They create opportunities that other leaders don’t. They create legacy in what they do. People follow them because of who they are and what they represent. In other words, their leadership gains a positive reputation. As a result, Level 5 leaders often transcend their position, their organization, and sometimes their industry.

Insights into the 5 Levels of Leadership

Now that you are acquainted with the levels, I want to share some insights that will help you to understand how the levels relate to one another.

You Can Move Up a Level But You Never Leave the Previous One Behind.

Now that you’ve seen the levels and learned the basics about them, you may assume that a leader climbs them, leaving one to arrive at the next, similar to the way one moves up a staircase. But the truth is that you never leave a level behind after you’ve achieved it. Instead, you simply build upon it. If you think about it for a moment, you’ll agree that it makes sense. If you start out with a leadership position and you build relationships with the people you oversee, do you resign your position to do so? No. You don’t leave your position to advance, but if you win Level 2 correctly, you never need to rely on your position again.
Once you’ve built relationships with people and move to a higher level of productivity, do you abandon or neglect those relationships? You had better not! If you do, you’ll find yourself back down at Level 1 again.

Leaders don’t trade one level for another. They add a new level to the previous one. It is a building process.

You Are Not on the Same Level with Every Person

Leadership is dynamic, and it changes from relationship to relationship. The same is true for the 5 Levels of Leadership. I may be on a different one of the 5 Levels with each of five different people at my job. Someone the first day on the job will acknowledge only my position, while someone in whom I’ve invested and whom I’ve raised up to lead will likely put me on Level 4. If I’ve been a good father at home, I may be on Level 4 with my children. If I’ve been an absentee dad, I may be on Level 1. With my next-door neighbor, perhaps I’m on Level 2.

Have you ever cast vision with your team and had a variety of responses to the same piece of communication? To what do you attribute that? Different backgrounds of the listeners? Different intelligence levels? Different levels of training or experience? Different personalities? I believe all of those factors can come into play, but often the most impacting factor is the level of leadership you’re on with each person. People will respond to you based on the level of leadership you’re on with them. And that is subject to change.

Achieving a level of leadership is not like earning a degree. Nor is it like setting a record as an athlete. You don’t achieve it and leave it. It’s more like having to run a race every day to prove your ability. The lone exception is the Pinnacle. Leaders who rise to Level 5 are sometimes given credit for being on that level by reputation instead of just personal interaction. But it’s important to note that at any level, a leader doesn’t always automatically stay at that level. You must earn your level of leadership with each person, and that level can go up or down at any time.

I believe every person has the ability to improve in leadership. Becoming a leader isn’t a mystical subject. It can be approached very practically, and everyone has the potential to move up to a higher level of leadership.

I’ll see you at the top.

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