Great leaders inspire teams to higher levels of productivity and create cultures of excellence through employee engagement

Good leaders can be the glue that holds a workplace together. Almost everyone has had the opportunity to work with fantastic and not-so-great leaders. If your leadership skills are lacking, there's a way to improve them. Enter John Maxwell's “5 Levels of Leadership.” 

John Maxwell has trained more than five million leaders in 180 countries, developing leaders at all levels. Ascending the 5 Levels of Leadership can give you a boost in the job market and help you to stand out from the crowd of other job seekers. 

What are the 5 Levels of Leadership in order?

Without further ado, let's dive into the 5 Levels of Leadership from bottom to top. 

  1. Position

  2. Permission

  3. Production

  4. People development

  5. Pinnacle

Your goal is to attain the Pinnacle level. But how do you get there? Well, simply start at number one and work your way through each phase. 

1. Position

This is a leadership position that's often handed to you by a higher-level leader. It is an earned position and you have some sway over what staff do, but not much. If the company has a progressive discipline policy, you can hold that over your subordinates. 

None of this is a bad thing. Remember, the expert at anything was once a beginner, so this is your beginning. With a little more work, you can start to fine-tune the type of leader you want to be and climb the leadership ladder to gain more authority. 

2. Permission

You may think that you don't need permission to be a leader, but you really do if you want to succeed. This leadership level is all about building relationships with those you want to lead, so that they trust you and give you permission to tell them what to do. Sharpen your people skills by treating staff as individuals who matter, rather than just cogs in the machine. 

When the people you lead feel like you care about them, they will do more than simply obey your commands. You'll see that they are actually following you because of the positivity you emanate. This means you'll start to have influence over others. 

3. Production

As you progress toward the top leadership level, you'll go through the “production” phase. Here, you leverage the relationships that you built during the “permission” phase to inspire the people under you to produce, to work, to achieve results. There's a lot of collaboration at this level, often cross-functional collaboration, that affects results that impact operations and revenues.

Once you get to the point where you can make things happen, your true abilities as a leader will shine. Conversely, if you're not meant to be a leader (that's okay, not everyone is meant to be a leader), this is the level where that will become apparent. 

4. People development

By now, you've learned to build relationships that inspire productivity. That productivity has reached a point where it affects the organization as a whole. Now, your goal is to build up your staff so that they can become leaders, too. Recognizing top talent and stewarding their career progression not only helps that individual staff member, but also elevates the team as a whole. 

5. Pinnacle

At this point, you've invested so much time into leading and growing others that you've built an entire pipeline of leaders. According to Maxwell, “Level 5 leaders are judged by the caliber of leaders they develop, not by the caliber of their own leadership.” 

Don't let the achievement of this top leadership level go to your head. If you lose focus or start to think you're all that, you can fall back to lower leadership levels. There's always something else to learn, more strategies to build, and more people to develop. 

At the “pinnacle” level, you'll be approached for insight and may have others request that you conduct workshops on being an effective leader. Remember where you started and what made you successful. Use your journey to inspire others. 

You can get there - here's how

Knowing the definition of each level is only the tip of the iceberg. Progressing through each level takes action and hard work. Here are some tips for leadership success:

Each level builds on the previous

Once you've been appointed to your first management (i.e., leadership) position, it's time to start deciding what type of leader you want to be. In other words, to find your leadership style. There are seven management styles for you to choose from:

  1. Top-down

  2. Engagement-focused

  3. Democratic

  4. Lead-by-example

  5. Inspirational

  6. Coaching

  7. Transactional

As you learn what works best for you, put that to use so that you can progress to the next level of leadership. Once your subordinates start to give you permission to lead them, and then you progress into building leaders of your own, leverage your personal management style to fuse everything you learn throughout the 5 levels of leadership. 

Put forth the effort

As you now know, the first level of leadership doesn't afford you much authority other than holding discipline over your crew. However, the further up the leadership ladder you climb, the easier you'll find it to lead. The people under you will want to please you and be recognized as leaders themselves. 

  • You're often appointed to a level-one leadership role

  • During level two, continue to sharpen your chosen management style by working one-on-one with staff and offering performance feedback

  • While you work through level three, define production goals that you want staff to achieve and delegate responsibilities based on team member acumen

  • As you move into level four, you could develop performance-based programs that allow staff to grow

  • Once you get to level five, keep practicing your leadership skills; continue to grow your staff members into leaders and teach them how to cultivate leaders, too. Before you know it, you'll be responsible for sowing generations of leaders. 

Invest time and hard work

Reaching the pinnacle leadership level takes significant time. Most people won't choose to follow you overnight. They need proof that you're a good leader, an empathetic manager, and someone who cares about what happens to them. 

The best way to reach your leadership goal is to take on as many leadership assignments as possible. This may even mean stepping outside of your normal job duties or working longer hours to complete some special projects. 

Go up slow, go down fast

It may take a lot of time to ascend the leadership mountain, but it doesn't take that long to fall off of it. If you reach level four and fail, you'll likely only fall back to level three; however, you'll start all the way over in level three. Never stop working on your leadership skills and management style. Being a leader is your life now, not just something you do as a part of your job. 

Why effective leadership is important

John Maxwell said, “The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.” Being an effective leader isn't just about getting people to do what you tell them, so that the business can make more money. Your responsibility as a leader is to harness the appropriate resources to make your team and the people in it achieve success. 

Challenge the status quo

One very important thing that leaders do is inspire change. The world changes almost daily in some industries. Those sweeping changes require someone who can keep up and make appropriate recommendations to management. A great leader earns executive management buy-in for innovation and then guides their team through new processes and procedures. 

Solve problems and resolve conflicts

Not only should a great leader be concerned with keeping up with industry changes, but he or she should also lend empathy to conflict among staff. Treating employees like they're important human beings will help to elevate you into a more trusting position, allowing you to reach the next level of leadership. 

Set goals and fuel productivity

As a leader, you want to prove your salt by maintaining consistent productivity. The best way to do that is by inspiring your team to do well. By setting clear goals and creating roadmaps that guide staff through assignments, you'll help to keep them on track and improve productivity. 

Empower staff through mentorship

Without employees, businesses would fail. Leadership levels three through five focus on shaping future leaders. By acting as a mentor and teacher, you can train staff members to achieve organizational goals and become leaders themselves. This builds your network and propels your own leadership career forward. 

The proof is in the pudding

In order to show leadership, you must be able to demonstrate results. Your resume is a perfect place to quantify and qualify leadership achievements. You should be writing an achievement-based resume already, so adding in some leadership bullets shouldn't be a stretch. As you read through job descriptions, you'll be able to tell what the prospective company needs in a new leader. Translate your experiences into actionable phrases that you can use, that will speak to the new company's needs. 

A people example

Perhaps you find a job that needs someone who can shut down a revolving door staffing problem. This is a great opportunity to discuss your ability to collaborate cross-functionally and prioritize employee engagement to champion improved productivity. It would be even better if you could talk about some sort of engagement activity or incentive that you created that improved employee retention. 

A productivity example

If the job you want to apply for needs someone who can turn around failing projects, you could mention an ability to rally the troops and create strong team morale through clearly articulated goals. It's also a perfect place to talk about your ability to recognize top talent and delegate responsibilities based on what people do best. 

You may not be in a leadership role yet, but you can get there if you focus on building up the people around you. Then, when you start to seek out manager, leader, and executive positions, use the things you've achieved as you progressed through the 5 Levels of Leadership to make your resume shine. 

Of course, if you need help with that last part, TopResume has a team of professional resume writers standing by with years of experience in crafting compelling leadership resumes. Why not submit your resume for a free resume review, to see how it stacks up?

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