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John Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership: Which Level Are You Operating At?



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There are 5 levels of leadership, according to John Maxwell’s book 5 Levels of Leadership. These levels are: Position, Permission, Production, People Development, and Pinnacle.

We’re diving headfirst into the world of leadership. Get ready to strip away the fluff and dive deep into John Maxwell’s masterpiece.

We’re talking about a roadmap that’ll help transform you into an adept leader. We’ll break down these levels, show you how they waver like a rollercoaster, and prove that age is anything but a number when it comes to leadership development.

We’ll crack open the secrets, spill the beans, and unravel the art of reaching that elusive Level 5 summit of leadership. Let’s get into it.

Book Summary: The 5 Levels of Leadership by John Maxwell

The 5 Levels of Leadership come from John C. Maxwell’s book of the same name. It’s a great book that offers a simple yet profound way to think about leadership. Maxwell argues that there are five levels of leadership:

  • Position
  • Permission
  • Production
  • People Development
  • Pinnacle

He goes on to say that each level is important, but the higher levels are only attainable if you first master the lower levels.

Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership explains the various stages of development one goes through as they grow from an inexperienced leader to an effective, competent one.

The first level, Position, is where the leader occupies a position of power within an organization but has little personal influence over others.

The second level, Permission, is when the leader has earned the trust and respect of those they lead and can begin to influence them positively.

The third level, Production, is when the leader not only influences others but also helps them to be productive and achieve results.

The fourth level, People Development, is when the leader begins to focus on developing others and helping them reach their potential.

The fifth and final level, Pinnacle, is when the leader has reached their full potential as a leader and has developed a legacy that will last long after they are gone.

John Maxwell's 5 levels of leadership in a pyramid

While not everyone will reach the Pinnacle, Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership provides a roadmap for those who want to become effective leaders and make a positive impact on those they lead.

Book Review: John Maxwell’s 5 Leadership Levels

I really like this book because it provides a framework for thinking about leadership that is easy to understand and apply. It also offers specific advice on how to move up the ladder from one level to the next, and how to develop important leadership strengths and skills.

I also thought that the book was helpful in understanding the different levels that a leader can operate at. It gives you a sense of where you are and what steps you can take to grow as a leader.

Probably my biggest take from this book was the realization that you only become a true leader when people want to voluntarily follow you. Yes, you can be appointed to positions of influence. But true power only comes when people accept it.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about leadership. 4.9/5

The 5 Levels of Leadership

Favorite quote:

If you have integrity with people, you develop trust. The more trust you develop, the stronger the relationship becomes. In times of difficulty, relationships are a shelter. In times of opportunity, they are a launching pad.

AllNewBusiness Rating: 4.9/5
Amazon Rating: 4./5

The 5 Levels of Leadership book cover
Solving the Procrastination Puzzle
The 5 Levels of Leadership book cover

AllNewBusiness Rating: 4.9/5

Amazon Rating: 4.8/5


The 5 Levels of Leadership Explained

Leaders come in all shapes and sizes—and levels of leadership. In fact, there are five distinct leadership levels, each with its own unique characteristics.  Let’s have a look at each level.

The 10 minute leader

Level 1 – Position

Level 1 is the lowest and most basic level of all the leadership positions. Also called “position,” this level of leadership simply means that a person has been given a title or position within an organization. This level of leadership carries with it no authority or power to make decisions; it simply denotes that the person holds a certain office.

For example, the president of a company is a level 1 leader. Although the president may have many responsibilities, they do not have the authority to make decisions on their own; they must consult with the board of directors before making any major decisions. As such, the president is simply a figurehead who occupies a position of authority within the company.

This is also the level where we recommend leaders focus a lot on personal growth to move up. We have a specially curated list of the best personal growth books to help you get to the next level of leadership.

Level 1 leadership is important because it forms the foundation upon which all other levels of leadership are built. It’s the perfect position to work on leadership development and skills. Without position, there can be no authority or power, and without those things, there can be no true leadership.

Level 2 – Permission

If you want to be an effective leader, you need to learn to operate at Level 2: Permission. This is the level where employees give their leader permission to lead. To reach this level, you have to first learn to like people and develop relationships with them. Only then will they trust you enough to follow your direction.

The key to Level 2 leadership is emotional intelligence. You need to be able to understand and empathize with the people you work with. You need to know what motivates them and what makes them tick. Once you have that insight, you can start to build strong, trusting relationships with the people on your team.

When you reach Level 2, your employees will be more engaged and productive. They’ll be more likely to buy into your vision and follow your lead. So if you want to be a successful leader, focus on developing relationships with the people you work with. It’s the key to unlocking their potential – and your own.

How to move to level 2 leadership

Developing leaders in this stage need to work on need emotional intelligence. This means being able to understand and respond to the emotions of others. There are many types of managers and employees so you also need to adapt to the changing needs of your employees.

One-on-one meetings are a great way to get to know your employees and understand their needs. You should also make it a point to recognize and appreciate employees for their hard work. By showing that you care about your employees, you’ll be more likely to earn their trust and respect. This will also assist in leadership growth.

Level 3 – Production

At level 3, leadership ability is judged on results. Leaders are driven by a desire to achieve specific goals and objectives – whether that’s increasing sales revenue by X% or reducing costs by Y%. To be successful at this level, leaders need to be able to produce tangible results that benefit both the company and its employees.

How to become a level 3 leader

To become a level 3 leader, you must first achieve position power. This means that you must have a title or role within an organization that gives you some authority.

Once you have position power, you can then start to develop permission power. This is the type of power that comes from people following you because they want to, not because they have to. To develop permission power, you need to be able to earn people’s trust and respect. Therefore, developing leadership skills becomes super-important.

Once you have achieved position and permission power, you can then start to focus on production power. This is the type of power that comes from achieving results. To become a level 3 leader, you need to be able to not only set goals but also achieve them.

Level 4 – People Development

The goal of Level 4 leadership is to develop other leaders. This is done by investing in the growth of others and helping them to reach their full potential. Creating more leaders will ultimately lead to more goal achievement. Amazon is one of the companies that created leadership principles for employees to act like level 4 leaders.

When you develop other leaders, you add more value to your organization. You also create a multiplier effect that can help your company or organization achieve even greater success.

A people development leader must take intentional steps to help people grow. This might involve providing mentorship, coaching, or training opportunities. It could also involve creating an environment that supports learning and development. By investing in the growth of others, you can create lasting change in your organization.

How to become a level 4 leader :

If you’re looking to move up to the next level of leadership, here are four things you can do:

1. Create mentorship programs. A great way to develop other leaders is to create mentorship programs where more experienced leaders can share their knowledge with those who are just starting out. Not only will this help people to learn and grow, but it will also foster a sense of community and camaraderie among your team.

2. Create plans and goals for the people you invest in. When you take the time to create specific plans and goals for the people you invest in, it shows that you are committed to their development. This will not only motivate them to reach their potential, but it will also help to keep you accountable as a leader.

3. Practice delegation. One of the best ways to develop other leaders is to delegate authority and responsibility to them. This will allow them to put their own leadership skills into practice and gain experience in leading others.

4. Make leader development a top priority. This means setting aside time each week or month to invest in other leaders, attending conferences and workshops on leadership, and reading books on the subject. Among a number of communicative skills that leaders should highlight, civil discourse is an all-important skill for leaders to possess and cultivate. So what is civil discourse in communication? It involves understanding what is appropriate language, what respectful dialogue looks like, and how to manage difficult conversations effectively. Without it, leaders may struggle to listen to those they serve and value the various perspectives of their team members.

Level 5 – Pinnacle

Reaching the fifth and final level of leadership is no easy feat. In order to achieve pinnacle status, leaders must be completely dedicated to their organizations and willing to make whatever sacrifices are necessary for success. The leaders in this stage also take on a symbolic level, and often transcend their personal egos.

Level 5 leaders are not only concerned with their own legacy; they also focus on developing the next generation of leaders. As a result, they create organizations that are built to last.

While level 5 leadership is the most challenging to attain, it is also the most rewarding. Those who reach this level have the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy and make a truly lasting impact on the world.

How to become a level 5 leader

To become a level 5 leader, it is essential to have superb time and resource management skills. You must also be able to understand the totality of commitment required to lead an organization or team successfully.

Finally, you must have a strong sense of meaning and purpose in your pursuit of level 5 leadership. By developing these skills and qualities, you can put yourself on the path to becoming a truly transformational leader.

How to maintain a level 5 leadership position

Being a level 5 leader is more than just a destination—it’s a lifestyle. To maintain this high level of leadership, you need to keep the vision and focus sharp while continuing to expand your audience to teach and develop others. These three elements are essential for sustaining a level 5 leadership position. 

Viewing level 5 leadership as a lifestyle means that you are always working to improve and grow as a leader. You are never satisfied with where you are and are always looking for ways to take your skills to the next level. This means that you are constantly learning and expanding your knowledge base so that you can be the best leader possible. It means that you are always looking for ways to develop the people around you.

To sustain a level 5 leadership position, it is also essential to keep the vision sharp. This means having a clear understanding of what you want to achieve and why it is important. It also means staying focused on your goals and not letting yourself get sidetracked by distractions. When you have a strong vision, it gives you the determination and drive necessary to achieve success. 

Finally, sustaining a level 5 leadership position requires expanding your audience to include those who can benefit from your teachings. By sharing your knowledge with others, you can help them reach their own leadership potential. By developing relationships with other leaders, you can create a network of support that can help you in times of need.

Conclusion: 5 Levels in a Leadership Journey

The 5 levels of leadership are a journey that takes time, focus, and determination to complete. But the rewards are well worth the effort. By operating at the highest level of leadership, you can create lasting change in yourself and in those around you. What level of leadership are you currently operating at?

I’d recommend reading Maxwell’s book also to get a better grasp and understanding of leadership levels. It’s an excellent book that goes into great detail about the 5 levels of leadership. If you’re serious about becoming a leader, then I highly recommend reading it.


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