This article is part of The Ascender, the Highrise platform for articles and resources.

What Are The 5 Levels of Leadership?

Andrew Langat
January 31, 2023
Read our case studies document and learn how Highrise helped other individuals to improve their professionnal skills and careers.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

In leadership, you are only as good as the lowest level you’ve mastered- John Maxwell.

When one assumes a leadership position, one assumes a position to influence and lead people; thus, developing essential leadership skills is critical for leadership growth and development. This applies to all leaders - no matter the leadership level.

Why is this important?

In a leadership journey, we all start from somewhere in an attempt to have an Influence in leadership. To use the analogy of a swimming pool, the shallow end is the first port of entry for amateur swimmers.

At this end, the chances of drowning are minimal; hence great for beginners. There is nothing much to learn or to respect for swimmers at this stage. Over time, one refines their swimming skills, gains confidence, respect, and progressively learns how to swim with confidence at the deeper end.

Leadership abilities mirror this progression. Unless one is born with natural leadership ability, we all have to learn the fundamental of leadership through initiatives such as coaching and mentoring relationships and programs such as executive coaching for leadership development.

John C. Maxwell, a leadership expert, and author, developed 5 levels of leadership to explain how one can rise in their leadership journey and how to develop important leadership skills. We shall explore the levels, how each is earned, and how you can use it to gauge your leadership level.

<div id="one">

What are the 5 Levels of Leadership?

According to Maxwell, there are 5 levels of leadership, each representing a different stage of growth and development of a leader. These levels are Level 1: Position, Level 2: Permission, Level 3: Production, Level 4: People Development, and Level 5: Pinnacle.

He conceived these levels as a practice that could be used to lead more effectively.

His international best-seller book The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential explains these leadership levels.

<div id="two">

Level 1: Position

This is the lowest level of leadership(entry-level). A person assumes this role when given a leadership role or title, e.g., head of marketing or director of strategy.

At this level, a person has the authority to lead based on their position, but they have not yet earned their team's respect or trust.

At this leadership level, people follow you because they have to, whether they like you or not, as they see you as the boss by your job title or company regulation. This means you can tell people what to do, enforce rules, etc.

Maxwell argues that:

"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 organizational 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."

Mastering Level One Position of leadership

To master the position level of leadership and move to the higher levels, do the following:

  • Be knowledgeable about your role(technical skills etc.) and the organization's goals. This will enable you to get respect in the workplace.
  • Lead by example. This sets the standard for your team. For example, practice integrity and show a high degree of self-awareness.
  • Communicate clearly and effectively with your team.
  • Be organized and efficient in your work.
  • Make informed decisions and be accountable for the outcomes of your actions.
  • Learn about emotional intelligence in leadership
  • Seek training opportunities for leadership development
  • Ask for feedback from direct reports, other leaders, former employees, etc.
  • Learn more about the 5 levels of leadership and how you increase influence in your leadership position.

<div id="three">

Level 2: Permission

At this level, a person has earned their team's respect and trust and developed good relationships with them. As a result, their team is willing to follow them because they want to, not just because they have to.

This level of success is based on relationship building that fosters trust and confidence. When this level is attained, it creates positive energy in the team, and members feel valued.

A leader should not be preoccupied with preserving this position but with building a solid and long-lasting relationship with the team.

Mastering Level two of Leadership

To ensure success at this level, do the following:

  • Lead with integrity and be a role model for your team; for example, know how to create meaningful relationships.
  • Be approachable and open to feedback. Moreover, act on feedback to further improve your leadership capability.
  • Build a positive work environment that fosters collaboration and teamwork. For example, practice delegation by playing into team members' strengths.
  • Be flexible and adaptable to change.

<div id="four">

Level 3: Production

Production-level leaders produce results. This gives the leader credibility and influence as it confirms leadership ability and management skills to team members. This means that momentum has been achieved. In such a work environment, work gets done, deadlines are met, morale improves, and team motivation is high.

At this level, production leaders focus on developing the skills and abilities of their team members. They invest in the growth and development of their team, communicate expectations, and develop influence. This makes their team becomes more capable and independent as a result.

Mastering Level three of Leadership

To master the production level and produce results, do the following:

  • Set clear and measurable goals for your team.
  • Effectively delegate tasks and responsibilities to team members.
  • Provide ongoing support and resources to help your team succeed.
  • Monitor progress and hold team members accountable for their performance.
  • Celebrate successes and recognize the contributions of team members.
  • Learn how to manage expectations at work.
  • Give the best in whatever you do
  • Be consistent in what you do daily
  • Improve your communication skills
  • Make developing relationships a core element of your leadership.

<div id="five">

Level 4: People Development

At this level, leaders become great, not because of their delegated positions but their capacity to empower their team members through prior relationships and productivity that shape followers into leaders in their own right. This way, they can extend their influence and impact.

Level four leaders change the lives of their team members, and as such, there is an uptick in productivity, as there are more leaders in the team that helps improve every-ones performance.

Mastering Level Four of Leadership

To master People development, do the following:

  • Create a culture of continuous learning and growth within your team.
  • Provide opportunities for team members to learn new skills and take on new challenges.
  • Make mentoring employees a key aspect of your leadership. This means investing your time and energy.
  • Provide regular feedback and support to help team members improve and grow.
  • Recognize and celebrate the achievements and milestones of team members.
  • Know the strengths and weaknesses of the people you lead
  • Individualize your team training and feedback process. This will increase team motivation making them achieve success.

<div id="six">

Level 5: Pinnacle

This is the highest and most difficult level of leadership to attain. Pinnacle leaders can inspire and influence others beyond their immediate team extending through the entire organization or industry. This separates true leaders from the rest.

pinnacle leaders stand out and are mostly found in elite organizations such as fortune companies.

Through delivering results and nurturing other leaders, they have developed a strong reputation and can achieve results through the efforts of multiple teams and organizations.

This way, they can develop leaders to be level 4, multiplying leaders and creating a cycle of positive change.

To get to this leadership level, one needs to have intentionality, a growth mindset, master the right leadership behaviors, and show evidence of past accomplishments, skills, and talent.

According to Maxwell, the goal of leadership is to progress through these 5 levels of leadership and reach the pinnacle, where a leader can achieve significant results, influence people, and make a lasting impact.

This way, followers get to follow the leader not because of their position levels of leadership but because of who they are and what they represent. This way, they can leave a lasting legacy.

Mastering Level Five of Leadership

To master the Pinnanciel level of leadership and consistently deliver results, do the following:

  • Set a vision and inspire others to work towards a common goal. Since your leadership abilities are well-defined, your team will buy into this as past results speak for themselves.
  • Lead with integrity and be a role model for others.
  • Continuously learning and growing as a leader to stay at the top of your field.
  • Build strong relationships with team members, upcoming leaders, and other great leaders in your industry.
  • Develop those who occupy leadership positions
  • Regularly carry out leadership assessments.
  • Make mentoring team members part of your job description.
  • People development leaders invest in their teams and make it part and parcel of their leadership.
  • Create a succession plan for your organization
  • Position yourself as a leadership expert based on your previous experience developing leaders.

Insights into the 5 levels of Leadership

According to Maxwell, the 5 levels of leadership are related in the following ways:

  • You Can Move Up a Level, But You Never Leave the Previous One Behind
  • You Are Not on the Same Level with Every Person
  • The Higher You Go, The Easier It Is to Lead
  • The Higher You Go, the More Time and Commitment Is Required to Win a Level
  • Moving Up Levels Occurs Slowly, But Going Down Can Happen Quickly
  • The Higher You Go, the Greater the Return
  • Moving Farther Up Always Requires Further Growth
  • Not Climbing The Levels Limits You and Your People
  • When You Change Positions or Organizations, You Seldom Stay at the Same Level
  • You Cannot Climb the Levels Alone

<div id="seven">

What are the Tips for Achieving the 5 Levels of leadership?

To achieve the 5 levels of leadership, do the following:

1. Set goals and work towards them consistently.

Setting goals for yourself and working towards them consistently can help you achieve the 5 levels of leadership. Setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals can help you focus your efforts and track your progress.

It can also help you stay motivated and committed to your leadership development.

As you work towards your goals, it is important to be consistent and persistent in your efforts. This may involve setting aside time to work on your goals, seeking resources and support to help you achieve your goals, and staying focused and motivated even when faced with challenges or setbacks.

In addition to setting and working towards personal goals, it is also important to align your goals with the goals of the organization and the needs of your team. This can help you create value and make a meaningful impact as a leader.

2. Seek out leadership training and development opportunities.

Seeking out leadership training and development opportunities can help you achieve the 5 levels of leadership. There are many different types of leadership training and development opportunities available, such as:

  • Formal education programs, such as a degree in leadership or management.
  • Professional development courses or workshops, which universities, professional organizations, or training companies may offer.
  • Executive coaching or mentorship programs provide one-on-one guidance and support from an experienced leader.
  • Leadership retreats or conferences allow one to learn from experts and network with other leaders.

3. Seek feedback from others and be open to learning from your mistakes.

Seeking feedback from others and being open to learning from your mistakes is an important part of achieving the 5 levels of leadership. Feedback can help you identify improvement areas and give insights into how others perceive your leadership style and effectiveness.

It can also help you develop a growth mindset and a willingness to learn and adapt.

There are many ways to seek feedback from others, such as:

  • Asking for specific feedback from your team or supervisor after a project or presentation.
  • Participating in a 360-degree feedback process, you receive feedback from your team, supervisor, and other stakeholders.
  • Seeking out a mentor or coach who can provide ongoing guidance and support.
  • Participating in regular performance evaluations with your supervisor.

4. Build strong relationships with your team

Building strong relationships with your team is an important part of achieving the 5 levels of leadership. Strong relationships can foster trust, respect, and collaboration among team members, leading to improved communication, increased productivity, and positive work culture.

Here are some ways to build strong relationships with your team:

  • Communicate openly and transparently with team members.
  • Show genuine interest in team members and their well-being.
  • Foster a sense of trust and respect among team members.
  • Encourage open and honest communication within the team.
  • Provide support and resources to help team members succeed.
  • Recognize and celebrate the achievements and contributions of team members.

Want to read more from us? Subscribe to our newsletter to read our latest resources

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

5. Lead by example and be a role model for others.

Leading by example and being a role model for others is an important parts of achieving the 5 levels of leadership. As a leader, your actions and behaviors set the tone for the team and can significantly impact team performance and morale.

Here are some ways to lead by example and be a role model for others:

  • Practice what you preach - ensure your actions align with your words and values.
  • Be reliable and dependable - follow through on your commitments and meet deadlines.
  • Be honest and transparent - be open and upfront with your team and stakeholders.
  • Show respect for others - treat team members and stakeholders with kindness and respect.
  • Be open to learning and growth - be willing to learn from others and adapt to new situations.

6. Focus on continuous learning and personal growth.

Focusing on continuous learning and personal growth is an important part of achieving the 5 levels of leadership. As a leader, staying current and continuously improving your skills and knowledge is important to be effective in your role.

This can involve seeking learning and development opportunities, reading leadership books and articles, and participating in professional development programs.

Here are some ways to focus on continuous learning and personal growth:

  • Set specific learning goals for yourself and work towards them consistently.
  • Seek out learning and development opportunities that align with your goals and needs.
  • Read leadership books and articles to gain new insights and perspectives.
  • Participate in professional development programs or workshops.
  • Seek out mentors or coaches who can provide guidance and support.
  • Reflect on your experiences and learn from your mistakes.
  • Stay open to new ideas and be willing to try new approaches.

7. Communicate Effectively and Transparently with your team.

Effective communication is an important part of achieving the 5 levels of leadership. As a leader, it is important to communicate consistently and transparently with your team to foster trust, collaboration, and alignment.

Here are some ways to communicate effectively and transparently with your team:

  • Be clear and concise in your communication - use simple, straightforward language and avoid jargon or technical terms that may confuse team members.
  • Listen actively and show genuine interest in what team members have to say - ask questions and encourage open and honest feedback.
  • Share information and updates regularly - keep your team informed about important developments and changes that may affect them.
  • Be transparent and open in your decision-making - explain your reasoning and be willing to share information and perspectives with your team.
  • Use various communication methods - consider using different methods, such as in-person meetings, email, or video conferencing, to reach team members in different locations or time zones.

8. Be accountable for your actions and the outcomes of your decisions.

Being accountable for your actions and the outcomes of your decisions is an important part of achieving the 5 levels of leadership. As a leader, it is important to take responsibility for your actions and be willing to answer for the results of your decisions.

This involves being honest and transparent about your mistakes, acknowledging your areas for improvement, and taking steps to address any issues or challenges.

Here are some ways to be accountable as a leader:

  • Set clear goals and expectations for yourself and your team.
  • Communicate openly and transparently about your progress and challenges.
  • Take responsibility for your mistakes and learn from them.
  • Follow through on your commitments and meet deadlines.
  • Hold yourself and your team accountable for performance and results.
  • Be open to feedback and suggestions for improvement.

9. Foster a positive work culture and environment.

Fostering a positive work culture and environment is an important part of achieving the 5 levels of leadership. A positive work culture can foster collaboration, innovation, and engagement among team members, leading to improved performance and success.

Here are some ways to foster a positive work culture:

  • Set a positive example for your team - lead by example and demonstrate the behaviors and values that you want to see in your team.
  • Encourage open and honest communication - create an environment where team members feel comfortable sharing their ideas and concerns.
  • Recognize and celebrate the achievements and contributions of team members - show appreciation for your team's hard work and dedication.
  • Provide support and resources to help team members succeed - ensure they have the tools and resources they need to do their best work.
  • Foster a sense of community and belonging - create opportunities for team members to connect and collaborate with one another.

10. Recognize and celebrate the achievements and contributions of your team.

Recognizing and celebrating the achievements and contributions of your team is an important part of achieving the 5 levels of leadership.

Acknowledging your team's hard work and dedication can help boost morale, foster a sense of accomplishment, and encourage team members to continue giving their best effort.

Here are some ways to recognize and celebrate the achievements and contributions of your team:

  • Offer verbal recognition and praise - make a point to acknowledge the contributions of team members regularly.
  • Provide written recognition - consider sending thank you notes or emails to team members to show appreciation.
  • Offer tangible rewards or incentives - consider offering small gifts or rewards to team members who achieve specific goals or milestones.
  • Host team celebrations or events - consider hosting team lunches, happy hours, or other events to celebrate your team's achievements.
  • Share success stories with others - consider sharing your team's achievements with other stakeholders or the broader organization to recognize their contributions.
Inspiring, isn’t it ? Want to learn more about connecting self-awareness to professional development? Get in touch today.

<div id="eight">

How Highrise can Assist

At Highrise, we are all about developing growth-minded professionals in fast-paced industries. Part of this is developing leadership skills important in Leadership and management roles. This encompasses further dwelling into the 5 levels of leadership and how you can grow into each, no matter the leader's position.

Schedule a demo with us and learn how you can make a positive difference in your organization by becoming an effective leader.

Thank you! Your Downloads is here:
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Andrew Langat
Facebook logoTwitter logo
Andrew Langat is an experienced content specialist in Leadership, Productivity, Education, Fintech, and Research. He is an avid reader and loves swimming as a hobby. He believes that quality content should be actionable and helpful.