Man, we are close to two years of Leader to Leader podcasts. Next episode is the two-year anniversary. If you knew the difficulty at different points during that two-year journey, you would be as amazed as I am that I never missed releasing an episode during this time. And, actually, that’s meaningless. It doesn’t make the podcast more valuable because it’s consistent. If you consistently produce garbage, I’m not sure there are a lot of positive takeaways there. It is, however, a good time to pause and reflect. As I was doing this, I had to ask myself if what I’m doing is contributing to the growth of leaders. To understand if you are growing, you have to know the five levels of leadership and where your skills sit within those levels.
I know it sounds arbitrary to try and evaluate your leadership on a scale. And, in many ways, it’s more subjective than any of us would like. There are truthtellers, those who will gladly tell us exactly where we sit. Ask a disgruntled employee or team member. Have a conversation with your manager. Talk to someone you respect in the leadership space.
Getting An External Perspective
You will find many who are capable of not only assessing, but also providing you a “no-holds-barred” answer to your question. This could sound silly, but when I need an honest assessment of how I’m doing, do you know where I go first? My wife, Ginger. I know she’s not an expert in all things leadership. What she is though, is a master at calling out my behavior that is opposite of what I expect of others.
It’s embarrassing to admit, but I have a really good recent example of this. The other day, we were driving in some pretty heavy Phoenix traffic. The roads were wet as we have had quite a bit of rain this month. You wouldn’t think a desert would be cold and rainy, but it was. If you have been listening to this podcast for any length of time, you probably know that anyone else traveling on the same road I’m on is likely to get a rise out of me.
Seriously, I am so glad that you can’t hear what I’m thinking when I’m driving. There are very few people that I would encounter on the road that I would have positive thoughts about. I hate it and I’m working on it. It’s not how I want to live. I’m not exaggerating though, it’s really bad sometimes. T
An Honest Assessment
Now here’s a place to get honest feedback. From the person sitting in the front passenger seat. When they are wearing looks of terror, when they can’t release their grip on the door handle, armrest, dash, whatever they have reached to hang onto for dear life…then you might be driving badly. It’s funny, but you’re listening and you know you are either the driver or the one half-scared out of your wits!
Now, I’ve been driving long enough to let my habits make me a really bad driver in some instances. Huh, not supposed to work like that Mark. You should be so learned after all these decades of driving that you have become somewhat of a pro, a real driver-whisperer if you will. I’m not a horrible driver, but I won’t be in the driving hall of fame.
My loving wife took time to remind me that I was following the car in front of me a bit too closely. Do you know how she knew that? Right, because for the last 20 years I’ve been talking about the four-second rule when behind another vehicle. Do you know what you are supposed to do when the weather is bad? Dingdingding…yes brainiac, increase the following distance.
What was I doing? Following too closely. She was right. I wasn’t following my own advice. I wasn’t doing what I expect others to do (when they are right on my butt going 65 mph on the interstate). Isn’t it interesting how the story changes when you are the tailgated vs the tailgater?!
John Maxwell’s Five Levels Of Leadership
It reminded me that we all need someone to tell us what we already know. So regardless of where you are on the five levels of leadership, I want to remind you of what it means to not be just a good leader, but what it means to be a GREAT leader. So, John Maxwell has what he calls the Five Levels of Leadership. What I want to do here is to quickly go over them and then ask you to assess where you see yourself.
Level One – Position
It’s the lowest level. You got here because the role you fill on the org chart says you lead these people. A person leading at this level only has followers because they have to follow. John says “position does not automatically result in influence.” It’s very hard for instance to lead a group of volunteers if this is your leadership level. Why? Because nothing requires a volunteer to stay. If you can lead volunteers, then there’s a good chance that your skills have transcended Level One.
Virtually every leader will find themselves at Level One at some point during their career. And it’s not a bad thing. At this stage, you develop some self-awareness and understand what you need to improve if you are going to experience leadership success. When you find yourself here, John recommends that you lead yourself. How would you lead you? If you had to give yourself advice for improving your skills, what would you tell yourself?
Level Two – Permission
For the first time, relationship enters the picture. People have chosen to follow you because you have given them a reason to want to follow you. Personally, I find this to be a rewarding stage. When you find yourself here, you start to get a glimpse of what is possible when you positively impact others. That’s exciting! You won’t like everyone you lead. In this stage, the stretch is understanding how to make the most of difficult situations. Maybe a personality conflict or strong difference of opinion makes you aware of the challenges to leading those who aren’t always in agreement with you. What can you find to value in or about them? John says that when trust grows here, it often leads to respect.
Level Three – Production
I mentioned the excitement in realizing what’s possible, and Level Three is all about producing results. It’s identifying that now you don’t just impact your team, but your team is impacting the company’s customers. You are developing credibility and folks are drawn to that. You want to work with and for leaders who are able to get results. The reward for doing well at this level? Your success results in tougher problems being assigned to you and your team. It’s not easy, but it’s fun. The trust between you and your team members grows and you see the underlying motivation as a sincere desire to do what’s best.
Level Four – People Development
Mr. Maxwell sums up this level with one word: reproduction. Think about how many companies you know that have zero ability to manage succession. This level corrects that issue. You are developing other leaders, bringing them along by investing in them, mentoring them, sharing your wisdom, providing insight. You aren’t trying to make them just like you. Thank about it. You didn’t get where you are by hiring team members who all act and think like you do. No, you want the individual to come out – the unique leader that is in them to be exposed! At this stage, John says people are following because of what you have done for them personally. What are you doing to help your leaders grow today?
Most of us will be content to reach Level Four leadership. It’s an honor to see other leaders step up and take on a new role or challenge and do well, in part, because of your investment in them. It’s like when your children make you proud by making a good decision that you left to them. I relish that level of impact. There is
Level Five – Pinnacle
As you can imagine, you don’t get here quickly. This only happens when you have been in the game for a long time. It also won’t happen automatically. In other words, being in the game a long time doesn’t mean that you reach maximum potential. John says intentionality is required. The ultimate self-sacrifice is required: you have to be willing to invest your life into the lives of others. There’s great power in achieving this level of leadership. I don’t actually mean personal power – here, you are creating opportunities that other leaders and organizations don’t. I’ve talked before about leaving behind the resume and build your legacy. This is where legacy is built. John says that a leader at this level transcend their position, their organization and sometimes their industry.
It’s an honor to lead at this level – a great responsibility. I hope that your goal is to lead at this level regardless of where you find yourself today. John says that the goal with the Five Levels of Leadership is not to move away from one level to grow at a new level. Instead, these five levels of leadership build upon each other. In other words, Level three leaders still need to do the things that make Level two happen. They just add Level three strategies to the mix. And as they become effective at Level three, they are ready to layer on the goals of the next levels.
Don’t miss next week’s episode. I’ll share with you some ways that you can Level Up your leadership. No matter where you sit currently on the five levels of leadership, I’m proud of you! You would not have gotten to this point in the episode if you didn’t sincerely want to improve your leadership skills. You are on your way!
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