John Maxwell’s Five Levels of Leadership

John Maxwell’s Five Levels of Leadership

Leadership & Management

Pramod Veturi

Pramod Veturi

10 week ago — 5 min read

How good a leader am I, and how do I get to the next level? I am sure anyone responsible for leading a team has this question in their mind. 


John Maxwell’s book Five Levels Of Leadership gives an excellent overview of the five stages of leadership all leaders have to go through. He describes these five levels almost as if they are a passage of rites. I like the simple framework John Maxwell provides to understand what stage of leadership evolution you are at any point.


To lead well, you must continuously evolve your leadership style, and John Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership model is like a leadership GPS to help you with your journey as a leader. 


Level 1: Position (Lead by right)

This is the starting point of leadership. At this stage, people will follow you because they have to as you’re the boss. You use your title and your position as the leverage to exercise influence. Your team knows very little about you or your capabilities.


Level 2: Permission (Lead through relationships)

Permission is the second stage where people will follow you of how they feel about you. They follow you because they want to, as a personal choice and not because someone forces them to follow you. When you become a permission-based leader, the folks around you permit you to lead them. Why? Because they sense a connection with you and value the dynamics, you share with them. When you get to this level 2 in the leadership ladder, you realise that leadership and influence are more about personal connections and less about authority. 


Level 3: Production (Lead through results)

As you attain level 3 of leadership, your leadership approach has a clear shift. People begin to follow you because of your credibility, track record, and pedigree. Everyone around you values you for your capacity to get things done. The results you have consistently delivered in the past begin to create leadership equity for you and build your influence and credibility as a leader. People WANT to follow you because of your reputation to produce good results.


Level 4: People Development (Lead through reproduction)

At level 4, people will follow you because of what you have done for them. They will follow you because their careers will advance due to your leadership abilities. You become the catalyst for others in the team becoming leaders in their own right. 

Your goal at this level goes beyond delivering results. It also is to identify and develop as many leaders as you can by investing in them, coaching them, and helping them grow. At level 4, you transmit your leadership qualities into others and reproduce more leaders.


Level 5: Pinnacle (Leadership by respect)

John Maxwell says it nicely in the book- When people respect you as a person, they admire you. When they respect you as a friend, they love you. When they respect you as a leader, they follow you.


Leaders at level 5 succeed through the success of others, unlike all previous levels. John Maxell calls this the Pinnacle of leadership, where it is about creating a new generation of leaders who are better than you. More than any personal ambition, leaders at level five are driven by a desire to mentor and develop other leaders who will achieve success in their own right and train the next generation. Good leaders create followers. Great leaders create leaders. They are at level 5.


Leadership is about growth – for yourself, the people you lead, and your organisation. To lead well, you must continuously evolve your leadership style, and John Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership model is like a leadership GPS to help you with your journey as a leader. 


Also read: Instead of trying to find your passion, develop it


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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views, official policy, or position of GlobalLinker.


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Pramod Veturi

Global leader with experience managing core banking functions with proven track record of delivering business transformation and growth.