The Secret Level Of The 5 Levels Of Leadership

The 5 Levels Of Leadership does a great job of outlining every leader's growth.  However, let's discover the secret level, that's not in Maxwell's book and see what it means to us as Kingdom Driven Leaders.

5 Levels Of Leadership is a classic book that does a great job of outlining every leader’s growth as it relates to the overall leadership of individuals in their organization.   The book suggests that we all start off at level one, positional leadership.  This is leadership by default or by title.  From there your leadership grows from permission to people development.

As your influence grows your leadership level grows.  According to the book when your leadership is at its highest it’s at the pinnacle, a place where people follow you based on what you represent as a person.

As Kingdom Driven Leaders, it’s a great starting point but not the finish line.  There’s one more level that’s not talked about directly in Maxwell’s book.  I believe Maxwell would agree with me and throughout his book, you’ll see this secret level operating behind the scenes.

It’s worth pointing out at the beginning that the levels could be measured individually from leader to follower.  Meaning that the levels are more fluid than they would appear.  If you lead an organization, then every new hire starts at level one with your leadership.

At any level, a leader doesn’t automatically stay at that level. You must earn your level of leadership with each person, and that level can go up or down at any time.John Maxwell

In order to see the level, we need to go a bit deeper into the 5 Levels of Leadership and look at how it compares to being a Kingdom Driven Leader.

Level 1:  Positional Leadership

Positional leadership is leadership by default.  People follow you based on your title.  You have a title, but they know nothing about you.

Secret Level Clue Question:   If positional leadership is level one, what about those without a title?  Also, how was the title obtained? Keep reading.

Level 2:  Permission Leadership

At level 2 you’re leading others because they like you.  According to Maxwell, you’ve done a few things to build the relationship and your follower’s motivation has changed slightly from following you because they have to, to a willingness to work together because there is a relationship.  Leaders of large organizations or large teams can often “stall” out here building a relationship because in an effort to be productive there isn’t a focus on relationship building.

Secret Level Clue Question: What would be the best way to develop that relationship?

Level 3: Production

At level three, people follow you because they are bought into the mission and believe in your leadership.   If you were to poll the average person about the pinnacle of leadership, this would likely be it.  If you think of high-level leaders, like the President, this might be the best you could hope for.   At this level, you’re getting a lot of things done.  Some might say you completing successful endeavors.

Secrete Level Clue Question:  What mission would be the most fulfilling to others?

Level 4: People Development

At level 4 people follow you because you’ve given them a vision for growth.  If you’re here, then it means you’ve communicated something beyond the company goals and focused on the goals of the individual.  This doesn’t have to be a grandiose “calling” or mission, you simply have communicated a path for growth.  This could be something as simple as additional education or income or it could be life-changing.

Secret Level Clue Question:  What’s one area of growth that matters most?

Level 5:  Pinnacle – people follow you because of what you represent as a person

While the first 4 levels focus on what you deliver to the person, the last level is where people follow you because of what you represent.   The book contends that it’s because you’ve built the relationship that you’ve “obtained” this level of influence and become a pinnacle leader.   This level of leadership is hard to obtain.   It’s only after a lifetime of leading that some will ever be able to obtain this level of leadership.

Each level builds on the other and it’s relative to the individual.

Secret Level Clue Question:  What makes someone want to follow you?

Secret Level 6:  Servant Leadership

The book strongly hints at this level by implying that level 5 is a way of life and not just a level.  For you to be a servant leader you’ve invested heavily in people.  Sometimes this is individuals but often leaders near the top of the organization can’t invest in everyone individually.

Instead, they have to do 2 things.  First, they have to influence the culture and systems that communicate value to people in the organization.  Next, they have to do for the 1 that they wish they could do for the many.   In this way, leaders can serve leaders who can see servant leadership modeled and continue on.

This is Jesus’ servant leadership model. 

  1. He established a culture of what it looks like to serve others through countless miracles.
  2. He selected 12 to invest in heavily and serve and modeled it for them even washing their feet.

Looking back at our questions, you can easily see that only by valuing people and investing in them will you ever truly be a leader.  People desire honesty and humility from their leaders and there’s no better way to do that than as a servant leader.


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