5 levels of leadership

John Maxwell described 5 levels of leadership in his book. This is the book on how to grow out a mediocre head to the leader who inspires and admires. At what level are you? Do you know how to move on to the next one? Our article will help you to understand it.

The leader of the first level. Position.

The first level is only formal leadership by position and authority. Talent, experience, efficiency – they do not play any role here.

If the formal leader does not plan to develop and move to the next levels, he transfers this formalism to the relationship with his wards.

He has a clear distinction between his employees and himself: I am the boss; they are my subordinates. The leader of the first level does not try to get closer to his employees (it is difficult to say “his team”). The place of personal human communication is the labour code, work schedule and other purely formal things.

Employees do what they have to. No less, but no more. In such a team, they are unlikely to have enthusiasm and initiative. Employees will treat their activities as formally and callously.

Often the leaders of the first level abuse their authority: “I am your boss. Do what I say.” Of course, such a person does not cause sympathy among employees.

Let’s summarize the characteristics of the leader of the first level:

  1. He doesn’t appreciate people.
  2. Not ready for the changes, hates them.
  3. Prones to micromanagement.
  4. Where he works, the constant turnover of personnel.

To go to the next level he needs:

  1. To say “thank you” to those who made him a leader.
  2. Start thinking of yourself not as a boss, but as a leader – someone who will lead people.
  3. Start developing and getting better day by day.
  4. Start communicating with your colleagues not only on topics related to work.
  5. Learn to admit he doesn’t know something. That’s OK.
  6. Identify the role he plays in the company. What can he do for it?


Leader of the second level. Relations.

The leader of the second level perceives his employees not as soulless robots that perform the work plan, but as people. The same as he, with problems and weaknesses, with individual features and personal advantages.

The leader of the second level strengthens interpersonal relationships in the team, whereby its employees are more motivated and friendly. The warm, friendly and trusting atmosphere in the team leads to increased efficiency.

Characteristic features of the leader of the second level:

  1. Trusts people.
  2. Energetic.
  3. Values each employee as a person.
  4. Actively communicates with all employees.
  5. Strives to create a favourable atmosphere in the team.

But there are also disadvantages: often workers sit on the neck or do not take seriously, consider soft. The leadership of the second level is difficult for introverts.

To go to the next level you need:

  1. Start living in harmony with yourself.
  2. Praise your team members at least once a week.
  3. Learn to enjoy your work.
  4. Find time to communicate with the team.
  5. Learn to be an inspirer of other employees.


The leader of the third level. Productivity.

The second level is just the beginning. A pleasant atmosphere is not enough.

The leader of the third level is always involved in the workflow. He’s professional. He initiated it. He is the one who solves the most challenging problems. He leads and sets an example.

Characteristic features of the leaders of the third level:

  1. They are productive and inspire the productivity of others.
  2. They don’t delegate every problem. They know how to solve them themselves.
  3. They create strong and cohesive teams.

But this is not the limit. For the next level they need:

  1. Learn to understand what each employee is good at.
  2. Discuss the company’s mission with the team.
  3. Create situations of success.
  4. Analyze the work of the team, praise, make plans.
  5. Do not forget about the second level: productivity is important, but people are more important.


The leader of the fourth level. Development.

The leader of the fourth level changes the lives of his employees. At the fourth level, the leader is engaged not only in work but also in the development of his wards. The leader of the fourth level brings up new leaders in his team.


  1. Focuses on the growth and development of employees.
  2. Does not suffer from perfectionism.
  3. Not seeking to be the sole leader.
  4. Helps other employees become leaders.
  5. Values process more than results.


Level five leader. Top.

This level is not for everyone. Leaders of the fifth level go beyond their position, company or even industry. The most important long term goal for an organization is to continuously work on building the next generation of leaders who can succeed the current generation, which means, a level 5 leader should build more level 4 leaders.

Tips for the leaders of the fifth level:

  1. Be an example.
  2. Create a circle of people who will support each other and motivate for development.
  3. Help potential leaders of the fifth level.
  4. Leave a place on top for the other leaders of the fifth level.

In our opinion, every leader and in general every person who wants to lead people should strive for the leadership of the fifth level. Of course, this requires serious work and time, but the result is worth it.