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My notes from:

The Five Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential

The five levels:

  1. Position
  2. Permission
  3. Production
  4. People development
  5. Pinnacle


Authority comes from a position and not from people’s desire to be led by the person in the position. While this is usually a start in the leadership journey for many, it should be a quick stepping stone, not a permanent place. If leaders stay there for too long and become authoritarian, the people they lead will become clock watchers, simply doing what is absolutely and minimally necessary, and then disappear when the clock strikes the end of the day.

An alternative start to a leadership journey might be to ask potential leaders to lead people before giving them the position. In this way, they will see that it’s hard and that they must use other (hopefully better and more sustainable) tools to influence.

Use your position to improve people instead of using people to improve your position.


At this level, people don’t comply with orders anymore; they start to follow.

The focus is on relationships, from me to we.

What can you do for people who can’t do anything for you? It’s in situations like this that you show caring. An example of this behavior is when Nelson Mandela invited his guest’s driver to join them for breakfast instead of waiting in a car.

If you step on people’s fingers when you go up, they’ll trip you when you go down.

In other words, they will enjoy your fall if you mistreat them.

As long as people have a pulse, you’ll deal with messy and difficult situations.

The people part is the most challenging aspect of leadership, so you should expect it and embrace it positively. Giving and receiving feedback about work and performance is a continuous exercise. Have tough conversations early. It’s all about trust.

To know others, you first have to know yourself. Self-awareness is critical.

You must be willing to sacrifice relationships for the sake of the vision. Risk relationships by pushing people out of their comfort zone—you can either shrink the vision or stretch the people to reach you.


Producing results:

  • gives credibility to the leader
  • sets the standard for followers
  • motivates followers
  • creates momentum for their organization so that others can be successful too (going with the tide)
  • solidifies the team because everyone wants to be on the winning team

Explain the vision and what needs to be done. Refrain from assuming people know what you know.

Build productive teams, and use everyone’s strengths to make the weaknesses irrelevant.

People development

This phase is all about growing leaders on your team. The test of leadership is not what happens when you’re there but what happens when you’re not. (My note: it’s the exact definition of company culture)

Behaviors and attitudes of the leader:

  • Sharing the responsibility, don’t be a lid in your organization preventing others from growing through direct experience.
  • Removing obstacles for people who do the work.
  • Allow yourself and others a mistake quota when learning.
  • Work yourself out of your job. Train others to do your job.
  • Empowerment. Scaffolding and modeling for others.

For more information, look at the Tannenbaum and Schmidt leadership continuum.

The eye of the master will do more work than both his hands. — Ben Franklin

The pinnacle

  • Bringing other leaders to level four
  • Thought leader in an industry or beyond
  • Using your influence for something bigger than yourself

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