5 Levels of Leadership

The 5 Levels of Leadership: A Way to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

You guys know that I’m a big student of leadership. Heck, I even got my masters in the subject! As such, one of my favorite influencers is John Maxwell, and I once heard this really interesting lesson of his.

He called it the 5 Levels of Leadership.

Since the time I’ve learned about these levels of leadership (and posting this post on December 19, 2010), it’s helped me put a few things in perspective when it comes to not only seeing my progression, but recognizing where other influencers are at in their journey. By using this simple tool, among others, I keep myself from comparing where I’m at in my journey to where they’re at.

If you find yourself comparing your level of influence to others on social media and it bums you out, then you should definitely consider changing this habit!

You shouldn’t feel like you’re in a competition with them. Instead, you should use them for inspiration. Chances are good that they’ve had a longer journey and during that journey have had to go through each one of these checkpoints.

What’s great is that you can too!


As you all know, I’m a fan of John Maxwell. A really REALLY big fan. And I believe the main reason why is that I’ve always been interested in what makes a successful leader successful.

One of the key things to note about being a leader is that, according to Dr. Maxwell, leadership and the ability to influence others are basically the same thing. So in many, if not all, of his talks and writings, he will say that leadership IS influence.

With that said, it’s pretty obvious why one would want to be a leader. Just think, the more you lead, the more people that will agree with what you believe (for their own reasons)!! So really, your ability to influence others is a huge part of being successful not only in life, but also in business.

So how does one become a leader? Well, you can definitely wing it as many people do. You can have natural charisma (or any other leadership traits) and just get by OR, like anything else, you can learn to be one – A great one.

For me, I have had to relearn to be one – a real one. Not a guy who simply manipulates people to do what he wants them to do. Neigh, I mean a real leader who leads by example. A leader who pulls people with him and not pushes them. (Side note: people who push people where they don’t necessarily want to be often lose those people because they have pushed them too far.)

So answering the question… one becomes a leader by understanding key principles of leadership and practicing them. It’s as simple as that. Part of those key principles is the 5 Levels of Leadership. A note about these levels is that they are somewhat linear. Many times you must lead someone through level 1 before they are really in level 2 or 5 for that matter. However, this is not always the case.

5 Levels of Leadership:

Level 1.) Leadership from Position

This leadership level is the most basic. Many times it is usually not earned. One person has a title that another person does not. And because of this, one person reports to the other person. An example of this would be two people working at a restaurant. One has title of manager, the other has the title of line member. More often than not, the line member reports to the manager what they need to know and that’s it – without much feedback. Often with this level, there is minimum rapport because the person.

Level 2.) Leadership From Respect

This leadership level is just a notch higher than positional leadership. This level is where people start following another because they actually want to! The key to this position in leadership is that the leader shows that they care before the followers are interested in what the leader knows. You can begin to grow professionally as an organization when people follow you on their own.

Level 3.) Leadership from Results

People follow you not only because they want to, but also because of what you have accomplished.  Your group/organization will start to see what’s possible because you’ve actually accomplished a few things! And guess what? As a result, morale will rise even further than it was at the respect level.

Level 4.) Leadership from People Development

At this level of leadership, people follow you because of what you, as the leader, have done for them personally. Loyalty is key. At this point, the leadership has not only lead the organization to better things, but it has lead to the people themselves growing as leaders. Also, successful leadership at all levels is has an underscored by a win-win philosophy.

Level 5.) Leadership from Mentorship

At this point the leader is definitely respected. He has spent years developing other people and the organization. As a leader you are bigger than life and your success is shown through a life of accomplishment. Because not many people get to this level, people seek your knowledge for the success of other organizations.

In the end, success in leadership can be accomplished by any one. Something that is important to note is that the higher up in the levels a leader is, the longer it takes for that leader to get their own results and the more important it is for them to be aware of the leadership levels themselves.

If you’d like to know more about Leadership in general, for a starting point I highly recommend checking out John Maxwell’s Book – Becoming a Person of Influence.


Actions Steps

So where do you fall? How do you think you could get to the next level?

Even if you’re not actively comparing yourself with other influencers online, this is still a good way to measure where you’re at on that leader journey. As I’ve said in the past, all of us creators who have a message, product, or service that we want to give to the world… we’re eventually going to be leaders. It’s those of us who are aware that influence is leadership who will make the most impact.

So, have it. Let us know where you’re at in your journey below!

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