5 Levels of Leadership by John Maxwell Short Summary

Table of Content

“The Five Levels of Leadership, Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential by John Maxwell”

A Book Review/Critique Presented to:
Attorney Araceli Linatoc

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In partial fulfillment of the requirements in MPA 627
Leadership and Organizational Change

Lawrence Lerias
MPA Student

October 2013

The author of this book-The Five Levels of Leadership, Proven Steps to
Maximize Your Potential, John Maxwell, is an internationally recognized leadership expert, speaker and author. He has written more than 60 literary works which sold for more than 20 million copies. The author routinely lectures to Fortune 500 companies, government leaders, and churches. He has released a number of video lectures on leadership and training.

In this book, The 5 Levels of Leadership, the author discusses leadership as a step-by-step process with 5 discernable levels. For the author, leadership is defined as influence, if people can increase their influence on others, they can lead more effectively. He argues that the “true measure of leadership is influence, nothing more and nothing less.” The author further adds that leadership is a verb not a noun, and that the challenge of leadership is to create change and facilitate growth.

According to John Maxwell, each of the levels build on the previous one, and that a leader can only progress to the next level once he have mastered the previous one. He avers, that as a leader go higher it is easier to lead because his influence grows as well as the leadership becomes more service oriented. Maxwell says it takes a long time to get to the top level—and many never do. At the same time, leaders can go down very quickly. But if the leader have developed the right kinds of relationships with others, they will give support through the leader’s missteps and fumbles.

According to John Maxwell, the 5 levels of leadership are:

Position — People follow because they have to.
Permission — People follow because they want to.
Production — People follow because of what you have done for the organization. People Development — People follow because of what you have done for them personally. Pinnacle — People follow because of who you are and what you represent.



John Maxwell noted that people who make it to this stage are at the lowest level and may not be leaders yet, but just bosses. The Position level comes with an official title or job description. According to John Maxwell, it is the starting place for everybody who wants to take the leadership journey. The author emphasizes this level as the bottom of the leadership experience, and is the foundation upon which influence must be built. At this point, leaders have been invited to the leadership circle. They have been given certain rights to lead. This is where people follow the leader because the organization has leverage against the employee, because they control the pay check. Furthermore, at this level, “people follow you, because they have to”. They follow the leader because, simply put, the leader is the boss. The author started the book by discussing that many people confuse having a leadership position with actually being a leader. He made it clear that this only the entry point to leadership. It is the first level, Level 1 – Position. Leadership traditionally begins with Position. Someone joins the Army, and he or she becomes a recruit, working to earn the rank of private.

A person gets a job, and along with it comes a title or job description: labourer, salesperson, waiter, clerk, accountant, manager. Position is the starting place for every level of leadership. It is the bottom floor and the foundation upon which leadership must be built. Real influence must be developed upon that foundation. There was a time when people relied heavily on position to lead, which is no surprise when you consider that at one time, hereditary leadership positions were handed down from father to son (and sometimes daughter) within families. Princes became kings and their decisions were law — for good or bad. In most industrialized nations, those days are gone. True, there are still nations with kings and queens, but even in most of those nations, such as England, monarchs rule with the permission of the people, and the real leaders are usually elected. Position gives you a chance, but it usually carries with it very little real power, except in systems where the penalties for not following are dire. There’s nothing wrong with having a position of leadership. When a person receives a leadership position, it’s usually because someone in authority saw talent and potential in that person. And with that title and position come some rights and a degree of authority to lead others. Position is a good starting place. And like every level of leadership, it has its upsides and downsides.

The sad thing about this level is that some leaders get stuck at it. They try to lead people by position. They get stuck because they often say to their employees, “I am the boss, this is my job and your job is to follow me”.

The Upside of Position: You have been invited to the leadership table A Leadership Position Is Usually Given to People Because They Have Leadership Potential – You have been given a leadership position. Upper management believes that you have some leadership potential in you. A Leadership Position Means Authority Is Recognized – A positional leader can use the position given to him to legitimize his leadership and earn the right to lead his team. A Leadership Position Is an Invitation to Grow as a Leader – The position given to a leader is a start for personal growth. To maintain that leadership position you must continually grow and travel the leadership journey.

A Leadership Position Allows Potential Leaders to Shape and Define Their Leadership. – A positional leader gets to start his journey with a blank page. He gets to choose the leadership style he wants to. John Maxwell teaches that leader must start by knowing himself and his values. When he knows this, he can define the type of leadership he would practice. Maxwell adds, “The greatest upside potential for people invited to take a leadership position is that it affords them the opportunity to decide what kind of leader they want to be. The position they receive may be defined, but they are not.” He wrote further:

“When you first become a leader, your leadership page is blank and you get to fill it in any way you want. What kind of leader do you want to be? Don’t just become reactive and develop a style by default. Really think about it. Do you want to be a tyrant or a team builder? Do you want to come down on people or lift them up? Do you want to give orders or ask questions? You can develop whatever style you want as long as it is consistent with who you are. As you think about the way you will define your leadership, take into consideration what kinds of habits and systems you will consistently practice.

What will you do every day when you arrive at work? How will you treat people? What will be your work ethic? What kind of example will you set? Everything is up for grabs. It’s up to you to define it. And the earlier you are on the leadership journey, the greater the potential for gain if you start developing good habits now. The bottom line is that an invitation to lead people is an invitation to make a difference. Good leadership changes individual lives. It forms teams. It builds organizations. It impacts communities. It has the potential to impact the world. But never forget that position is only the starting point”. John Maxwell explained, that to succeed at this stage, one must know his values. The author discussed that values can be founded in three areas, Ethical values, Relational values and success values. He added further that mature leaders use their positions to drive high performance.

The Downside of Position: True leadership isn’t about position

1. Having position is often misleading. A position promises more than it can deliver. And according to Maxwell, although you have been given the right to lead, you still have to earn that right to lead. To him, leadership is action not position, and leadership is a verb not a noun. 2. Leaders who rely on position to lead often devalue people. To positional leaders, the position is more important than subordinates. As a result, team or organizations that have positional leaders often experience low morale because positional leaders look upon subordinates as lowly employees 3. Positional leaders feed on politics. They work to gain titles. They focus on control instead of contribution.

Highly politicized organizations are often inefficient because there are many unwritten rules and protocols. High-level of rivalries and maneuvering also adds up to the organization’s ineffectivity because of positional leaders coveting for the top post. 4. Positional leaders place rights over responsibilities. Leaders who rely on rights develop a self of entitlements. They feel that they are entitled to some level of importance, a VIP. They expect to be served instead of serve people. 5. Positional leaders are often lonely. Leadership is not about standing on top of other but standing beside others. Positional leaders create a negative work environment because they are easily threatened with people who have potential. As a result they undermine people with talent, which ends up with the employee leaving the organization for another. 6. Positional leaders get branded and stranded. The position doesn’t make the leader, the leader makes the position. When leaders fail to use their position to earn the right to lead, they are often branded as just a boss and not as a leader. They move laterally but never to a higher position. 7. Turnover is high for positional leaders. People quit on People (bosses), not companies. The low morale experienced by the organization tend to make employees look for other greener pastures. 8. Positional leaders receive people’s least not their best. The resulting low morale in the organization equals low productivity. Typically their employees become one of 3 types: Clock-watchers, Just-enough employees, and the Mentally-absent.

Best Behavior on Level 1: How to make the most of your position

Stop relying on position to push people. The best leader don’t use positions to get things done they use other skills. Influence comes into play. This is the time to form relationships with your subordinates. Show interest in them, learn things about them.

Trading entitlements for Movement/commitment. Leadership to Maxwell is not a right, it’s a privilege that must be continually earned. Good leaders don’t take anything for granted. They keep working and leading. For Level 1 leaders this is the time to forget their rights and focus on the responsibility to make difference in the lives of the people they lead.

Leave your position and move towards you people. Leaders are initiators. John Maxwell quoting Socrates, “let him that would move that world, first move himself”. Leaders at this level should leave their comfort zone, take the risk and begin by moving towards their people. It is the leader’s responsibility to initiate the relationship with his subordinates, not the other way around.

The Laws of Leadership at the Position Level: Lid, Process, and Navigation

The Law of the Lid: Leadership ability determines a person’s level of
effectiveness– A leader on level 1 should forget his positional title and focus on his ability and potential. He should break through the leadership lid and lift his leadership skills and effectiveness. Therefore the leader should not content himself with his present position, and must move beyond level 1. The Law of the Process: Leadership develops daily – The leadership position can be received in a day, but leadership development is a lifelong process. A leader should concede to the thought that leadership in not a position in the organization but a process. The Law of the Navigation: Anyone can steer the ship, but it takes a leader to chart the course – If you’re a leader on level 1, you must learn to chart the course. The leader should recognize his position in the leadership process, and determine how far he has to go, or how much he still has to learn.

Beliefs That Help a Leader Move Up to Level 2
Titles are not enough – According to John Maxwell, A leadership position is not a worth destination for any person’s life. Titles should not be enough because leadership should be active and dynamic. People not position, are a leader’s most valuable asset – People are the ones who get things done. A leader should focus more on his subordinates, not on his position. A leader should develop relationships with his people, to be able to influence them more and get things done. A leader doesn’t need to have all the answers – A leader’s job is not to know everything, but to attract people who know things that the leader does not. A leader must learn to harness the power of shared thinking. As Maxwell aptly put it, “one of us is not as smart as all of us”. A good leader always includes others – A leader should include others in the leadership journey. He should learn to develop and equip people. “The higher you go up the levels of leadership, the more you realize that good leadership is leading with others, not just leading others. Guide to growing through level 1

1. Thank people who invited you into leadership
2. Dedicate yourself to leadership growth
3. Define your leadership
4. Shift from position to potential
5. Focus on the vision
6. Shift from rules to relationships
7. Initiate contact with your team members
8. Don’t mention your title or position
9. Learn to say, I don’t know
10. Find a leadership coach


The second level is the PERMISSION LEVEL. People follow you because they want to. John Maxwell explains that the Permission level is about building relationships. He calls it the 2nd mile level, it is the level where subordinates stay longer at work and contribute more because the leader likes them and the people like their leader. The Permission level focuses on the value of each person and opens up communication. Connecting with people begins with connecting with and growing the leader within you. Maxwell shares that “The first person I must get along with is me, the first person to cause me problems is me, the first person that must change is me, and the first person that can make a difference is me.” On the Permission Level , Maxwell further adds that “You can’t Lead People until You like People”. It is also on this level that leaders listen to people and people listen to them. This is where leaders need to make people know they matter.

The book discusses that true leadership comes into being at Permission Level. In Level 1, subordinates did what they were asked only to avoid punishment and to keep their job. But at Level 2, people begin to follow willingly because the leader has built relationships with them. Since they get along with the leader, they gladly go along with him/her. They give their best because they have established a good relationship. Permission level is one of connecting and getting along with people. You as a “leader should spend more time with subordinates, because until people like you they won’t follow you.”

The Upside of Permission: The workplace has become more pleasant for everyone

Leadership permission makes work more enjoyable – According to John Maxwell,
leaders who move up to level 2 shift their focus from me to we. The relationships developed with subordinates create a positive working environment and this makes work more enjoyable. Leadership Permission increases the energy level – Good relationship creates energy. Spending time with people whom you have good relations with requires less energy than working with people you dislike or do not know personally. Leadership permission opens up channels of communication – The relationship cultivated between the leader and the people, replaced top-down positional leadership with side-by-side relationship. The side-by-side relationships create better communication which leads to a creation of an environment where people begin to work in a spirit of community. Leadership permission focuses on the value of each person – Maxwell explains that “you can care for people without leading them, but you cannot lead them effectively beyond level 1 without caring for them. Permission level is possible only when people respect and value one another.

Treat your people as individuals not just workers. This creates positive impact on people and strengthens your leadership. Leadership permission nurtures trust – Trust is the foundation of permission. The more trust leaders develop, stronger the relationship becomes. The better the relationship, the higher permission attained by the leader.

The Downside of Permission: The pressure is on you to build positive relationships

Permission leadership appears too soft for some people – Leaders should learn both the hard, productive side and the relational soft side, so as not too appear weak with people. If a leader is relational but not productive, the team won’t achieve progress. Likewise if a leader is productive without being relational, a small degree of progress will be achieved at the beginning but will fall short in the long term because people would eventually burn out. Leading by permission can be frustrating for achievers – Achievers want to get things done right and right away. They usually don’t stop or slow down for any reason. Leading by permission requires time.

Permissional leaders can be taken advantage of – When leaders are relational, followers often get close to them that sometimes they mistake this kindness as weakness. They assume that the closeness of the leader means that they can do whatever they want. According to John Maxwell as you travel the leadership journey, you will build relationships with people. He categorizes people as follows: Takers, Developers, Acquaintances, and Friends. Permission leadership requires openness to be effective – Leaders should be authentic to develop authentic relationship with their followers. They must be able to admit mistakes and recognize their shortcomings. If leaders try to maintain a facade with the people they lead, then they cannot build relationships. Permission leadership is difficult for people who are not naturally likable – If leaders want to be more likable they should start liking people as well. They should start caring about people within their control.

They should look for something that is likable about every person they meet. They should also discover what is likable about themselves and make effort every day to express what you like about every person around you. Permission leadership forces you to deal with the whole person – Leadership is essentially human business. Leaders should not be tempted to build relationships only with those they like or are highly compatible with. Personal differences only make relationships more enjoyable. Leaders who build relationships with their people understand that conflicts are essential to development and often advantageous.

Best Behaviors on Level 2: How to gain people’s permission

Connect with yourself before trying to connect with others – Here, John Maxwell discusses self-awareness, self-image, self-honesty, self-improvement and self-responsibility. This self-analysis will help leaders in knowing and liking themselves. In this manner, leaders can start to connect with people and build relationships. Develop a people-oriented leadership style – Leaders must think of people first to achieve progress. They shouldn’t rely on rules and depend on systems. Leaders must develop relationships with people in order to achieve progress. Practice the golden rule – Practice the golden rule to keep leadership in check. “Treat others as you want others to treat you”. The golden rule establishes the standard for relationships. Become the chief encourager of your team – Encouragement creates a positive work environment.

Leaders who often encourage people will be rewarded with a workforce who strives harder to meet the leader’s positive expectation. Strike a balance between care and candor. Candor is the state or quality of being frank, open, and sincere in speech or expression. Maxwell noted that, a leader needs to balance care and candor. He says that “too much care without candor creates dysfunctional relationships, while candor without care creates distant relationships”. Many think that being a permissional leader means giving people the leeway to do anything they want. Maxwell argues that caring doesn’t mean that you will let your people work without responsibility and accountability. If leaders care for their people, they should be able to speak candidly to subordinates in order to correct their mistakes. These in return will help them grow and perform better.

The Laws of Leadership at the Permission Level: Influence, Addition, Solid Ground, Magnetism, Connection and Buy-In

The law of Influence: the true measure of leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less – Maxwell reiterates that, leadership is influence. How does the leader get others to do something willingly? It is by influencing them. The law of Addition: Leaders add value by serving others – To move up to level 2, the permission level, leaders should lead in order to help people and add value to them. They should spend less time with selfish motives and focus more on helping people. The law of Solid Ground: trust is the foundation of leadership – People do not follow leaders that they do not trust. Leaders need to earn the trust of the people in order to influence them. The law of Magnetism: who you are is who you attract – Birds of the same feather flock together.

Like-minded people are attracted to one another. According to Maxwell, you must change yourself to the kind of people you want to attract. If you want achievers in your team, you must change and become an achiever. The law of connection: leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand – Maxwell explains, “connecting is the ability to identify with and relate to people in such a way that it increases your influence with them. As a leader, you must have the ability to connect with people in order to influence them.” The law of buy-in: people buy into the leader, then the vision – Before people buy into the vision, they should buy into the leader first. If the leader has not earned permission to lead, then
the people will not buy into the vision.

Beliefs That Help a Leader Move UP to Level 3

Relationships alone are not enough – Level 2 permissional leaders now have the influence over their team. The next step is to lead this team to accomplish something. Leaders are required to convert the people’s potential to their performance. Building relationships require a two fold growth – It is not enough that people grow toward each other when they build relationships, people must grow with each other. Leaders must grow toward and with their people. It’s always an ongoing task. Achieving the vision as a team is worth risking the relationship – Leaders should be willing to sacrifice the relationship he had built with his team to move forward towards the bigger picture. There is no progress without risk. Leaders should get used to stretching their people and taking them out of their comfort zone. If a leader risks and wins, his people will gain confidence and shared history. Trust on the leader increases.

Guide to Growing through Level 2

1. Be sure you have the right attitude toward people
2. Connect with yourself
3. Understand where you’re coming from
4. Express value for each person on your team
5. Evaluate where you are with your team
6. Accept the whole person as a part of leading
7. Make fun a goal
8. Give people your undivided attention
9. Become your team’s encourager-in-chief
10. Practice care and candor

According to John Maxwell, on this level the keyword is RESULTS and that “Production level leaders are followed because of what they have done for
the organization”. Level three, the Production Level, recognizes that relationships alone are not enough. It is expected that leaders have to get things done. Their credibility is based on their example. Leaders are measured by what the entire group have accomplished and not by the individual effort of the leader alone. Leaders develop relationships with their people to influence them so that they would willingly achieve results for the organization. To Maxwell, when followers see good results, they get a good reason to follow the leader.

Production Level qualifies a leader from people who merely occupy leadership positions. Leaders cannot fake Level 3. It is either you produce or not. Maxwell quotes Peter Drucker, “There are two types of people in the business community: those who produce results and those who give you reasons why they didn’t.” John Maxwell further explains that when leaders produce results, they create a positive culture, and the team starts to gain momentum and high morale. When leaders achieve their reputation for making things happen they attract high-achievers to the team. On this level, the weight of leadership is heavier because if you remove production people would stop to following the leader.

The Upside of Production: You now have leadership credibility Leadership production gives credibility to the leader – Leaders gain credential as leaders when they deliver results. This is where the leadership talk is supported by their walk. Critics are silenced when a leader delivers results. A leader should produce results to cement his reputation and qualify him as an authentic leader. Leadership production models and sets the standard for others visually – Productive leaders are an example to the people they lead, and their productivity sets the standard for the team. Leaders should model examples that set the standards for the team. Leadership production brings clarity and reality to the vision – Effective leaders always draw the big picture to his people. Production bridges the reality of the situation to the vision of the organization. In this manner, team members can relate more to the vision therefore contribute more to its attainment. Leadership production solves a multitude of problems – Good leaders on level 3 produce positive results which promote team morale. People with high morale often produce good results.

The momentum shared with the team becomes contagious and results in productivity solving much of the problems of the team. Leadership production creates momentum – Level 3 is a momentum producing level. When high morale and high productivity is sustained, momentum kicks in. Once momentum is rolling, everything is easier and performance is actually better than capability. When Steve Job’s Apple came out with the Iphone, momentum kicked in. From there Apple took off to claim most of the smart phone market. Maxwell identifies 3 types of people: momentum takers, momentum breakers, and the momentum makers. Leadership production is the foundation for team-building – Nobody leaves a winning team. When leaders produce they attract achievers. The leader can build a winning team by retaining the best people from the ones he attracted.

The Downside of Production: The weight of leadership just got heavier Being productive can make you think you’re a leader when you’re not – It is possible that a leader alone can produce result. He can deliver the results himself but that beats the purpose of being on a team. Being able to produce alone doesn’t make you a leader, being able to rally a team towards accomplishment does. Being a productive leader means being able to produce even when the leader is not around. Productive leaders feel a heavy weight of responsibility for results – Once a leader deliver results, expectations are higher for him to keep producing results. Produce consistently, a leader stays and reaps the benefits. Produce nothing, a leader loses his credibility, and may be, even his position. Production leadership requires making difficult decisions – Leadership is never easy. Leaders on this level should be able to decide upon difficult production decisions and respond promptly with the correct solution.

Postponement in decision-making often put the team at a disadvantage. Production leadership demands continual attention to level 2 – Level 2 is the foundation which level 3 leaders build upon. Leaders often fail to give continual attention to relationships once the team produces results. A good leader maintains balanced attention between his relationship with his team and production.

Best Behaviors on Level 3: How to make the most production in leadership Understand how your personal giftedness contributes to the vision – A leader must have a sense of vision for his leadership. A good leader focuses on his personal talents to help others reach their potential. When team members reach their potential, the vision becomes clearer. Cast vision for what needs to be accomplished – Leaders continually cast a vision to his people. He must create a clear link between the vision of the team to the everyday production of the team. In order to assist their team achieve the vision, leaders should help people define the vision, help people commit to the success of the vision, and help people experience success. Begin to develop your people into a team – At level 2 people begin to like being together but on level 3, people begin to work together. Maxwell quotes Stephen covey: “The job of a leader is to build a complimentary team, where every strength is made effective and every weakness is made irrelevant”. Maxwell discusses what a team leader should make happen: 1. Team members should complement one another.

2. Team members should understand their mission.
3. Team members should receive feedback about their performance 4. Team members should work in an environment conducive to growth and inspiration. Maxwell explains, that to achieve teamwork a leader must apply the applicable laws of teamwork which he discusses briefly in the book. Prioritize the things that yield high return – A leader must get a lot of right things done. Prioritizing what needs to be done yield highest return on effort and time. He further adds that. “Effective prioritizing begins with eliminating the things you shouldn’t be doing.” He argues that 80 percent of the time should be allocated for the strength zones while the other 20 percent on learning zone and other strengths, but 0 percent on weaknesses. To facilitate that, a leader should know his people’s strengths and weaknesses. Be willing and ready to be a change agent – Level 3 is where production gains momentum. Momentum provides the energy for needed change. A leader must be willing to facilitate change in order to grow the organization.

To grow an organization, a leader must convince his people why change is needed. Maxwell advises that when leaders recommend changes, they should focus and build similarities between the old and the new. To look for common ground in the following areas: 1. Vision – when vision is similar, people have the same view. 2. Values – If the people’s values are aligned, people can meet and share the same standards. 3. Relationships – When a leader has done ground work on level 2, then this is no longer a factor.

4. Attitude – People should have a positive attitude in order to effect positive change. 5. Communication – To facilitate change, communication within the team should be open, honest and ongoing. People should be informed and everybody should be on the same page.

Never lose sight of the fact that results are your goal – No matter how many obstacles a leader may face, leaders should always focus on productivity. They are held accountable for results. Their credibility depends on them delivering these results.

The Laws of Leadership at the Production Level: Respect, Magnetism, Picture, Victory, Big Mo, Priorities, Sacrifice and Buy-In

The law of respect: people naturally follow leaders stronger than themselves – People follow leaders because they have credibility, they have respect, and they deliver results. Generally, people do not follow leaders they perceive to be weaker than themselves. The law of Magnetism: who you are is who you attract – Birds of the same feather flock together. Like-minded people are attracted to one another. According to Maxwell, you must change yourself to the kind of people you want to attract. If you want achievers in your team, you must change and become an achiever. The law of the Picture: people do what people see – Good leaders on level 3 model examples. They show the way how things get done. They lead by going first and serving people. In this way, people see them and emulate their actions. The law of Victory: leaders find a way for the team to win – A productive leader attracts achievers and followers because they have a good track record for finding ways to win. People align themselves with victorious leaders because a team’s odds of winning improve when a good leader is leading.

The law of the Big Mo: momentum is a leader’s best friend – Production creates a positive cycle that makes leadership at level 3 easier. Good results create momentum. Momentum creates greater results. Greater results correlate to greater momentum. And the cycle goes on. The law of Priorities: leaders understand that activity is not necessarily accomplishment – Prioritizing get things done. Leaders concentrate on things that should be done. They do not dwell on things, and activities that do not produce results. They do things the right way, on the right time and for the right reasons. The law of Sacrifice: a leader must give up to go up – In order to develop to the next level, leaders have to sacrifice and give up some privileges and resources to move up. They have to give up doing things they love to do in exchange for things that give high return on their time. Leaders should learn to sacrifice anything but the essentials as they take the leadership journey. The law of Buy-in: people buy into the leader, then the vision – Before people buy into the vision, they should buy into the leader first. If the leader has not earned permission to lead, then the people will not buy into the leader and will not buy into the vision.

Beliefs That Help a Leader Move up to Level 4
Production is not enough – An effective leader should not be satisfied with producing results. He must learn to develop his team. For when team members improve, they increase the capacity of the organization. People are an organization’s most appreciable asset – People are the only asset of an organization that can appreciate. People’s value to the organization appreciates when leaders values them, challenges them, and develops them to the level wherein each individual can be leaders themselves. Growing leaders is the most effective way to accomplish the vision – Organizations get better when their people get better. Development of human resources always gives a greater return to an organization.

The more developed the leaders are in an organization, the more the organization develops. The more leaders an organization has, the closer it gets to accomplish its vision. People development is the greatest fulfillment for a leader – According to John Maxwell, People Development gives personal satisfaction to leaders. He says that “if you invest in people, they will never be the same again. And neither will you. It is impossible to help others without helping yourself.”

Guide to Growing through Level 3
1. Be the team member you want on your team
2. Translate personal productivity into leadership
3. Understand everyone’s productivity niche
4. Cast vision continually
5. Build your team
6. Use momentum to solve problems
7. Discern how team members affect momentum
8. Practice the Pareto principle
9. Accept your role as change agent
10. Don’t neglect level 2



On this level, John Maxwell explains that, leaders reproduce themselves, and that leaders change the lives of people they lead. An effective leader recognizes the fact that what got him to his current level of leadership won’t be enough to get him to the next one. A good leader understands that if he wants to keep getting better as a leader, he has to be willing to keep growing and changing, and that each move up the 5 Levels of Leadership requires a shift in strategy and a change in the way he leads. Maxwell explains that leadership on level 4 involves helping individual leaders to grow, and this in return extends the leader’s influence and impact. At Level 4, leaders transform from producers of results to developers of people. It is here that they come to understand that people are an organization’s most appreciable asset.

On level 4, people follow because of what the leader has done for them personally. People follow the leader because they continually develop while following him. Team members start feeling happy because they’re being better, and they become loyal to the leader and give him credit. To Maxwell, personal development leaders must acquire an eye for talent, and they must do their best to bring out the potential of each person on their team. As they unleash the unique strengths of the people on the team, the entire organization rises to new heights. Maxwell further adds, that leaders on Level 4 invest their time and energy into growing others as leaders.

They take time to look at every person and try to gauge their potential to develop and lead. Every person is a potential candidate for development. This practice of identifying and developing people compounds the positives of their organization because bringing out the best in a person is often a catalyst for bringing out the best in the team.

Developing one person for leadership and success lays the foundation for developing others for success.

Maxwell noted that leaders on the People Development level should shift their focus from the production achieved by others to the development of their potential. And they should put only 20 percent of their focus on their personal productivity while putting 80 percent of it on developing and leading team members.

The Upside of People Development: The potential of the organization just got greater

People development sets you apart from most leaders – Maxwell noted that the ability to develop people is often the difference between two organizations competing to succeed using similar resources. If a leader wants to grow an organization, he must grow his people. People development assures that growth can be sustained – Not all organizations and companies last. Developing and training people give organizations and companies the best chance of sustaining growth. When leaders help develop their people into reaching their potential, they ensure that the organization reaches its potential too. People development empowers others to fulfill their leadership responsibilities – When leaders focus on people development.

They create new leaders. When these leaders develop they create positive work environment and become productive. With the addition of more effective leaders, the organization’s effort to succeed improves as well. Leadership responsibility gets fulfilled. People development empowers the leader to lead larger – Sharing leadership with others doesn’t take away power from a leader. On the contrary, sharing responsibility gives you back time. As a leader develops his people, his territories expand. And with shared responsibility, the leader frees up more time to develop more people and do more important things.

People development provide great personal fulfillment – According to John Maxwell, People Development gives personal satisfaction to leaders. He says that the greatest satisfaction in life comes when we forget ourselves and focus on others. When leaders grow people, they grow closer to them and they share the growth journey with them. Howard Schultz, founder of Starbucks said, “Victory is much more meaningful when it comes not just from one person, but from the joint achievements of many.”

The Downside of People Development: Leading on level 4 requires high levels of maturity and skill

Self-centeredness can cause leaders to neglect people development – According to Maxwell, “when you become a leader you give up the right to think about yourself.” While Zig Ziglar says, “If you help others get what they want, they help you get what you want”. Level 4 requires the leader to recognize that he needs to sacrifice his personal goals in order to focus 80 percent of his attention in developing people. A leader on this level becomes a servant who removes obstacles that hinder his people from developing and attaining their organizational goals. Insecurity can make leaders feel threatened by people development – Insecure leaders continually sabotage themselves and others. They worry about their position and power.

This hinders them from developing their people. A leader should adjust his Ego, Control, and Trust to address his personal insecurities as this will hinder his commitment to people development. Shortsightedness can keep leaders from seeing the need for people development – The leader should always keep in mind that people development is a long term process. They shouldn’t let short-term thinking prevail over long term goals. A mature leader always takes time in developing his people to become competent. He should be willing to pay the price on the front end to receive the greater return on the back end. Lack of commitment can keep leaders from doing the hard work of people development – Attracting and developing people is hard work. Most leaders will not venture into tremendous sacrifices necessary for people development.

Best Behaviors on Level 4: How to develop people
Recruiting – find the best people possible – In order to recruit the best for your team, a leader must have a clear picture of who he is looking for. John Maxwell noted the 4Cs when looking for potential leaders, Chemistry, Character, Capacity and Contribution. Positioning – placing the right people in the right position – A leader must be able to position his team members in the niche where he can best contribute most. A leader must have a clear understanding of how team members can best fit on the team. To be able to do that, a leader must know the strength and weakness of each of his team member. Modeling – showing others how to lead – A leader should exhibit Authenticity, Servanthood, Growth, Excellence, Passion and Success for his people to emulate. Equipping- helping others do their jobs well – A leader must not simply tell their team what to do, a leader must help their team do their jobs and do them well. Maxwell discusses the five-step equipping process: Step 1 – I do it (competence)

Step 2 – I do it you’re with me (demonstration)
Step 3 – You do it and I’m with you (coaching)
Step 4 – You do it (empowerment)
Step 5 – You do it and someone is with you (reproduction)

Developing- teaching them to do life well – There is more to life than work and career. A good leader must help people do life well. A good leader should be continually on the lookout for holes in the life skills of his team members. He must help them achieve their best to live their life and enjoy it well. Empowering- enabling people to succeed – As a leader delegates tasks to the leaders that he is developing, he needs to trust them and not meddle in their work. When a leader believes in his team members, this motivates them.

When a leader holds his people accountable for their work, they increase their chances for positive results. Measuring- evaluating those whom you develop to maximize their efforts – Leaders on level 4 must be able to evaluate his team members on where they are on the leadership journey. This is to determine how he can help each team member develop as a leader.

The Laws of Leadership on the People Development Level: Process, Addition, Inner Circle, Empowerment, Explosive Growth, and Buy-In The Law of the Process: Leadership develops daily – The leadership position can be received in a day, but leadership development is a lifelong process. The leader should concede to the thought that leadership is not a position but is a process. The law of Addition: Leaders add value by serving others – To move up to level 2, the permission level, leaders should lead in order to help people and add value to them. They should spend less time with selfish motives and focus more on helping people. The law of the Inner Circle: a leaders potential is determined by those closest to him – People need one another.

A leader can only achieve the big vision if he has the help of those closest to him to attain that dream. Sharing the big picture and cooperatively working towards it is a sure way to achieve team goals. The law of Empowerment: Only secure leaders give power to others – Insecure leaders hide their best players. Good leaders promote their players. Leaders don’t reach level 4 unless they are willing to empower their best players, thereby making the leader an empowerer of other leaders. The law of Explosive Growth: to add growth, lead followers- to multiply, lead leaders – Developing leaders multiplies growth. When team members contribute to the organization, their contribution is minimal, but when a leader develops the member to become a leader, his contribution multiplies, and he uses this ability to achieve more for the organization. The law of Buy-In: people buy into the leader, then the vision – Before people buy into the vision, they should buy into the leader first. If the leader has not earned permission to lead, then the people will not buy into the vision.

Beliefs that Help a Leader Move up to Level 5-
According to Maxwell, Leaders who have managed to move up to Level 4 are at a very high level. Higher than 90 percent of all other leaders. But he says, there is still one more level higher that a leader has to achieve. Fewer than 1 percent of all leaders achieve it. He adds that in order for a leader to have a good chance of making it to the top, he must first embrace the following beliefs: The highest goal of leadership is to develop leaders, not gain followers or do work – When a leader helps other people become leaders, this changes their lives. It change the way they see the world.

The leader affects their capacity and increases their potential. If they become good leaders, the leader does not only improve their lives, but also the lives of everyone they touch. To develop leaders you must create a leadership culture – A leader must create a culture of leadership to be able to move up to Level 5. Team members must believe that in order for the organization to grow the people must grow too. An organization grows when its people are developed as good leaders. It is the leaders job to huddle his people to commit into their own development. Developing leaders is a lifetime commitment, not a job commitment – Level 4 leaders develop people.

Level 5 leaders consistently develop leaders over a lifetime, and the leaders they raise up also develop leaders. The level 5 leader’s lifestyle is to practice this everywhere all the time. For them, it is not just a program they implement or a task they occasionally practice, they do it all the time. Mentoring is a mantle that they wear willingly and they strive to add value to others. Guide to Growing through Level 4

1. Be willing to keep growing yourself
2. Decide that people are worth the effort
3. Work through your insecurities
4. Recruit the best people you can develop
5. Commit to spend the time needed to develop leaders
6. Create a personal development process
7. Never work alone
8. Blend the soft and hard sides of development
9. Take responsibility for energizing others
10. Remain approachable as a leader, a role model, and a coach

THE HIGHEST LEADERSHIP ACCOMPLISHMENTS IS DEVELOPING OTHER LEADERS TO LEVEL 4 To Maxwell, only naturally gifted leaders reach the Pinnacle. He estimates that less than 1 percent of all leaders ever reach Level 5.

Leaders on level 5 have gained a reputation for excellence, and people follow them on account of respect: people follow because of who they are and what they represent. Pinnacle leaders have created a legacy that transcends their organization and extends beyond their industry. Reaching the pinnacle level is not only leading well on other four levels, it also requires a high degree of skill and some amount of natural leadership ability. The individuals who reach Level 5 lead so well for so long that they create a legacy of leadership in the organization they serve. That is why most
leaders who reach the Pinnacle do so later in their careers.

Level 5 leaders stand out from everyone else because they bring success with them in the organizations they lead. Leadership at this level lifts the entire organization and creates an environment that benefits everyone in it, contributing to their success.

According to Maxwell, Level 5 leaders possess influence that transcends the organization and the industry they work in. But the Pinnacle level is not a resting place for leaders to stop and view their success. It is a reproducing place from which they make the greatest impact of their lives.

That’s why leaders who reach the Pinnacle should make the most of it while they can. With gratitude and humility, they should lift up as many leaders as they can, tackle as many great challenges as possible and extend their influence to make a positive difference beyond their own organization and industry.

The Upside of the Pinnacle: Your influence has expanded beyond your reach and your time

Pinnacle leadership creates a level 5 organization – Some organizations seem to function at an extraordinary high level because they have great leaders. Level 5 leaders create level 5 organizations. Level 5 leaders empower many people to lead larger. These leaders develop leaders as well, so the multiplication of leaders continue. If a leader produces lots of leaders, the organization grows and develops. Pinnacle leadership creates a legacy within the organization – According to Walter Lippman, “the final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the convictions and the will to carry on.” Level 5 leaders want to do more than just run an organization well, they want to create a legacy. When a leader reaches the pinnacle level he has the opportunity to make an impact beyond his tenure, beyond his own life time.

He can achieve this by developing a generation of leaders who will develop the next generation of leaders. Pinnacle leadership provides an extended platform for leading – Because pinnacle leaders are respected, people seek their advice. This gives them a greater platform to influence people. Here, Maxwell discusses the process of Learn, Earn, Return. The process of “learning” begins when you start with the leadership journey. When they reach the production level and when they start to climb the leadership ladder, they “earn” recognition for their achievements. When leaders start to develop the next generation of leaders, that is called the “return” phase. The phase wherein they give back to others what they have learned in the leadership journey.

The Downside of the Pinnacle: You may start to believe it’s all about you

Being on a pinnacle can make you think you’ve arrived – Leaders on level 5 may start to think that they have arrived. That they are already on the top of their field and there is nothing more to learn. And that their success is deserved rather than hard-earned. People who reach the pinnacle are always in danger of thinking that everything from thereon is smooth sailing. Leaders who are in the top of their field cannot take anything for granted. A leader can never arrive, a leader can only get better. Being on the pinnacle can lead you to believe your own press – Success can get into the heads of level 5 leaders. They may start to think that they are god’s gift to others. When a leader begins to believe his own press, he stops from being a leader to being ridiculous.

A level 5 leader must always be able to produce consistently. He must be humble enough to realize that his success is the result of work by a lot of people helping him along the way. Being on the pinnacle can make you lose focus – A leader on level 5 can lose focus because of the success that surround him. Leadership success opens opportunities for other endeavors. This opportunities become distractions for a pinnacle leader. Maxwell advises, “that no matter where you are in your leadership journey, never forget that what got you to where you are won’t get you to the next level.”

Best Behaviors on Level 5: How to use the pinnacle as a platform to do something greater than yourself

Make room for others at the top – A level 5 leader should create room at the
top. Maxwell says that instead of cultivating followers, a leader should create a room at the top by promoting good leaders. This in turn increases the size and power of the organization. Every time an organization produce a level 5 leader, they gather more good people to them, as a result the organization grows. According to Maxwell, the characteristics of a level 5 leader who develops leaders are: 1. leader’s desire – Being succeeded instead of needed

2. The leader’s focus – Working on people’s strengths instead of weaknesses 3. The leader’s attitude – Giving away power instead of hoarding it 4. The leader’s perspective – seeing potential leaders as they could be instead of as they are 5. The leader’s impact – Knowing it takes a level 5 leader to develop a level 4 leader

Continually mentor potential level 5 leaders – a level 5 leader has a greater responsibility in developing leaders. They should not stop mentoring people. He must give his best to all potential level 5 leaders because only a level 5 leader can raise up other level 5 leaders.

Create an inner circle that will keep you grounded – Often times, success gets in the head of level 5 leaders. The function of the inner circle is to keep the pinnacle leader grounded. When the leader is with his inner circle he would always remember that his success was delivered with the help of his inner circle. Do things for the organization that only level 5 leaders can do – All the work a leader has done and the influence he has gained over the years is at the disposal of the level 5 leader so that he can do something bigger with it. A level 5 leader has this platform and advantage to be able to do things that only a level 5 leader can do for his organization.

Plan for your succession – Leaving a successor is the last great gift a leader can give his organization. A level 5 leader should put ego aside and strive to create successors who go beyond them. He should groom his successor and leave the organization while he is at his peak, and not when he is slowing down, and beginning to hurt the organization. Leave a positive legacy – A level 5 leader should decide on what legacy he plans to leave. He should work on that legacy daily in order to leave a positive impact to the organization. A leader should understand that his legacy is the sum of his whole life. Maxwell says, “Decide today what your life will be, and then take action each and every day to live your dreams and leave your legacy”.

The Laws of Leadership at the Pinnacle Level: Respect, Intuition, Timing, Legacy, and Explosive Growth

The law of respect: people naturally follow leaders stronger than themselves – People follow leaders because they have credibility, they have respect, and they deliver results. Generally, people do not follow leaders they perceive to be weaker than themselves. They follow leaders that they respect. The law of Intuition: leaders evaluate everything with a leadership bias – Level 5 leaders posses leadership intuition. That’s the hunch that informs the leader that something is right. Intuition is the ability to express immediate insight without rational thought. Leaders should develop this leadership intuition from leadership experience.

The law of Legacy: a leader’s lasting value is measured by succession – According to Maxwell, the goal in life is not to live forever. The goal in life is to create something that does. The best way to leave a legacy is to invest what you have in the lives of others. The law of explosive growth: to add growth, lead followers- to multiply, lead leaders – Developing leaders multiplies growth. When team members contribute to the organization, their contribution is minimal, but when a leader develops the member to become a leader, his contribution multiplies, and he uses this ability to achieve more for the organization.

Guide to Being Your Best at Level 5
1. Remain humble and teachable
2. Maintain your core focus
3. Create the right inner circle to keep you grounded
4. Do what only you can do
5. Create a supercharged leadership development environment
6. Create a room at the top
7. Develop your top leaders
8. Plan your succession
9. Plan your legacy
10. Use your leadership success as a platform for something

I began this book review by watching John Maxwell’s video lecture on the same subject, The 5 Levels of Leadership. On the video lecture, he lectured in shorter but concise discussions on the Levels of Leadership. In summary, what he discussed on the video lecture is roughly the same with the contents of this book, minus the “Leadership Assesment” and the “Portrait of a Level 5 Leader”. After reading, I can assume that this book embodies the core of John Maxwell’s teaching. It spells out his leadership model, his style of leadership. This is his leadership approach to managing an organization. To get into the details of his teachings, I think that The 5 Levels of Leadership, is the doorway to other works of John Maxwell. It is a good entry point which an aspiring leader can start with.

Cite this page

5 Levels of Leadership by John Maxwell Short Summary. (2016, May 11). Retrieved from


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