While most people become leaders through trial and error, the basic framework for leadership can be learned by looking at its five levels. Success at each level provides a foundation for advancement to the next.
1. Position. This is the entry level, where the only influence wielded by the leader comes with the position and job title within the organization. Reaching this level is based on appointment, not on ability or effort. Instead of team members, positional leaders have subordinates who will follow them only to the extent they are required to do so.
2. Permission. Reaching this level is based on relationships. A Level 2 leader has begun to develop influence with people by showing that they are valued and creating an environment of trust.
3. Production. Reaching this level is based on producing results for the organization. The influence and credibility of a Level 3 leader grows as goals are achieved and momentum is created.
4. People Development. Level 4 leaders use their resources to empower their people and create new leaders. Their relationships are deep, transformational, and often lifelong.
5. Pinnacle. Only the most talented leaders reach this level as it is based on their ability to develop Level 4 leaders and Level 5 organizations. Their skills and positive reputations are so strong that they create legacies and often are able to extend their influence beyond their industries.
Leaders advance by earning influence and credibility at each level. It is important for leaders to remember that:
*To attain higher levels, they must build on the relationships they have established and the productivity they have achieved at lower levels.
*Different people must be led different ways (i.e., based on their perceptions and stages of development).
*As they reach higher levels, they will find it increasingly easier to lead. This is because people respond to their growing influence.
*The higher they advance, the harder it will become to advance even further.
*While leadership is more secure at higher levels, it can be quickly and irreparably damaged. The importance of building and maintaining good relationships never diminishes.
*The higher their levels, the more rewarding and far-reaching their accomplishments are likely to be.
*To move up, they must intentionally learn and grow. This often requires taking risks.
*They may limit themselves and their people if they do not actively strive for advancement. Higher-level leadership is a function not only of capacity, but also of attitude and choice.
*Changing positions or organizations may mean starting again at a lower level; however, previous experience makes it easier to advance a second time.
*No one advances in leadership without accepting the challenge of helping, motivating, and developing others.