Leadership at All Levels

When we understand that our ability to lead depends on our ability to influence, our perspective on leadership, job titles, and promotions change.


I worked for a large, global company, in a smaller satellite office in San Francisco. Majority of the senior positions and core departments were based in the New York headquarters office. This left many San Francisco employees muddled trying to map their career progression in a satellite office. Incredible talent resigned because they didn’t see how they could advance in the San Francisco office.


As a manager, I worked hard to paint a different picture of growth and advancement for my team. Instead of focusing on advancement based on titles, I challenged them to focus on growth and leadership. You see, leadership is simply influence. When we understand that leadership is title agnostic, everyone has the ability to be a leader. I challenged my team to acquire new skill sets that were aligned with their interests, and to increase their influence with their peers, counterparts in other offices, and colleagues in different departments. By doing so, they measured progression by their professional growth, not titles.


There are 5 Levels of Leadership developed by John Maxwell, helped me to understand my influence and develop leadership within my team. Each level is applicable in our personal or professional life. Each of us begin with the first level and advance up the pyramid as our influence increases. The higher your leadership position, the greater our influence. The Five Levels of Leadership include:


  1. Position: Positional leadership is based on a title or position, this is the lowest level of leadership. Someone saw something in you and gave you a position or title. At this level, people follow you because they have to. While there is nothing wrong with being in this position, you should not rely on your position/title for others to follow you and you should work to progress from this level as quickly as possible.

  2. Permission: This level of leadership is based on relationships. People follow because they want to. This often indicates that: --You have added value to people --You have invested in people --You care more about them than perhaps the rules --You work to help other people succeed

  3. Production: In production level leadership, people follow you because of your ability to get things done. Your ability to produce results builds influence and credibility, your track record precedes you. People follow you because you take initiative and your proven results. It's visible that you produce and you lead by example, at this level you should focus on equipping people to find and contribute their best.

  4. People development: This level of leadership is where ‘reproduction’ happens. The goal is to identify and develop as many leaders. At this level, people follow you for what you have done for them. Influence based on reproduction, you embrace the idea that people are your best asset and you invest in them by creating opportunities for them to grow and challenge themselves. You expose them to meetings and conversations that are at your level with the idea of them having greater exposure and experience to something that they currently do not have access to. At this level, you should think about how you can develop people. How can you replace yourself?

  5. Pinnacle: This level of leadership is the most difficult to obtain and requires the long road of commitment and intention. Not many people get here, this is your legacy. At this level, people follow you because of who you are and who you represent. Individuals at this level have to be cognizant of their time and focus on the most promising 20% of the people you lead. The impact of pinnacle leaders goes far beyond just an organization level.



Understanding the five levels of leadership helps you recognize that your leadership ability is beyond a title. Begin to focus on your growth, growing your relationships, increasing your results, and impacting your organization.


Wishing you increased growth in the New Year!