What are the Five Levels of Leadership?

Post by Open Colleges on July 21,st 2022

A recent study by Career Addict found that 79% of workers would leave a job due to poor leadership.  Interestingly, four in ten stated they would return to their old job if their former boss was replaced. 

Keeping great staff is a challenge for many organisations. Matthew Cavalier, Managing Director at the Australian Institute of Management (AIM), said, “Greater focus on quality leadership and ongoing professional development is key to improving employee engagement and retention.”   

So, how can you learn to become a more effective leader? And what’s the difference between a good and a great leader?  

Keep reading to find out!  



John Maxwell is an internationally recognised leadership expert, speaker, coach and best-selling author of The 5 Levels of Leadership. With over a million copies sold, the book is referred to as the Leader Bible. In the book, Maxwell claims that true leadership isn't a matter of having a certain job or title. He presents readers with the five stages of leadership and teaches you how to maximise each one to become more influential, respected and successful. 

Level 1 – Position 

This is the starting/entry point of the leadership journey and is considered the lowest level of leadership. At level 1, you might be the boss, but you aren’t yet a leader. Anyone can be appointed to this position and people follow you because they have to. While you have authority over your team, at level 1 you don’t wield any real influence over them so it’s hard to get the most out of your team.  

If you are currently in the Position level of Leadership, and wish to take your leadership to the next level, Maxwell suggests to: 

  • Attempt to collaborate with employees 
  • Be empathetic with employees 
  • Learn to communicate appreciation and recognition to employees 
  • Practice adopting an accepting attitude to increase team motivation 
  • Be approachable 
  • Learn as many relevant other management skills as possible 

Level 2 - Permission 

Level 2 is all about Relationships. When you treat your employees as individuals and begin to build relationships with them, you’ll develop a positive influence, which builds trust and respect. The work environment, in turn, becomes much more positive and team spirit begins to build.  

At this level, people follow you because they want to. In other words, they give the leader Permission to lead them.

To get to this level of leadership, remember to: 

  • Treat all your employees equally 
  • Always support your team members 
  • Make an effort to learn more about your employees 
  • Consider how all your decisions will affect the people around you 

Level 3 – Production 

This level is all about Getting things done! Production leaders produce results and create a significant impact on their organisation. People still follow because they want to, but they do it because of more than the relationship. People follow Level 3 leaders because of their track record

Developing leadership skills at this level includes: 

  • Encouraging employees to share input on decisions 
  • Listening and giving directions 
  • Improving communication skills to make connections 
  • Developing a mentoring program 
  • Delegating 

Level 4 – People Development 

At this level, people follow you because of what you’ve done for them. Those who reach Level Four are servant leaders who mentor, teach and multiply other leaders. That’s why it’s often referred to as the Reproduction level. According to Maxwell, the level 4 leader spends about 80% of his or her time on coaching colleagues and employees, and only 20% on his own productivity.  

Leaders at this level should: 

  • Remain consistent, approachable, and honest 
  • Be a mentor to everyone 
  • Develop their own personal and communication skills 
  • Communicate clear expectations for employee roles and functions  

Level 5 – Pinnacle  

This is the highest and most difficult level of leadership. This leader’s status is based on a foundation of Respect. They are followed because of who they are, what they’ve done, and what they represent to people. 

Becoming a level 5 leader requires longevity, you must be willing to invest your life and in the lives of others. From level 4, they are developing new leaders in the company, which will ensure a constant flow of new generations of leaders.  

Leaders at this level: 

  • Encourage new talent 
  • Let team members make their own independent decisions as much as possible 
  • Supervise employees who develop innovative products and achieve good results 
  • Demonstrate integrity and keep promises 
  • Improve a company’s reputation 

Are you interested in learning more about leadership? The business world is always in need of fresh entrepreneurial minds and qualified, inspiring leader! At Open Colleges, we offer a wide range of nationally recognised courses in leadership and business management.   

Gain the skills and confidence needed to either start your own business, or step up into a leadership position today! 

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