We can increase our influence and leadership potential if we understand the following levels of leadership:
LEVEL 1:POSITION—PEOPLE FOLLOW BECAUSE THEY HAVE TO
This is the basic entry level of leadership. The only influence you have is that which comes with a title. People who stay at this level get into territorial rights, protocol, tradition, and organizational charts. These things are not negative unless they become the basis for authority and influence, but they are poor substitutes for leadership skills.
A person may be “in control” because he has been appointed to a position. In that position he may have authority. But real leadership is more than having authority; it is more than having the technical training and following the proper procedures. Real leadership is being the person others will gladly and confidently follow. A real leader knows the difference between being the boss and being a leader.
• The boss drives his workers; the leader coaches them.
• The boss depends upon authority; the leader on goodwill.
• The boss inspires fear; the leader inspires enthusiasm.
• The boss says “I”; the leader, “we.”
• The boss fixes the blame for the breakdown; the leader fixes the breakdown.
Characteristics of a “Positional Leader”
Security is based on title, not talent. The story is told of a private in World War I who shouted on the battlefield, “Put out that match!” only to find to his chagrin that the offender was General “Black Jack” Pershing. When the private, who feared severe punishment, tried to stammer out his apology, General Pershing patted him on the back and said, “That’s all right, son. Just be glad I’m not a second lieutenant.” The point should be clear. The higher the person’s level of true ability and the resulting influence, the more secure and confident he becomes.
This level is often gained by appointment. All other levels are gained by ability. Leo Durocher was coaching at first base in an exhibition game the Giants were playing at West Point. One noisy cadet kept shouting at Leo and doing his best to upset him.
“Hey, Durocher,” he hollered. “How did a little squirt like you get into the major leagues?”
Leo shouted back, “My congressman appointed me!”
People will not follow a positional leader beyond his stated authority. They will only do what they have to do when they are required to do it. Low morale is always present. When the leader lacks confidence, the followers lack commitment. They are like the little boy who was asked by Billy Graham how to find the nearest post office. When the lad told him, Dr. Graham thanked him and said, “If you’ll come to the convention center this evening you can hear me telling everyone how to get to heaven.”
“I don’t think I’ll be there,” the boy replied. “You don’t even know your way to the post office.”
Positional leaders have more difficulty working with volunteers, white collar workers, and younger people. Volunteers don’t have to work in the organization so there is no monetary leverage that a positional leader can use to make them respond. White collar workers are used to participating in decision-making and resent dictatorial leadership. Baby boomers in particular are unimpressed with symbols of authority.
The following characteristics must be exhibited with excellence on this level before you can advance to the next level.
Level 1: Position/Rights
• Know your job description thoroughly.
• Be aware of the history of the organization.
• Relate the organization’s history to the people of the organization (in other words, be a team player).
• Accept responsibility.
• Do your job with consistent excellence.
• Do more than expected.
• Offer creative ideas for change and improvement.
LEVEL 2: PERMISSION—PEOPLE FOLLOW BECAUSE THEY WANT TO
Fred Smith says, “Leadership is getting people to work for you when they are not obligated.” That will only happen when you climb to the second level of influence. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Leadership begins with the heart, not the head. It flourishes with a meaningful relationship, not more regulations.
A person on the “permission” level will lead by interrelationships. The agenda is not the pecking order but people development. On this level, the leader donates time, energy, and focus on the follower’s needs and desires. A wonderful illustration of why it’s so critical to put people and their needs first is found in the story of Henry Ford in Amitai Etzioni’s book, Modern Organizations: “He made a perfect car, the Model T, that ended the need for any other car. He was totally product-oriented. He wanted to fill the world with Model T cars. But when people started coming to him and saying, ‘Mr. Ford, we’d like a different color car,’ he remarked, ‘You can have any color you want as long as it’s black.’ And that’s when the decline started.”
People who are unable to build solid, lasting relationships will soon discover that they are unable to sustain long, effective leadership. Needless to say, you can love people without leading them, but you cannot lead people without loving them.
Caution! Don’t try to skip a level. The most often skipped level is 2, Permission. For example, a husband goes from level 1, Position, a wedding day title, to level 3, Production. He becomes a great provider for the family, but in the process he neglects the essential relationships that hold a family together. The family disintegrates and so does the husband’s business. Relationships involve a process that provides the glue and much of the staying power for long-term, consistent production.
The following characteristics must be mastered on this level before you can advance to the next one.
Level 2: Permission/Relationship
• Possess a genuine love for people.
• Make those who work with you more successful.
• See through other people’s eyes.
• Love people more than procedures.
• Do “win-win” or don’t do it.
• Include others in your journey.
• Deal wisely with difficult people.
LEVEL 3: PRODUCTION—PEOPLE FOLLOW BECAUSE OF WHAT YOU HAVE DONE FOR THE ORGANIZATION
On this level things begin to happen, good things. Profit increases. Morale is high. Turnover is low. Needs are being met. Goals are being realized. Accompanying the growth is the “big mo”—momentum. Leading and influencing others is fun. Problems are solved with minimum effort. Fresh statistics are shared on a regular basis with the people who undergird the growth of the organization. Everyone is results-oriented. In fact, results are the main reason for the activity.
This is a major difference between levels 2 and 3. On the “relationship” level, people get together just to get together. There is no other objective. On the “results” level, people come together to accomplish a purpose. They like to get together to get together, but they love to get together to accomplish something. In other words, they are results-oriented.
The following characteristics must be mastered with excellence before you can advance to the next level.
Level 3: Production/Results
• Initiate and accept responsibility for growth.
• Develop and follow a statement of purpose.
• Make your job description and energy an integral part of the statement of purpose.
• Develop accountability for results, beginning with yourself.
• Know and do the things that give a high return.
• Communicate the strategy and vision of the organization.
• Become a change-agent and understand timing.
• Make the difficult decisions that will make a difference.
LEVEL 4: PEOPLE DEVELOPMENT—PEOPLE FOLLOW BECAUSE OF WHAT YOU HAVE DONE FOR THEM
A leader is great, not because of his or her power, but because of his or her ability to empower others. Success without a successor is failure. A worker’s main responsibility is doing the work himself. A leader’s responsibility is developing others to do the work. The true leader can be recognized because somehow his people consistently demonstrate superior performances.
Loyalty to the leader reaches its highest peak when the follower has personally grown through the mentorship of the leader. Note the progression: At level 2, the follower loves the leader; at level 3, the follower admires the leader; at level 4, the follower is loyal to the leader. Why? You win people’s hearts by helping them grow personally.
The core of leaders who surround you should all be people you have personally touched or helped to develop in some way. When that happens, love and loyalty will be exhibited by those closest to you and by those who are touched by your key leaders.
There is, however, a potential problem of moving up the levels of influence as a leader and becoming comfortable with the group of people you have developed around you. Many new people may view you as a “position” leader because you have had no contact with them. These two suggestions will help you become a people developer:
1. Walk slowly through the crowd. Have some way of keeping in touch with everyone.
2. Develop key leaders. I systematically meet with and teach those who are influencers within the organization.
They in turn pass on to others what I have given them.
The characteristics that must be mastered at this level are listed below.
Level 4: People Development/Reproduction
• Realize that people are your most valuable asset.
• Place a priority on developing people.
• Be a model for others to follow.
• Pour your leadership efforts into the top 20 percent of your people.
• Expose key leaders to growth opportunities.
• Attract other winners/producers to the common goal.
• Surround yourself with an inner core that complements your leadership.
LEVEL 5: PERSONHOOD—PEOPLE FOLLOW BECAUSE OF WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU REPRESENT
Most of us have not yet arrived at this level. Only a lifetime of proven leadership will allow us to sit at level 5 and reap the rewards that are eternally satisfying. I do know this—some day I want to sit atop this level. It’s achievable.
The following characteristics define the Level 5 leader.
Level 5: Personhood/Respect
• Your followers are loyal and sacrificial.
• You have spent years mentoring and molding leaders.
• You have become a statesman/consultant, and are sought out by others.
• Your greatest joy comes from watching others grow and develop.
• You transcend the organization.
Maxwell, J. C. (2002). Leadership 101: What every leader needs to know. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.