How successful people lead?
How leadership works? There are many ways to lead and those vary as much as the people leading – everyone brings their own views and spices into it. However, there are people who lead in an old-fashioned way which is known as hierarchical and kind of a strict way. Nowadays we seem to value flat organizations and leading people – that is the aim. We want to feel in charge ourselves as employees and our work needs to have a meaning. That feeling doesn’t come by someone giving orders and us completing those. It comes by feeling respected, valued and important.
I read John C. Maxwell’s book How successful people lead and there are very practical tips for leaders on how to develop themselves as leaders. It is all about leading people and developing yourself in order to understand your employees better and offer them the best possible value. The book is written in levels, for the leaders to follow and see their progress. He describes five levels of leadership:
Position is the lowest level of leadership – it is only the title. There is nothing wrong with having the title, it’s about how you use it. If you only use the title for the people to follow you, it is a poor substitute for influence. However, this is usually the entry level of leadership – first comes the title and after that, you decide how you want to proceed. In order to get to the next level, you cannot settle for the title.
This level is based on relationships. On this level, people follow you because they want to – which is a huge difference compared to the first level. On level two, it is all about getting to know the people you work with, showing them that you value them and are interested in them. This is how you develop trust. Growing from level 1 to level 2 you need to have genuine interest in people, otherwise it just comes out as fake. As it says in the book: “You can like people without leading them, but you cannot lead people well without liking them.”.
Level 3 is about production; getting things done. On level 2 you have built trust and made people want to follow you because of who you are and how you act. On this level it is all about getting results and showing what value you bring to the company. Many leaders make a lot of changes on this level and they will be remembered from those. They will make a difference in the organization and tackle problems by finding solutions.
- People development
On this level the focus is highly in people again – and in developing them. Leaders become great because they have the ability to empower others. On level 4 leaders use their position, relationships and productivity to invest their followers to develop them until they become leaders in their own right. Teamwork goes to a very high level and performance increases on this level. That’s because focusing on deepening the relationships creates more trust and loyalty. Also, when there are more leaders in the team, they help each other’s performance to reach the next level.
This is the highest and most difficult level of leadership – it requires a high level of talent. In the book it is said that only the naturally gifted leaders ever make it to this level. Leaders on level 5 are developing people to become level 4 leaders. The most difficult task for leaders is to develop themselves into a point where they are able and willing to develop other leaders. However, when they do, they create legacy in what they do.
Thinking back to my own position as Value’s business leader I would say I got to level 2 in my leadership. I am naturally interested in people and their development and growth. However, in order to get to level 3 I would’ve needed more results and action – that also came up in the feedback from my team. That experience gave me a lot and now I know what to develop in the future as I’m still highly interested in leadership positions – not for the title, but for the possibility to help people grow and gain confidence.