4 Levels of Leadership, Part 1 of 2

Read Part 2

I have observed that there are 4 levels of leadership and every leader is in one of these stages. I find that understanding these various stages of leadership helps the novice leader and seasoned leader alike. A thorough understanding of these principles will help the organization move into and remain in a state of health.

Level 1: In the first stage the leader is more likely not in a leadership position. As stated by John Maxwell, leaders usually see more than others see, see farther out than others see, and see quicker than others see and this is just part of the leaders persona. For this leader, he or she occupies a frustrated life. They see clearly that the organization or their team is disorganized and in need of process or direction and can even offer a few specific solutions to issues that they have noticed. If the leader is not a strong leader or is indecisive, then these frustrated folks often look at the leader with distain and as the source of their frustration as they are not able to change circumstances in a way that they know will positively impact the organization. They see the solution as plain as day, and cannot recognize why the leader cannot.

It is crucial for this immature and inexperienced leader at this stage to be very patient. Their frustrations can easily get the best of them and cause them to lash out in meetings with biting sarcasm or with insolence or insubordination. It is also crucial for first line managers leading this individual to recognize the leadership gift in this employee and begin to grow them. Otherwise the employee will continue to grow disgruntled and will leave the organization or will sabotage team morale and their own career.

Level 2: In this level, the leader has come to the conclusion that being frustrated was not going to improve the situation. They have either taken a position at another company where they could spread their wings or they have been given an opportunity at the current firm to exercise some leadership. This is a critical stage for the young leader. If they let a little bit of power go to their head, then they will stop in the growth development, and will crash and burn. Team members can see a young manager and are watching closely for areas of arrogance or weakness. The leader must be willing to endure this proving time with patience and above all with humility. Recognizing that this is a necessary step in personal development, the leader submits to the process. The leader must be firm and exhibit a strength of character as not to show weakness, but must also be humble so as not to show arrogance. In this period, the leader will win the trust of his or her team. They still have a long way to go and a lot to learn about leadership, but if they submit to the process they are well on their way to becoming a leader with staying power. One who is strong, and yet flexible, and not given to insecurity.

I should note that it is possible to rise to high levels of the organization by never leaving this level. If the individual is savvy in company politics, they can short circuit the process and climb the corporate ladder, but unfortunately do not possess the depth of character to prevent that success from changing them, nor do they have the depth of understanding of what true leadership is to leave a lasting impression or even reproduce that success in another firm. The end is not usually bright for this level of leader.

In these first 2 levels, it’s easy to see the young leader struggling and working through some major challenges both externally and internally. In part 2 of this series we examine level 3, the position most leaders aspire to get to and also stop in development and then explore what is required to achieve the pinnacle of leadership, level 4.

Read Part 2

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