The "Five Levels of Leadership" were developed and introduced in 2000 by author John Maxwell in his book "Developing the Leader Within You." Maxwell's leadership levels are sequential and provide the framework of development for a leader, beginning with a position and culminating in a "personhood" or "pinnacle" achievement.


The first or lowest level of leadership on Maxwell's model is "Position." At this level, leaders rely largely on their title or position to motivate employees to follow. Intimidation and autocratic approaches to leadership are common at this level. The phrases "because I'm the boss" or "I'm the manager" signify the mentality of the position-based leader. New leaders or those unable to gain confidence or support from followers commonly operate at this level.


Though it's only the second of five levels, the move from level one to two in Maxwell's model is major. At the "Permission" level, employees follow your leadership because they choose to, not because they are forced to. Leaders that achieve this level of influence are able to build interpersonal relationships to inspire and motivate employees rather than relying on their title.


At the "Production" level, leaders have achieved effectiveness by building and maintaining a high-performing organization. In manufacturing, for instance, the leader has led his work force to operate with high productivity. In a sales environment, the leader has led his staff to high sales conversions and satisfied customers. These leaders have developed a collective focus on the company mission and objectives.

People Development

The move from "Production" to "People Development" is another significant one for the long-term performance of a leader and his company. People development means the company is not only achieving results in the present, but a system is in place in which future leaders are being developed. The leader has achieved a level of respect and loyalty from employees that causes them to act in accordance with direction because of complete faith in the leader's ethics, vision and purpose.


The fifth and highest level in Maxwell's levels of leadership has been referred to as either "Personhood" or "Pinnacle." At this level, the leader has become iconic within his industry or company. Because of his status in the organization, employees will do essentially anything he asks to please him. Along with the personal satisfaction of achieving such loyalty, the leader is in a position to inspire future leaders in his company and beyond.