John Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership

A colorful depiction of Maslow's Hierarchy of ...

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[tweetmeme]John Maxwell is a best-selling author, speaker, and blogger on the subject of leadership.  He discusses a leadership theory in a recent blog.  His theory is the premise in his upcoming book, The Five Levels of Leadership. Maxwell’s levels of leadership is reminiscent of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Maslow’s theory maintains that a persons most basic needs must be met for that person to be concerned about higher needs.  Once the most basic needs are met, one becomes concerned about meeting the needs at the next level.  Theoretically, a person focuses on meeting the physiological needs until they are met.  At that time, that person becomes concerned about meeting their needs for safety, then a sense of belonging, then self-esteem, and finally self actualization.  In the event that a lower level need becomes unmet, the person’s primary concern becomes meeting that need again.

Maslow’s theory suggests that our needs are progressive.  John Maxwell describes the levels of leadership in a similar manner.  Maxwell’s levels of leadership are:

  1. Position: rights – people follow because of the leader’s position
  2. Permission: relationships – people follow because they want to
  3. Production: results – people follow because of what the leader has accomplished for the company
  4. People Development: reproduction – people follow because of what the leaders has done for them
  5. Pinnacle: respect – people follow because of who the leader is and what the leaders represents.

There is a natural progression through these levels which is similar to Maslow’s theory. Leaders move from leading based one’s formal position to relationships to results and so on.  You need to avoid leading based on your position alone if you want to reach your potential.  You will get the most out of your team when they willingly follow you and you progress through the more sophisticated levels of leadership.[tweetmeme]  How are you leading?  Does your team follow because they have to or do you have their permission? What can you do to earn their respect and loyalty?


John Maxwell’s The Five Levels of Leadership is scheduled to be published in the fall of 2011.  John plans to elaborate on his theory at his blog.  Visit his blog here, in my blog roll (right side bar), or below.

John Maxwell’s Blog

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About Christian Paulsen

Christian Paulsen is an Executive Consultant with 20 years of Lean Manufacturing. Chris adds value to organizations by driving process improvement and bottom line savings. Chris intends to help others by sharing the lessons learned after a quarter century of operational leadership, marriage, parenting, and even longer as a Cubs fan. Your comments on this blog are welcome. You can also connect with Chris via LinnkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook in the right sidebar. Chris welcomes your comments. Christian's professional services are available by contacting him through LinkedIn (right side bar)
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5 Responses to John Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership

  1. The titles are clean & on target and the postings are short and to the point! Thank you!

    Very informative and lets me read the most important subject matter quickly. I’ll defiantly keep reading.

  2. Christian, Until today, I wasn’t aware of John Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership. I have been aware that leadership is a natural procession starting with assuming the leadership role through gradually earning the respect of the people who you are leading. To me, the best way of earning respect and loyalty is to impart a sense of ownership in the people who are in the role of “follower”. The key to me is to lead a “team” and not a group of individual followers. I believe that a true leader makes each team member feel that their voice is heard and that they each play a role in achieving the team objectives and goals.

    Thanks once again for a thought provoking post.

  3. I have read some of John Maxwells work but I didnt know he was releasing a new book. Thanks for sharing. Leadership definitely is a progression. You hear that people are natural leaders but I believe everyone can become a leader if they listen to the team they are working. If you have respect of the team they will follow you because of your values and what you stand for.

    • Hi Julia,

      Thank you for checking in again and for your comments. I am with you about natural leaders and respect. There are those who have more natural leadership than others. But like any other skill, leaders need to develop those skills to reach full potential. You always bring valuable insight to the conversation. As for John Maxwell, I saw that he submitted the manuscript for this book on his blog.

      Thanks again,

  4. b (Barbara) says:

    I did find the post very interesting. You have nailed the length/content perfectly I think. Even though I am retired from the classroom, I could see how this would be very relevant in that setting, particularly at the administrative level.


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