How Successful People Lead

It All Starts with Being Able to LEAD.

I am a firm believer in everything rises and falls with leadership. Our goal, as home-based entrepreneurs, is to find and develop leaders. Whether it’s from social media or face to face interactions, we are constantly looking for the next wave of leaders to build our business.

Let’s analyze the word leadership. When you look at the word leadership; you notice this word is verb, not a noun. This means that the term leadership requires action to take place. If your organization does not have leaders, then your business is at a standstill.

I have just finished reading another one of John C. Maxwell’s books entitled How Successful People Lead: Taking Your Influence to the Next Level. In this book, Maxwell explains how leadership works. Leadership is not derived solely based on a person’s title. Maxwell mentions that the position is actually the lowest of five levels an effective leader will achieve.

To identify a leader, you must be able to lead. I believe Corporate America does little, if any, training for individuals to become leaders. On the other hand, you are often trained to follow a leader at most jobs. Leadership can be learned. We must realize that leadership is a process and not an instant position. There is a specific framework or game plan to leadership. Below I will break down each leadership level that Maxwell mentions in this book.


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.

The mere presence of a job title adds little leadership value. Essentially the “boss” or “manager” is in charge of a paid army. This army simply shows up to get a salary, and has very little motivation. Being a boss is not being a leader, being a boss means you control people. We all know people who use their position to believe they have influence, when really if you take that position away, no one would follow them.

There’s nothing wrong with a leadership position, but there’s everything wrong with using the position to get people to follow you. A position is a poor substitute for influence.


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.

In order for people to choose to follow you, you must know your people. A leader must be able to get along with everyone. Followers will find who the leaders are; whereas, leaders will find who their people are. Personally, I like to observe people. You can learn a lot by watching and reading people.


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.

You are the standard for driving results. The problems your organization faces are resolved on your behalf. You are making the difficult decisions. Leaders just don’t create a pleasant working environment, they get things done. You gain influence based on what you have done. This is the level where momentum begins. People will follow a productive person.

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. This level of leadership revolves around investing in your followers. This leader type must carry the ability to empower others.

A common theme amongst successful leaders is that they are able to reproduce themselves amongst their followers. Those selected followers will then go on to influence their own following based on the leaders teachings. People developers are champions.

If you build the right people, they will build the right organization for you.


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 or her industry (or company). Because of the status in the organization, employees will do essentially anything the leader asks to please them. Along with the personal satisfaction of achieving such loyalty, the leader is in a position to inspire future leaders in his company and beyond. This level  requires a superior level of talent.

Legacies are created from the efforts of this leadership. The most important long term goal for an organization is to continuously work on building the next generation of leaders who can succeed the current generation, which means, a level 5 leader should build more level 4 leaders.

Wrap Up

The five levels of leadership describe a path of personal growth every leader experiences, from learning how to improve your personal relationships with your team members so that they believe in your vision, up to coaching more people to the level in which they also coach more people. This leadership pipeline is the only sustainable way to grow an organization in the long term.

This book is by far my favorite leadership book, which helps you reflect about how you act within your role and with different colleagues, and what you should focus on to improve your own leadership skills.

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