A business executive. A softball coach. A classroom teacher. A volunteer coordinator. A parent.

Whether you’re one of these things or all of these things, one thing remains true:

You are a leader.

But where are you on your leadership journey, and where do you go from here? Over my years of teaching about leadership, that question exists at the heart of so many leaders. Everyone wants to know where they stand and how to get to the next level. And you are probably no different!

That’s why I developed the 5 Levels of Leadership paradigm in my book, Developing the Leader Within You, and then expanded it in my book, The 5 Levels of Leadership. I wanted to help leaders understand and increase their effectiveness. And while there is more to this teaching than space in this blog, today I want to offer a general overview of the 5 Levels as a reminder that you are still on your way as a leader – and so am I! So feel free to bookmark this page or print it out as a quick guide for your journey as a leader.


Level 1 — Position

The lowest level of leadership—the entry level, if you will—is Position. It’s the only level that requires no ability or effort to achieve. After all, anyone can be appointed to a position! While nothing is wrong with having a leadership position, everything is wrong with relying only on that position to get people to follow. That’s because it only works if you have leverage (such as job security or a paycheck) over your followers. At Level 1, people only follow if they believe that they have to.

People who remain on the position level may find it difficult to work with volunteers. Why? Because position does not automatically result in influence, and volunteers are aware that they don’t have to follow anyone. They truly only follow if they want to.

But the news is not all bad about this level. It is a prime place for you to begin investing in your growth and potential as a leader. Use your time at this level learning to lead yourself – through priorities and self-discipline – and you’ll be ready to move to the next level.

Level 2 — Permission

Level 2 is based on relationship. At this level, people choose to follow because they want to. In other words, they give the leader Permission to lead them. To grow at this level, leaders work on getting to know their people and connecting with them. You can’t lead without people, which means you need to learn to like people if you want to lead well!

When you like people and treat them as individuals who have value, you begin to develop positive influence with them. Trust grows, which usually leads to respect. And the environment becomes much more positive—whether at home, on the job, at play, or while volunteering. Level 2 is where solid, lasting relationships are built that create the foundation for the next level.

Level 3 — Production

The best leaders know how to motivate their people to GTD – get things done! And getting things done is what Level 3 is all about. On this level, leaders who produce results build their influence and credibility. People still follow because they want to, but they do it because of more than the relationship. People follow Level 3 leaders because of their track record.

The Production level is where leaders can become change agents. Work gets done, morale improves, profits go up, turnover goes down, and goals are achieved. The more you produce, the more you’re able to tackle tough problems and face thorny issues. Leading and influencing others becomes fun, because when everyone is moving forward together, the team rises to another level of effectiveness.

It’s important to note here that the goal with the 5 Levels is not to move away from one level to grow at a new level. Instead, these 5 levels of leadership build upon each other. In other words, Level 3 leaders still need to do the things that make Level 2 happen. They just add Level 3 strategies to the mix. And as they become effective at Level 3, they are ready to layer on the goals of the next levels.

Level 4 — People Development

Level 4 can be summed up in one word: reproduction. Your goal at this level is to identify and develop as many leaders as you can by investing in them and helping them grow.

The reason is simple: When there are more leaders, more of the organization’s mission can be accomplished. The people you choose to develop may show great potential for leadership, or they may be diamonds in the rough, but the main idea is the same: When you invest in them, you can reproduce yourself.

The more you raise up new leaders, the more you will change the lives of all members of the team. As a result, people will follow you because of what you’ve done for them personally. And as an added bonus, some of those mentoring relationships are likely to last a lifetime.

So to grow at the people development level, you need to make investing in leaders a priority, and take intentional steps every day to help them grow. Do that consistently, for long enough, and you may begin to reap the rewards of the next level.

Level 5 — Pinnacle

The highest level of leadership is also the most challenging to attain. It requires longevity as well as intentionality. You simply can’t reach Level 5 unless you are willing to invest your life into the lives of others for the long haul. But if you stick with it, if you continually focus on both growing yourself at every level, and developing leaders who are willing and able to develop other leaders, you may find yourself at the Pinnacle.

The commitment to becoming a Pinnacle leader is sizeable, but so are the payoffs. Level 5 leaders develop Level 5 organizations. They create opportunities other leaders don’t. They create a legacy in what they do. People follow them because of who they are and what they represent. In other words, their leadership gains a positive reputation. As a result, Level 5 leaders often transcend their position, their organization, and sometimes their industry.


There’s so much more I’d love to tell you, but let me leave you with this. Leadership is about growth – for yourself, your relationships, your productivity, and your people. To lead well, you must embrace your need for continual improvement, and the 5 Levels provide a leadership GPS to help you with your journey. You must know where you are, to know where you’re going.

Otherwise, as the Cheshire Cat told Alice, when you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.


For more in-depth teaching on The 5 Levels of Leadership, read my 2011 book on the subject. Or learn from one of my expert facilitators at a workshop in your area.


  1. […] John Maxwell’s Blog Post The Five Levels Of Leadership […]

  2. Gerroe on May 21, 2019 at 4:52 am

    What if you do the assessment and there is a tie for two (2) levels, which one do you choose and why?

    • Racquel on December 29, 2019 at 12:23 pm

      Is this site still active? No one is responding

      • Jason Brooks on January 3, 2020 at 10:59 am

        Hi Racquel–thank you for your persistence and patience. I just replied to your much earlier comment, and would love to help you further should you need it.

    • Jason Brooks on January 3, 2020 at 10:58 am

      Gerroe–great question, and thanks for being patient waiting for an answer! The simplest answer is whichever level comes first within the five. For example, if the two levels that are tied are 2 and 3, focus on Level 2 because you must be good there first. If you have additional questions, feel free to tag me in your comments–my name is Jason Brooks and I’m happy to help you!

  3. Racquel on May 21, 2019 at 4:58 am

    For the team members point of view, I decided the number of team members who placed me on a particular leadership level based on the number of team members who answered “yes” to all the questions in that level? For example, I have 5 team members, all of them said “yes” to level 1 questions but 3 answered “no” to Level 2 so I said 5 persons placed me at level 1 but 2 at Level 2. Is that an appropriate strategy?

    • Jason Brooks on January 3, 2020 at 10:53 am

      Hi Racquel–thanks for being BEYOND patient. Nearly a year is a long time to wait for an answer, so I apologize for the delay. You are correct in how you assessed the responses from your team members. You can continue using the same logic for the remainder of the survey answers. If you have any further questions, feel free to call me out by name in your comments–it’s Jason Brooks, and I am delighted to help you.

  4. […] this is the main thrust of many leadership models. In John Maxwell’s “5 Levels of Leadership” model someone may be assigned a leadership position, but they still have to earn permission (engagement) […]

  5. […] is what do you have to do to build credibility as their leader? The answer is in understanding the 5 levels of leadership. Most importantly, working your way from being a Level 1, a position leader, to a Level 2, a […]

  6. Jibriil on December 19, 2019 at 4:35 am

    Highly appreciated. having watched the youtube and read the tips, I am standing at a wow position. At least I know that position is not an end to itself but a step in the leadership ladder. This has made me to aspire more if I want to see that people want to follow me and not that it’s me that demands from them to follow me.
    This is very helpful. Thank you and kind regards.

  7. bing martinez on January 23, 2020 at 9:05 am

    VEry informative . I dont know though how I can apply in church settings.

  8. Are you leading by example? - Constance Vork on February 20, 2020 at 9:41 am

    […] John Maxwell tells us that there are five levels of leadership. […]

  9. Servant Leadership for traditional managers on March 12, 2020 at 12:25 am

    […] I will encourage you to read more about John C Maxwell’s 5 levels of leadership: https://www.johnmaxwell.com/blog/the-5-levels-of-leadership1/ […]

  10. […] Maxwell has effectively expounded the idea of leadership levels. His five levels of leadership start with a personal leadership – Position as level 1. Afterward, level 2 to 5 mainly […]

  11. […] as a leader is much the same way. John C. Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership framework provides a concrete explanation of your evolution on your way to becoming a masterful […]

  12. Growth vs Goals - Hello World. on May 26, 2020 at 10:39 am

    […] John is a leadership expert; he developed the 5 levels of leadership framework and is a best selling author. You should check out his work here. […]

  13. Zohaib Butt on June 27, 2020 at 8:24 am


    Have a good day.

    I love 5 levels of leadership framework. I inspire by this methodology.

    I’ve written a leadership insight article inspired by John C. Maxwell.

    You can read my blog.



    Zohaib Butt
    Success Coach and Corporate Trainer

  14. […] J. (2016) ‘ The 5 Levels of Leadership’ [online] available from <https://www.johnmaxwell.com/blog/the-5-levels-of-leadership1/&gt; [25 June […]

  15. Gerald Njuguna on July 16, 2020 at 6:58 am

    Very encouraging and exiting lesson from the 5 levels of leadership and it is easier to solve strategic leading challenges. I am overwhelmed.

  16. […] Maxwell’s 5 niveaus van leiderschapdefinieert een cumulatieve reeks kwaliteiten voor groei als leider, en Budd stelt voor om zich te […]

  17. Seven Tools for Effective CDO Leadership | on October 27, 2020 at 5:46 am

    […] Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadershipdefines a cumulative set of qualities for growth as a leader, and Budd suggests focusing on […]

  18. […] Search For MeaningThe John Maxwell Leadership ScaleThe Motive by Patrick LencioniThe Serenity PrayerMichael’s Free Ebook: Stop Thinking Like an […]

  19. […] his book, The 5 Levels of Leadership – John Maxwell  talks about this anxiety, the concept is, when a leader gets to an important position she […]

  20. The 5 Leadership Competencies - sunil nair on November 15, 2020 at 7:25 am

    […] talked and written at lengths on John Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership as (one of my favourites) the foundation for all leadership development. It can serve both as an […]

  21. […] all about relationship, relationship, relationship. (I’ve heard this for so many years in the Christian leadership context from John Maxwell. I’ve also explored the concept of trust in other posts, here and […]

  22. Leadership: What are the 5 levels of leadership? on December 21, 2020 at 3:39 pm

    […] John Maxwell […]

  23. Precious-Jay Ugochukwu on February 24, 2021 at 1:14 pm

    I’d be excited to follow updates on this blog or related posts. Thank you very much, sir.

  24. […] facet of seniority and something to be achieved (and enjoyed) – what John Maxwell referred to as ‘Level 1 leadership’ – resulting in organisations that primarily ‘looked upwards’. The dominant leadership […]

  25. […] jednej ze swoich najsłynniejszych, a jednocześnie najbardziej praktycznych książek „5 levels of leadership” John Maxwell przybliża model przywództwa opracowany na bazie swoich doświadczeń oraz […]

  26. Kola on April 12, 2021 at 1:34 pm

    I will go for the second (2) level because without the permission of the people you want to lead you can’t lead them, and even if you force them, if they have any chance to kill you they will because they did not give you the permission to do so. THANK YOU.

  27. […] that truly listen to the people they lead before making decisions. I would suggest checking the The 5 Levels of Leadership by John Maxwell as inspirational material for improving your leadership […]

  28. […] C. Maxwell has described in his book “The 5 Levels of Leadership” the different phases that occur in the path of becoming an inspiring […]

  29. […] The 5 Levels of Leadership […]

  30. […] C. Maxwell’s fourth Level of Leadership focuses on people’s development. This is a crucial point that separates leaders from […]

  31. […] When you show your people that you care for them, support their growth and trust them, they will eventually work for you because they want to, not just because they have to. They will work for you because of what you have done for the organization and for them and ultimately because of who you are and what you represent (John Maxwell: The 5 levels of leadership). […]

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