Review: John C. Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership


Last week, I finished reading John C. Maxwell‘s 5 Levels of Leadership.  The book was a quick and easy read and explained the qualities of an effective leader.  Maxwell’s levels of leadership are as follows:


Leadership and public speaking are inextricably linked.  Presentation skills are essential for a strong leader to persuade and inform others, and strong leaders often become stronger because of their presentation skills.  Since leadership and public speaking go hand-in-hand, 5 Levels of Leadership is a must-read for any presenter.  I also recommend 5 Levels for all teachers, as many instructors feel the role of “director of the class” is all that is necessary to command respect from students.  This book will help teachers earn respect and subsequently see maximum results from their students.

What I learned is that leadership is an opportunity.  What you do with that opportunity determines the kind of leader you are and how people will react to and work with you.  Maxwell explains that Level 1 leaders rely on their position, and real leaders know leadership has nothing to do with a title.  Like most people, I do not work well with Level 1 leaders.  Maxwell defines Level 1 leaders as entitled, territorial, and selfish.  Level 1 leaders have a difficult time working with others because they don’t value relationships with subordinates; they consider subordinates a threat to their position.  Level 1 leaders create a negative work environment because the only people who can work under them are drones.  Maxwell describes these drones as “cogs in the machine,” “clock watchers,” “just-enough employees,” and “the mentally absent.”

Since I am not a cog in the machine, in the past, when I worked under a Level 1 leader, I was often told I needed to “know my place” and “follow the chain of command.”  What causes this mentality?  Why are Level 1 leaders so afraid of their employees?

In “Never Getting Off The Ground Floor,” Maxwell writes that Level 1 leaders “place a very high value on holding on to their position—often above everything else they do. Their position is more important to them than the work they do, the value they add to their subordinates or their contribution to the organization. This kind of attitude does nothing to promote good relationships with people. In fact, positional leaders often see subordinates as annoyances, as interchangeable cogs in the organizational machine or even as troublesome obstacles to their goal of getting a promotion to their next position. As a result, departments, teams or organizations that have positional leaders suffer terrible morale” (Source).

After reading Maxwell’s text, I’ve learned that true leadership is about creating relationships; producing and creating; learning and growing; supporting and valuing others; and using a title as a starting place for real leadership.

What qualities do you find in the strong leaders in your life?


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