John Maxwell Unveils 'Five Levels of Leadership'

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For more than 30 years, best-selling Christian author and speaker John C. Maxwell has shared his passion for leadership with listeners and readers around the world.

He is probably best known for his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. But he believes his latest book, The 5 Levels of Leadership, is his most important work to date.

"I put the cookies on the lower shelf, so everybody could have some," Maxwell told CBN News. "And I think when they read it, I think they're going to say, 'Hey, I think I can go to the next level as a leader.'"

"When we do that, we increase our influence, and when we increase our influence, obviously, we increase our success," he explained.

"Would you say that this is kind of like your primary calling -- these five levels of leadership -- what God called you to share with humanity so to speak?" CBN News Reporter Mark Martin asked Maxwell.

"Absolutely -- to help them learn how to climb the five levels," Maxwell replied.

Five Levels of Leadership

Maxwell says the five levels of leadership include the following:

  • Position
  • Permission
  • Production
  • People Development
  • Pinnacle

"On Level 1, people follow you because they have to," he said. "I mean, 'Okay, you're a Level 1 leader, you're the boss; I follow you. That's how I get my paycheck, and if I don't do that, I'm fired.'"

Maxwell says leaders reach Level 2 -- the permission level -- by building relationships.

"People now give you permission to lead them because they relate well with you," he explained. "On level number two, people follow you because they want to."

Solid relationships lead to results, and Level 3, the production level -- when people follow you because of what you've done for the organization.

"Now people follow you because you've got credibility, and with that comes momentum," Maxwell told CBN News.

That momentum can propel you to Level 4 as a leader -- the people development level -- a place where your investment in others compounds, reproducing strong leadership skills in those who follow you.

"On Level 4, people follow you because of what you've done for them," Maxwell said.

"This is where there's great passion for their leader, and this is where there's a great amount of loyalty that is built in," he added.

Slaying the Ego

To reach Level 4, you have to lay down your ego. If you have an egocentric boss, they're not going to want other leaders underneath them because they may feel threatened that those people will take their positions.

"Level 4 is where you empower people," Maxwell explained. "And I've never known an insecure person to empower anybody. They're threatened by people."

"Leaders who are kind of insecure or egocentric, they basically sabotage themselves," he said.

For those who slay the ego, Maxwell believes Level 5, or the pinnacle level of leadership, awaits them. That's when people follow you because of who you are and what you represent.

"We know them; we remember them, and they reached it because they earned it. They started off with everybody else on Level 1," Maxwell said.

The Great Commission

Maxwell said Jesus Christ is the ultimate leader and is his motivator to help others achieve leadership success.

He said the bottom line is "The Great Commission."

"I felt God speak to my heart and say, 'I'm going to open a door for you that very few Christians get. I'm going to allow you to go into circles of influence where the Church is not on the radar screen of these people, and I'm going to allow you to begin teaching biblical principles to them,'" Maxwell told CBN News.

"Since I have crossed over, so to speak, into the secular community, I have had the privilege of seeing more people come to Christ in this arena than it was when I was pastor of one of the 10 most influential churches in America," he said.

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CBN News
Mark Martin

Mark Martin

CBN News Reporter

Mark Martin is a reporter and anchor at CBN News, covering various issues from military matters to alternative fuels. Mark has reported internationally in the Middle East and traveled to Bahrain to cover stories on the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkMartinCBN and "like" him at