Positional Leaders

I’m currently reading John C. Maxwell’s “The 5 Levels of Leadership” in which he outlines, well, the 5 different levels of leadership achievement he’s encountered in his lifetime. John intuitively argues that the higher the level of leadership exhibited by members of an organization – be it business, social, or otherwise – the higher the chance of not only achieving organizational success, but also improving quality of life for everyone involved. The lowest level of leadership is derived solely from position or title, and the highest level is reserved for those who empower others to become leaders. Check out the book to get all the details in between (it’s a quick read).

I’d just finished the chapters detailing the Level 1 leader when I experienced a wave of repressed memories from past jobs. During the period of time in my life when I dropped out of school, did some serious soul-searching, and eventually worked my way into and through community college, I worked a variety of jobs in the service industry. While there are certainly exceptions, the majority of the companies I worked for exhibited the same negative symptoms – extremely high turnover rates, low morale (no one was excited to come to work), “clock-watching”, and few opportunities for advancement. Those who did move up the ladder – managers, bartenders, certified trainers – clung to their positions of (perceived) power as though they were scared they might lose it. Instead of encouraging, helping, and developing others, these Level 1 leaders intimidated,  obstructed, and distanced themselves from their teammates. These types are more interested in pulling rank and enforcing rules than including others in process improvement or serving those they were tasked to lead. However, these awful traits pale in comparison to the Level 1 leader’s worst characteristic – they fear being usurped by other up and coming potential leaders so much that they actively work to keep others down, thus dragging the performance of entire organizations down to their level of mediocrity.

Many of the companies I worked for many years ago – and certainly myriad others – succeeded in spite of themselves as demand for their respective services or products boomed. But many others failed. Moreover, these organizations deprived themselves and their employees of an opportunity to coalesce into something greater and making a real difference in their communities and the world. In contrast, companies that exhibit and encourage strong leadership foster work environments in which employees are excited and passionate, where innovation is embraced, and where new generations of leaders are groomed. In short, organizations that rely on Level 1 leaders will never reach their full potential.

Do you know any Level 1 leaders? Are you yourself a Level 1 leader in life or work? Strive to take your game – and other’s games – to the next level by working to support those around you, eliminating (as opposed to introducing) obstacles impeding others, and encouraging teammates to follow you because of who you are – not because of your title.

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