5 Levels of Leadership

In a previous post, Development Stages and Leaders, we presented different theories of leadership development based on the fact that leaders, like all adults, progress through stages as they grow and mature.

The different descriptive words used by development stage theorists for these stages can be confusing. All have characteristics in common, however.

Using a broad brush, we can summarize the various stages of leadership development as follows:

  • Level 1: Leaders who operate at the first stage of development are focused on their own need to excel, which explains the reference to an Egocentric, Opportunist or Expert stage. These leaders are acutely aware of what they need to do to succeed and how they must be perceived by others. Leadership at Level 1 tends to be autocratic and controlling. A leader’s mindset is limited at this stage because there’s no shared reality. Growth requires one to become aware of, and interested in, other people’s needs and to reach out co-relationally. This developmental stage is normal for young adults, but ineffective for leader-managers (although 5% appear to operate at this stage). 
  • Level 2: Leaders' abilities to simultaneously respond to their personal needs and those of others is the hallmark of Stage 2, referred to as the Socialized or Reactive mindset by some, and the Diplomat or Achiever stage by others. At this stage, a leader plays by the organization’s rules and expectations and builds alliances, but with a focus on how to best get ahead. One’s emphasis is on the outer game to gain meaning, self-worth and security. At this stage, leaders hone their strengths, but are nonetheless limited by them. Their identity is defined from the outside-in and requires external validation in one of three ways: relationship strength; intellect; or results. At level 2, leaders fall into three categories: Complying, Protecting, or Controlling (reflecting over-dependence on heart, head or will). When self-worth and identity depend on overused strengths, growth is self-limited, as behavioural options are restricted. Most leaders (nearly 75%, as with most adults) operate at this second level of maturity.
  • Level 3: Referred to as the Creative, Self-Authoring, Individualist, or Catalyst stage, Level 3 is marked by personal transformation from old assumptions/beliefs and a quest for external validation to a more authentic version of the self. These leaders want to know who they truly are and what they care most about. They’re on a path to becoming visionary leaders, accepting that authenticity carries a risk of disappointing others, potential failures and hazards associated with contradicting accepted norms. Leaders trade their need to be admired for a higher purpose. They don’t feel the need to be the hero and begin to share power. No longer the sole decision-makers, Level 3 leaders encourage groups to become more self-managing and meaningfully involved in organizational success. They focus on high performance through teamwork and a desire to develop others. Their leadership is truly collaborative. About 20% of leaders operate with a Level 3 mindset. 

 

  • Level 4: Called the Integral, Transforming Self, Strategist and Co-Creator stage, Level 4’s hallmark is one’s ability to focus not only on an organizational vision, but the welfare of the larger system in which a company operates. Servant leadership emerges, as one considers more interdependent components and systemic complexities.
  • Level 5: Level 5 is referred to as Unitive, Alchemist and Synergist. At this level, leaders expand perspectives even further, focusing on higher purpose and common good. Beyond this level other stages may be unexplored, as very few leaders grow past the fourth level. To some theorists, Level 5 encompasses a spiritual focus.

What do you think about these ideas? Do they resonate for you and what you have observed as the leaders in your organization have matured? Consider what you observe in political leaders! We would love to hear your thoughts on this topic and begin the conversation about the value we can bring to your organization.

Contact Patricia Muir at  patricia@maestroquality.com, at 905-858-7566, on LinkedInMaestro’s FacebookTwitter