5 Levels of Leadership (Micro) – Leaders aren’t Born. They’re Grown. Here’s How

what makes a good leader

Everybody is a leader if they have this attribute:

Leadership is simply to do what you believe in. And to inspire others.

Leadership is INFLUENCE 🔥

DO (lead) And your doing inspires others (people follow).

Action. Which Inspires Action.

That’s it.

Are people bowing and trembling at your presence?
Or are people smiling and welcoming you at your presence?

You cannot lead people through force, or power.
You can only lead with influence.

At first, when I wandered into leadership models, I thought it was ridiculous that you can put different “levels” and “stages” of leadership into hierarchies.

But then, as I started reading about the models, it made sense why.

Putting leadership into a hierarchy gives us a visual idea of how we can differentiate between bad leaders and good leaders.

And we can learn to model ourselves after the great leaders 😊

And sometimes you meet some of these people…

And you just NOTICE that there is just something DIFFERENT about them…

They’re just EXCEPTIONAL

But what makes them exceptional?

Let’s take a look 😉

I chose a few models of leadership and blended them together.

I’ve talked about TRIBAL leadership (Macro view) in another post (you can read it here)

But this post is about INDIVIDUAL leadership.

The Micro view.

The 5 levels of leadership


There are 2 models of the “5 Levels of Leadership” that I am aware of.

One is from Jim Collins

And the other is from John Maxwell

They are both geniuses.

I can’t say one is better than the other.


I combined both of the models (kinda 😬)

I made a mashup of both.

Here is the Jim Collins model:

jim how to become a good leader

And here is the John Maxwell model:

john 5 levels of leadership

Here is the My FUSION model:

rebelsjourney leadership

  • Level 1: Position
  • Level 2: Permission (Contributing Team Member)
  • Level 3: Production (Highly Capable Individual)
  • Level 4: Effective Leader
  • Level 5: Pinnacle (Reproduction)

Level 1 – Position

People follow you because they HAVE to.

People follow you simply because of your POSITION.

Ex: Your company hires a new manager so now you HAVE to follow that person, even if you want to or not.

“Positional leadership is based on the rights granted by the position and title. Nothing is wrong with having a leadership position. Everything is wrong with using position to get people to follow.

Position is a poor substitute for influence. People who make it only to Level 1 may be bosses, but they are never leaders. They have subordinates, not team members. They rely on rules, regulations, policies, and organization charts to control their people.”
-John Maxwell

Positional Leaders Receive People’s Least, Not Their Best

The truth is that if you have to tell people that you’re the leader, you’re not.

Honesty, I would put “Positional leaders” at level 0.

People might play the role of the “boss” but these are not necessarily leaders.

Leadership is ACTION not POSITION

In this position, people often try to make themselves look better and make others feel small. They rely on control instead of contribution.

They only work on developing their own careers and titles and not helping others.

Think about this:

You’ll know a level 1 leader because when they enter a room, the people in the room “change their behavior.”

They scramble around the room to look like they’re doing something.

This isn’t leadership. This is fear.

Real leadership is influence.

Here’s a good way to measure someone’s influence:

Are you glad when this person walks into the room?
Does a smile come up on your face, or are you intimidated by this person?

A sign of a good leader, is when they walk into the room, and they are greeted with enthusiasm by everyone.

They WANT you to stay in the room, not LEAVE the room.

They make you feel comfortable, and they make you feel LIKE yourself.
They want you to BE yourself.

They don’t talk down on you, but they talk to you as a friend.

If they’re talking down, it’s a sign of positional leadership 🙈

For these people, work will always be first and foremost about what they GET:
Fame, fortune, power, etc…

Not what they BUILD, create and contribute

Level 2: Permission (Contributing Team Member)

Level 2 leaders start to actually like people and treat them like individuals who have value.

Now they start to develop influence and trust.

You really start to CARE about your people.

People follow you because they WANT to.

Leaders need to be AUTHENTIC to develop authentic relationships.

They need to have the courage to admit their mistakes, recognize their shortcomings and take ownership of their faults.

And honestly, it’s a very vulnerable place.

But that’s WHY many leaders will not progress from level 1 to level 2.

They can’t get vulnerable.
They can’t get honest and authentic.

But when you do, you start to develop chemistry and start to work effectively in groups.

And probably most importantly, you stretch other people.

You take them out of their comfort zones and actually make them grow.

Level 3 Production (Highly Capable Individual)

Jim Collin’s model has the Highly Capable Individual at level 1
John Maxwell has the “Production” as level 3.

I figured they were quite similar, so I added it to level 3.

The Level 3 leader is a highly capable individual. People follow because of what you have done.

These individuals make things happen. They get RESULTS.

A Level 3 leader can be summed up in one word: EXAMPLE.

They lead by example.

They walk their talk.

Before they get anyone else to do it, they had to have done it themselves.

Being successful before you try to help other people become successful.

They TAKE their people where they want to go, instead of just sending them there.

They are tour guides, not travel agents.

[su_quote]great leaders always seem to embody two seemingly disparate qualities:
their vision enables them to see beyond the immediate. they can envision what’s coming and what must be done

good leaders must communicate the vision clearly, creatively and continually. the leaders effective COMMUNICATION of the vision makes the picture clear. BUT HAT IS NOT ENOUGH. the leader must also LIVE THE VISION.
the leader’s effective modeling of the vision make the PICTURE COME ALIVE![/su_quote]

Simon Sinek says this all the time:

People don’t want to be manage, we want to be led

It is not genius at the top giving direcitons that makes people great. it is great people that make the guy at the top look like a genius.
-Simon Sinek

Level 4: Effective Leader

Leader 4 leaders develop followers to become leaders of their own.

They try to reproduce themselves.

It shifts from DOING to DEVELOPING

It is not just TEACHING anymore…


Subtracting vs Adding vs Multiplying


CRITICAL Question:
Are you making things better for the people who follow you?

It must be an unhesitant YES with evidence to back it up…

…or you may very well be a subtractor.

Because subtractors for the most part, don’t realize they are subtracting from others. They don’t realize they are SUBTRACTING value. And most of them do it unintentionally.

“and when a leader is a subtractor and doesn’t change his ways, its only a matter of time before his impact on others goes from Subtraction to DIVISION

In contrast 90 percent of all people who add value to others do so intentionally.
Being an adder requires me to get out of my comfort zone everyday and think about adding value to others.

Do that long enough, and you not only add value to others – you being to multiply it”
John Maxwell

These leaders aren’t interested in their position. They’re interested in making an actual IMPACT in others.

They want things to be BETTER for others.

Their main goals aren’t titles or prizes.
They live so they can ennoble others and enrichen their lives.

And the thing is, the BEST place for a person might not always be the top position.

Again, if you think that you MUST be at the top position, THAT’S EGO.

That’s the very thing that’ll keep leaders at level 1 🙈

The best place for someone might not be the most powerful or flashy place…

But it’s the spot where they can SERVE the best according to their best strengths.

How they can SERVE and add the most value to other people?



  • Taking value from others.
  • Ego.
  • Focused on yourself.



  • Helping others
  • Adding growth to people
  • Stretching people
  • Leading FOLLOWERS



  • Developing other LEADERS

If you develop yourself, you can experience personal success.
if you develop a team, your organization can experience growth
if you develop leaders, your organization can achieve explosive growth

Which segues to level 5…

Level 5: Pinnacle (Reproduction)

Step 1— I do it (competence).
Step 2— I do it and you are with me (demonstration).
Step 3— You do it and I am with you (coaching).
Step 4— You do it (empowerment).
Step 5— You do it and someone is with you (reproduction).

I want to spend a lot of time explaining level 5, after all, it is the pinnacle that people want to achieve 😊

Level 5 leaders create Level 5 organizations (see post on tribal leadership)
(Like Towing El Paso)

Level 5 leaders are Multipliers.

Level 5 leaders have Humility + Will

Level 5 leaders have Window and Mirror Maturity.

Level 5 leaders are Multipliers

To add, lead followers
To multiply, lead leaders

“The ultimate leader is one who is willing to develop people to the point that they eventually surpass him or her in knowledge and ability.

Leaders who attract followers need to be needed
Leaders who develop leaders want to be succeeded.”
-John Maxwell

Good leaders want to be needed.
Great leaders want to be succeeded.

Attract 1 follower, you impact 1 person.
1 value added.

Attract 1 leader, who also develop other leaders and you multiply value.

Every leader they develop they also get the value of ALL of THAT leader’s followers.

Add 10 followers = 10

Add 10 leaders = 10 leaders x all of their followers and leaders they influence.

A leader who attracts followers impact only the people they touch.
A leader who develops other leaders impact people beyond their reach.

An indicator of how good of a leader you are, is in the “conduct of your grandchildren. Because it’s a good indication of how the people to whom you have chosen to invest your legacy will carry on without you.”

John Maxwell calls it multiplying.
Jim Collins calls it Clock building.

Level 5 is all about clock building and not time telling.

(more on this later…)

But first Window and Mirror…

Window and Mirror Maturity

window and mirror maturity

Window and Mirror maturity is all about giving credit.

When things go well in an organization, the leader will look out the WINDOW and give credit to other factors rather than themselves. And usually these factors are other people.

They give the spotlight to other people who contributed to the success and take little credit themselves.

And if they can’t find a specific reason or a person to give the credit to…

They give credit to “good luck.”

They say:

“We were just really lucky.”

Which is also parallel to another characteristic of the level 5 leader which is humility (more on that below).


when things go wrong…

and they go through setbacks and failure…

They don’t blame other people or their circumstances…

Instead, they point to the MIRROR and say, “it’s my fault.”

I take full responsibility.

They never blame bad luck or other people when things don’t go their way.

[su_quote]If you hear my idea but don’t believe it, that’s not your fault; it’s mine.

If you see my new product but don’t buy it, thats m failure, not yours.

If you attend my presentation and you’re bored, thats my fault too.

If i fail to persuade you to implement a policy that supports my tribe, thats due to my lack of passion or skill, not your shortsightedness.

If you are a student in my class and you don’t learn what I’m teaching I’ve let you down.

~Seth Godin[/su_quote]

Funny thing is…

For a true level 5 leader…

Everyone outside the WINDOW points inside to the leader…

Saying that she was the reason they succeeded.

Without her leadership and vision, this wouldn’t have been possible.

And the leader, who doesn’t care for credit, who understands a different kind of calculus, will point right back outside the window and say it like an obvious thing:

“See, this is why we succeed. These great people made this possible.
I’m such a lucky person.

They say the greatest kind of luck that can happen to a person is “people luck.”

The “Who” luck.

Where the right kind of people fall into your life.

Great leaders understand this phenomenon and they attribute their success to the people, instead of their own personal greatness.

[su_quote]“If it’s about your mission, about spreading the faith about seeing something happen, not only do you not care about credit, you actually want other people to take credit.

Credit isn’t the point. Change is.

~Seth Godin[/su_quote]

Humility + Will

Out of the thousands of hours of research Jim Collins and his team have conducted…

He found out that, there are some leaders that were just different…

Even though they had similar “Level 5” qualities…

There were still some that had these rare qualities to them…

It wasn’t even about “leadership” any more.

Because many GOOD leaders were good at “leadership”

And the team realized the missing puzzle of a true Level 5 leader:

Humility + Will

These level 5 leaders, they had an extra dimension of being genuinely humble…

AND at the same time they had a FEROCIOUS will for a purpose that was greater than the individual.

Humility + Will

And how the team calculated this, was through the leaders wording:

They would say things like:

“We are blessed with marvelous people”
“There are plenty of people in this company who could do my job better than I do…”

Again, pointing out the window.

And the people who worked with these “Humility + Will” leaders described their leaders with words like:

Quiet, humble, modest, reserved, shy, gracious, mild-mannered, self-effacing, understated, etc.

And even though they were HUMBLE, they also had RELENTLESS work ethics.

They were more WORKHORSES rather than SHOW HORSES.

More Plow Horse than Show Horse.

workhorse leader

They were willing to put in the work.

“this action in turn contributes back to the leader; the leader surrenders himself to the tribe and becomes far greater than an individual alone could ever become.”
-Tribal Leadership

⛄️ Snowflakes & Feelings

leaders treat everyone the same.
Great leaders treat individuals differently…like everyone is unique.

“I have seen competent leaders who stood in front of a platoon and all they saw was a platoon.

But great leaders stand in front of a platoon and see it as 44 individuals, each of whom has aspirations, each of whom wants to live, each of whom wants to do good

How in the world do you speak to that many people?

The secret is simple:

I don’t try to talk to the thousands. I focus on talking to ONE PERSON”

~General Norman Schwarzkopf

It’s about how you make people FEEL.
People respond to feelings.

It’s not just about drawing eyeballs, it’s about capturing hearts ❤️

Information and knowledge you can give them only lasts so long…
But how you make someone feel lasts a lifetime.

You can transform people at the deepest roots by changing their emotions.

You transfer positive emotions not so much by what you say, but how you make them FEEL.

That’s the key to true, long-lasting transformation.

Here’s a few examples from Jim Collins of what a level 5 leader could be:

Self reflection
Conscious personal development
A mentor
A great teacher
Loving parents
Significant life experience
Level 5 boss
or any number of other factors – they begin to develop

To wrap up


Everything level 4 leader has Plus

  • All level 5 companies had a level 5 leader. You cannot create a level 5 company, without a level 5 leader.
  • A multiplier
  • Window + Mirror Maturity
  • Humility + Will

I wanted to end with this…

Time Telling vs Clock Building

clock building vs time telling

The Genius with a Thousand Helpers

Having a genius as a leader of an organization comes with 2 problems:

1 – Someday you might not be a Genius anymore…
2 – The Genius leader will inevitably, one day be gone…

And all that’s left, is a HOLLOW organization.

There is no company.
The company dies with the genius.

And leaders who choose to only focus on their time period of leadership, will be like a “Genius with a Thousand Helpers.”

They are just like a vessel for the company.

But Level 5 Leaders want to CONTINUE to add value to the world, even AFTER, they have left the organization.

This is called Clock Building.


Having a great idea or being a charismatic visionary leader is time telling, building a company that can prosper far beyond the presence of any single leader and through multiple product life cycles is clock building.
~Jim Collins


Whenever you have something temporary or even something selfish – this is considered time-telling.


  • 1 great idea
  • 1 visionary leader
  • Techniques

These are all great, but it is usually temporary.

Clock Building:

Whenever you have a system or organization that will last far beyond the presence of a single leader or idea.


  • Multiple leaders
  • The golden goose organization, not the golden eggs of leaders
  • Principles
  • Fishing not the fish

Clock building is creating something that will last through multiple generations for many, many years.

Clock Building is based on permanence.

Clock Building is making something amazing that will outlast you…

what makes a good leader

That will keep the fire of value going…

And it means to do something that you may NEVER see, or may never get the credit for…

But you do it anyways for what it will do for others…

It is how you can touch the future.

And it is one of the greatest acts of giving there is.

I hope you can place that at the centerpiece of your clock:


Be a giving leader.

Everything else will fall into place 😊



If you want to Read more about Leadership, here are some great books:
Jim Collins
John Maxwell
Leaders Eat Last
Tribal Leadership

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