The 5 levels of leadership: definition, characteristics and examples

5 Levels of Leadership is a roadmap to becoming a great leader who inspires teams. It’s strategic for organizations. Position,...
13 June 2024

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The 5 levels of leadership: definition, characteristics and examples

5 Levels of Leadership is a roadmap to becoming a great leader who inspires teams. It’s strategic for organizations.

Position, Permission, Production, People Development and Pinnacle are the 5 stages developed by John Maxwell that you should know to improve your leadership skills.

Leadership is more necessary today than ever before as talent is needed to face the uncertainty of the markets. This is how companies can successfully adapt to new and constant challenges.

Therefore, we are going to tell you about the characteristics of these 5 levels of leadership and give you some examples so that you can start on the road to inspiring leadership that is up to the new times.

The 5 levels of leadership: definition, characteristics, examples

What are the 5 Levels of Leadership?

The 5 Levels of Leadership is a classification of the different stages of leadership that is intended as a roadmap to help leaders understand the path, implications and challenges of leadership.

The author of this classification is John Maxwell, author, speaker and coach, thanks to the information gathered in his more than 40 years of experience as a successful leader.

In a schematic way, as we develop each level in the following section, the 5 levels of leadership consist of:

  1. Position. It focuses on rights and is based on the fact that people will follow a leader primarily because they have to by virtue of their status.
  2. Permission. At this level, relationships are worked out so that people follow the leader because they want to.
  3. Production. Results are important here, as teams will follow the leader because of  the benefits gained to the entire organization.
  4. People Development. This step is about what the leader has done for the people, the reason they follow.
  5. Pinnacle. At the top of the ladder, respect is essential. People follow leaders because of who they are, what they stand for and how they inspire them.

Therefore, true leadership is about transforming leaders into people who invest in others, improve the company’s bottom line and inspire their teams while bringing out the best version of their people.

In this way, people develop, increase their commitment to the project, and in turn, become leaders.

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Characteristics and examples of the 5 Levels of Leadership

In the following sections, we will go deeper into the characteristics of the 5 Levels of Leadership and illustrate them with some examples to help you understand their implications.


When you are proposed for a leadership role in an organization, you accept the responsibilities that come with the position, as well as the expectations that team members have formed about your work.

People will follow you because of your position and, in order to develop as a leader, it is important that you develop team and project management skills.

In terms of attitude, it is essential that you are approachable and have a collaborative spirit.


The relationship between leaders and their team members is a pillar of this stage of leadership that must be built on respect.

People will follow leaders willingly if they trust them.

To build this relationship of trust, it is necessary to establish continuous two-way communication and practice active listening to people’s opinions, problems and needs.

Characteristics and examples of the 5 Levels of Leadership


Moving from words to actions is the foundation of this third level of Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership.

As a leader, you need to become an inspiration to your team in order to motivate them to complete tasks, keep people motivated, meet deadlines, etc.

The difficulty at this stage is to maintain a balance between the company’s goals and people’s needs.

Adopting an affiliative interpersonal leadership style will help you identify and mitigate stressful or conflicting situations, improving the work environment and therefore productivity.

People development

This level of building a good leader focuses on exponential leadership, a humanistic dynamic with a vision of the future that drives the development of people and turns them into leaders.

To achieve this, you can set up a continuous feedback system and monitor task progress daily to guide people when they need it.

Employee performance evaluation is a tool that allows you to improve the results of your teams and actively participate in their development.


Finally, this level of leadership is the most difficult to achieve because it requires constant and persistent work over time to create a kind of symbiosis between the leader’s personal growth and the long-term development of other leaders.

The Pinnacle Leader builds a legacy leading by example and contributing to the development of other people and the organization to which they belong.

These experienced leaders are often sought after by headhunters because of the many benefits they bring to the organization.

What are the 5 Levels of Leadership?

Relationship between the 5 Levels of Leadership

The 5 levels of leadership are not isolated levels but create communicating vessels between them.

In this sense, the leader must consider the following guidelines, according to the strategy proposed by John Maxwell:

  1. Moving up a level does not mean forgetting the previous one, this method works in a binding way and the new skills and milestones must be unified and feed each other.
  2. It is important to understand that you will find yourself in one stage or another depending on the person who values your role.
  3. As you progress in this guide to being a good leader, this work will require more dedication and commitment, so it is essential to continue to train and, if necessary, to use executive coaching to facilitate talent management.
  4. Remember that moving up is a slow and persistent path, but you can go down very quickly. 
  5. The leader who does not care about moving up will end up negatively impacting the teams and, consequently, the organization as a whole. 
  6. This process is a team process, a leader cannot move up a level alone, so it is important to lead by example, inspire people, listen to them and push them to excel.

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