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The Impact of a Leader (Leadership Development 102)

A leader is someone who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.

- John Maxwell

John Maxwell has sold more leadership books than anybody in the history of the leadership and development space. He says leadership ability is the lid that determines a person’s level of effectiveness. The lower an individual’s ability to lead, the lower the lid on their potential. The higher the leadership, the greater the effectiveness.

John calls this The Law of the Lid.

He says if your leadership rates an 8, your effectiveness can never be greater than a 7. If your leadership is only a 3, your effectiveness will be no higher than a 2. Your leadership - for better or for worse - determines your effectiveness and the potential impact you can have on your team and the people around you.

John says each of us influences at least 10,000 other people during our lifetime, so the question is not whether you will influence someone, but how you will influence them.

That is why being able to clearly define your leadership philosophy and investing in your personal growth as a leader is so important. 


Julian Michaels is a fitness expert and nutritionist. She is credited with saying, “When you start working out, it takes 4 weeks for you to see your body changing, 8 weeks for your friends to notice, and 12 weeks for the rest of the world to notice.”

Becoming a leader is like working out. It takes time, and you might notice your growth before others do. But just keep going. Successful leaders are learners, and they understand the learning process is ongoing and a result of self-discipline and perseverance.

The dictionary definition of leadership is the action of leading a group of people or an organization.

Leaders get things done, and they help, lead, and inspire other people to get things done as well. The true measure of leadership is influence; if you don’t have influence, you will never be able to lead. Leadership is being the person others will willingly and confidently follow.

In his book Leadership 101, John Maxwell defines 5 levels of leadership:

Level 1 - Positional LeaderWhen you are a positional leader, people follow you because they have to, and your security is based on title, not yet talent or skill. When you are in this stage, people follow you because of your title and your position. This isn’t a bad thing; being here is a foundation on which you can grow to the next level of leadership. Here is where you begin getting your practices and reps as a leader.

Level 2 - PermissionAt this level, people follow you because they want to. Leadership is getting people to follow you or work for you when they don’t have to, which begins at the permission level. This is when leadership becomes fun, but if you stay at this level too long and don’t produce results, good people will leave you and find someone who can help them get things done, grow, and move up.

Level 3 - Production

When you get to this level, you have demonstrated an ability to follow through and get things done. Leaders in the production stage find problems and bring solutions. They don’t just pick and spray the weeds; they fertilize, feed, and water the grass so it thrives, and the thicker the grass, the less room for weeds. Producers don’t look for excuses, they earn respect and followers by looking for opportunities and solutions.

Level 4 - People Development

Here, people follow you because of what you have done for them, and because they believe in your ability to help them grow. If you stay committed to growing yourself and the people around you while producing results, you will continue to move up as a leader. At this stage, you not only get things done, you help others get things done as well. The more people you can help, the larger your sphere of influence grows.

Level 5 - Personhood

When you get to this stage, people follow you because of who you are, what you do, how you do it, and what you represent. Maxwell says very few people reach this stage. It takes years of trying, failing, and trying again to reach this stage, but it is worth the journey. When you make it here, you become a sought-after leader of leaders with followers who are loyal and sacrificial. Leaders at this level have spent years mentoring and molding other leaders, and their greatest joy comes from watching others grow and develop.

As you learn and grow up this leadership ladder, remember each level stands up on the previous one, and if you neglect a lower level, you will crumble and fall. For example, if you move from permission (relationships) to production (results) and neglect those relationships, they might begin to feel used by you and develop a feeling of resentment. If you move up into people development and neglect the production, you run the risk of losing your credibility.

Each level is a foundation meant to make you a better, stronger leader. As you move up the ladder, don’t forget the lessons and people that helped you grow.


1 - How do you define leadership?

2 - Which level of leadership are you currently in?

3 - What can you do to move to the next level of leadership?

4 - Accountability partners help us stay on track. Who is someone you can share this with and who will help you grow to the next level?

Additional Resources: 

Printable PDF: The Impact of a Leader

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