If we define leadership as influence, how we influence others is critical to the corporate culture, change strategies, and never-ending challenges associated with profitability. The noted communicator, John Maxwell, identifies five levels of leadership:
1. Position: People follow because they have to.
2. Permission: People follow because they want to.
3. Production: People follow because of what you have done for the organization.
4. People Development: People follow because of what you have done for them.
5. Personhood: People follow because of who you are and what you represent.
The lowest level is positional; the highest is personhood. Maxwell’s example of a Level Five leader is Nelson Mandela. Another theory holds that leaders are differentiated not by their philosophy, but by their personality. William Torbert of Boston College is a proponent of this view.
In many ways, both are right. But I think that the differentiating factor is more than philosophy or personality, but perspective. Self-perception in relationship to power, people, and problems is far more insightful in determining leadership effectiveness for the greater good.
According to Torbert’s research, the leaders associated with below average corporate performance are the opportunistic, the diplomatic, and the logical leaders. The most successful leaders were able to interweave competing goals, become strategic in blending employees’ professional and personal goals, and have a social impact that transforms communities beyond local organizations.
It seems both Maxwell and Torbert are describing four types of leaders with different leadership visions:
1. Leading for the Sake of Self: It can be one who has a perspective that “might makes right” or one “who rarely rocks the boat.” Both are leading for the sake of self. They lack perspective on the greater good.
2. Leading for the Sake of the Company: Although a good individual contributor, this leader is interested only in corporate efficiency and views employees as utilities.
3. Leading for the Sake of Others: These leaders have a different perspective about leadership: People are as important as product. They believe that if they take care of their people, their people will take care of them. They look at both the short- and long-term impacts of their decisions. Mutuality, collaboration, and service become more than a value comment on the corporate wall. This is the start of servant leadership.
4. Leading for the Sake of All: These leaders have all-ecompassing perspective. They see that serving others benefits the company, community, and beyond. They inspire, equip, and encourage others to achieve results beyond the company’s mission statement. People follow them, as Maxwell states, because of who they are. These leaders have power without needing titles and are willing to give power away. They are willing to integrate commerce with personal and professional transformation.
Learning servant leadership demands a more global perspective of mission, profitability, and power. Achieving servant leadership will demand intentionality from leaders.
The rewards are great. It is my hope that you will be willing to be willing to be that kind of leader!
- Dr. Tony Baron