Leadership vs. Bossing

To make and keep any organization successful requires Leadership: ask any successful organization’s top people, from the Air Force to General Electric to McDonald’s. Leadership is the ability to get the right people on the bus and into the right responsibilities so the organization is coordinated and effective. As John Maxwell wrote in Developing the Leader Within You: Leadership is INFLUENCE.

Maxwell sees five levels of personal and professional growth in management, or rather organizational leadership.

  1. Position — the manager effects compliance strictly by virtue of his or her job title — by rank. “People follow you”, writes Maxwell, “because they have to.” Managers who stay on this level too long poison the organization. This person causes high turnover and low morale.
  2. Permission — the manager effects compliance with the willing consent of the team. In Maxwell’s words “People follow you because they want to. People will follow you beyond your stated authority. This level allows work to be fun.”  This is a good business person, provided he or she continues to grow: if they do not grow then any highly motivated direct reports will become restless.
  3. Production — the manager is actually leading by example. “People follow you” says Maxwell, “because of what you have done for the organization.” Here the manager has momentum — and some feel they have finally “arrived”. People like you and what you are doing. Problems get fixed quickly and with little effort because of your momentum.
  4. People Development — the manager focuses on long-range growth and focuses on developing the people around him or her, not just “controlling” them. Maxwell writes “People will follow because of what you have done for them.” This is the highest that most managers ever rise. A very few will reach the final level:
  5. Personhood — the manager has spent years developing others and helping their organizations without demanding personal gain. His or her clear objective is to make this world a better place for everyone. In Maxwell’s words “People follow because of who you are and what you represent.”

How do you manage? Do you think of yourself by your job title, or by your responsibility? Is the most important thing to you what you can get for yourself, or how you can help others be everything they can be and make this whole world a more productive, better place for everyone to live? Which level manager are you, and where will you be going next?

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