The least effective, lowest level of leadership, is positional leadership. This is the level at which subordinates are forced to obey your orders, only because you are their superior. Most people begin at this level, but only poor leaders remain here: they breed rotting moral and resentment and can actually harm the organization. Most leaders soon develop relationships of mutual respect with their direct reports so that they are followed not because their subordinates have no choice, but because their subordinates are willing to take direction from them. This is the second or “permission” level.

In time some leaders gain further respect from their subordinates because of their own personal productivity, that is, people follow you because of what you have done for the organization. At this point people pitch in willingly and problems get fixed easily because people are beginning to believe in you. Many managers will never grow above this level. Some will never reach it.

The levels above productivity are “personal development’, where people follow you because you are developing their capabilities, not just using them, and “personhood”, where people follow you because of who you are and what you represent.

I published more on this at http://alt-fw.org/public/?s=leadership some years ago, but it is still useful today.

Leadership also involves followership. When you are leading people, try to lead not bully. If the only way your direct reports will follow you is because they have no choice, and it’s been like that for a long time, then maybe you need to consider changing your line of work. If most of your people follow willingly, but one subordinate simply fights your every direction, then perhaps that subordinate would be happier elsewhere.

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