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Essay About Leadership Pdf Maxwell

“True leadership cannot be awarded, appointed, or assigned. It comes only from influence, and that cannot be mandated. It must be earned. The only thing a title can buy is a little time-either to increase your level of influence with others or to undermine it.”1

Leadership is influence. Just because someone has a title, doesn’t mean that person is a leader.

“When it comes to identifying a real leader… The proof of leadership is found in the followers.”2

An organization is only as great as its people. With many myths about leadership, people tend to fall into the trap of managing their team without influencing them. They become complacent with getting the job done, rather than growing the company and the people involved.

To succeed, we must stand as leaders in our organizations, regardless of position, and influence the influencers.
There are several factors that can attribute to emerging as a leader. Here, we’ll detail out the seven factors highlighted in John Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.

1. Character – Who They Are
“True leadership always begins with the inner person.”3

The character of a leader will filter into the entire organization and its employees. Great character will create potential for a great organization. But, it all begins with the leader’s heart.

2. Relationships – Who They Know
“Build the right kinds of relationships with the right people, and you can become the real leader in an organization.”4

In your sphere of influence, you must develop deep, meaningful relationships that go beyond seeing someone daily because you simply work in the same office. Relationships grow loyalty, influence and ultimately the business.

3. Knowledge – What They Know
“Whenever I was new to an organization, I always spent a lot of time doing homework before I tried to take the lead.”5

New environments bring about questions to be answered. By seeking knowledge before demanding a leadership position, leaders have the chance to learn first, lead second.

4. Intuition – What They Feel
“Leaders seek to recognize and influence intangibles such as energy, morale, timing, and momentum.”6

Leaders see past the obvious into realms that others cannot. This ability impacts the organization, as well as the people around them, as they can steer momentum down the best path with the most reward.

5. Experience – Where They’ve Been
“The greater challenges you’ve faced as a leader in the past, the more likely followers are to give you a chance in the present.”7

All leaders face obstacles – in the office, at home and in their personal lives. However, through overcoming difficulties, leaders grow in great ways. By navigating through multiple tough experiences, followers will likely have more respect for where leaders have been… and where they can take the organization in the future.

6. Past Success – What They’ve Done
“Every time I extended myself, took a risk, and succeeded, followers had another reason to trust my leadership ability – and to listen to what I had to say.”8

Past success doesn’t guarantee future success, but it sure makes people feel more comfortable with being led and influenced. Find ways to take on challenges and excel in them, and you’ll soon be presented with new responsibilities and leadership opportunities.

7. Ability – What They Can Do
“The bottom line for followers is what a leader is capable of. They want to know whether that person can lead the team to victory.”9

Leadership is influence, nothing more nothing less. Show you can lead a team to victory and you will have shown you can positively influence your followers and organization.

For many of us, we have the opportunity to lead in some capacity. However, to maximize our influence we must continually be growing in these seven factors.

Of the seven factors listed here, which one do you need to invest in most? We’d love to hear how you could optimize or better utilize the ones with which you struggle. Share with us below or on Facebook or on Twitter using the hashtag #21Laws.
1 The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, pg. 13
2 The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, pg. 16
3 The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, pg. 17
4 The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, pg. 17
5 The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, pg. 17
6 The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, pg. 17
7 The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, pg. 17
8 The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, pg. 18
9 The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, pg. 18

A business executive. A softball coach. A classroom teacher. A volunteer coordinator. A parent.

Whether you’re one of these things or all of these things, one thing remains true:

You are a leader.

But where are you on your leadership journey, and where do you go from here? Over my years of teaching about leadership, that question exists at the heart of so many leaders. Everyone wants to know where they stand and how to get to the next level. And you are probably no different!

That’s why I developed the 5 Levels of Leadership paradigm in my book, Developing the Leader Within You, and then expanded it in my book, The 5 Levels of Leadership. I wanted to help leaders understand and increase their effectiveness. And while there is more to this teaching than space in this blog, today I want to offer a general overview of the 5 Levels as a reminder that you are still on your way as a leader – and so am I! So feel free to bookmark this page or print it out as a quick guide for your journey as a leader.


Level 1 — Position

The lowest level of leadership—the entry level, if you will—is Position. It’s the only level that requires no ability or effort to achieve. After all, anyone can be appointed to a position! While nothing is wrong with having a leadership position, everything is wrong with relying only on that position to get people to follow. That’s because it only works if you have leverage (such as job security or a paycheck) over your followers. At Level 1, people only follow if they believe that they have to.

People who remain on the position level may find it difficult to work with volunteers. Why? Because position does not automatically result in influence, and volunteers are aware that they don’t have to follow anyone. They truly only follow if they want to.

But the news is not all bad about this level. It is a prime place for you to begin investing in your growth and potential as a leader. Use your time at this level learning to lead yourself – through priorities and self-discipline – and you’ll be ready to move to the next level.

Level 2 — Permission

Level 2 is based on relationship. At this level, people choose to follow because they want to. In other words, they give the leader Permission to lead them. To grow at this level, leaders work on getting to know their people and connecting with them. You can’t lead without people, which means you need to learn to like people if you want to lead well!

When you like people and treat them as individuals who have value, you begin to develop positive influence with them. Trust grows, which usually leads to respect. And the environment becomes much more positive—whether at home, on the job, at play, or while volunteering. Level 2 is where solid, lasting relationships are built that create the foundation for the next level.

Level 3 — Production

The best leaders know how to motivate their people to GTD – get things done! And getting things done is what Level 3 is all about. On this level, leaders who produce results build their influence and credibility. People still follow because they want to, but they do it because of more than the relationship. People follow Level 3 leaders because of their track record.

The Production level is where leaders can become change agents. Work gets done, morale improves, profits go up, turnover goes down, and goals are achieved. The more you produce, the more you’re able to tackle tough problems and face thorny issues. Leading and influencing others becomes fun, because when everyone is moving forward together, the team rises to another level of effectiveness.

It’s important to note here that the goal with the 5 Levels is not to move away from one level to grow at a new level. Instead, these 5 levels of leadership build upon each other. In other words, Level 3 leaders still need to do the things that make Level 2 happen. They just add Level 3 strategies to the mix. And as they become effective at Level 3, they are ready to layer on the goals of the next levels.

Level 4 — People Development

Level 4 can be summed up in one word: reproduction. Your goal at this level is to identify and develop as many leaders as you can by investing in them and helping them grow.

The reason is simple: When there are more leaders, more of the organization’s mission can be accomplished. The people you choose to develop may show great potential for leadership, or they may be diamonds in the rough, but the main idea is the same: When you invest in them, you can reproduce yourself.

The more you raise up new leaders, the more you will change the lives of all members of the team. As a result, people will follow you because of what you’ve done for them personally. And as an added bonus, some of those mentoring relationships are likely to last a lifetime.

So to grow at the people development level, you need to make investing in leaders a priority, and take intentional steps every day to help them grow. Do that consistently, for long enough, and you may begin to reap the rewards of the next level.

Level 5 — Pinnacle

The highest level of leadership is also the most challenging to attain. It requires longevity as well as intentionality. You simply can’t reach Level 5 unless you are willing to invest your life into the lives of others for the long haul. But if you stick with it, if you continually focus on both growing yourself at every level, and developing leaders who are willing and able to develop other leaders, you may find yourself at the Pinnacle.

The commitment to becoming a Pinnacle leader is sizeable, but so are the payoffs. Level 5 leaders develop Level 5 organizations. They create opportunities other leaders don’t. They create a legacy in what they do. People follow them because of who they are and what they represent. In other words, their leadership gains a positive reputation. As a result, Level 5 leaders often transcend their position, their organization, and sometimes their industry.


There’s so much more I’d love to tell you, but let me leave you with this. Leadership is about growth – for yourself, your relationships, your productivity, and your people. To lead well, you must embrace your need for continual improvement, and the 5 Levels provide a leadership GPS to help you with your journey. You must know where you are, to know where you’re going.

Otherwise, as the Cheshire Cat told Alice, when you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.


For more in-depth teaching on The 5 Levels of Leadership, read my 2011 book on the subject. Or learn from one of my expert facilitators at a workshop in your area.

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