Friday, September 07, 2012

Level 4 Leadership: People Development

(Credit: John Maxwell)

For the past few weeks, we have been reflecting on John Maxwell's 5 levels of leadership. We have covered the Positional (Level 1), the Permission (Level 2), the Production (Level 3). Today, we will touch on Level 4, the People Development level of leadership.

In Part 4 of the leadership series, John Maxwell calls this "People Development" level of leadership, as one that helps to develop the potential of individuals through influence and impact. Instead of growing onself per se, one helps others to grow more and more. When this is done consistently, the end result is not just individual growth, but also helps the organization reach its highest potential. The benefits of such level of leadership are as follows.

  1. It sets one apart from most leaders.
  2. It assures toward sustaining growth among individuals as well as the organization.
  3. It empowers others to fulfill their leadership responsibilities.
  4. It empowers the leader to lead larger.
  5. It leads to personal fulfilment, when we see others grow, and when we learn to forget our own selves and focus on others.

Several thoughts come to mind as I reflect on the above five things. Firstly, there is a difference between delegating and dumping. Simply telling people to do things without much supervision or guidance is not delegation. It is simply dumping stuff on others. Worse are those leaders that dump stuff with the intention of seeing their subordinates fail, so that they themselves look good. I think delegation must always involve a close watch by the leader to help others succeed. This is the core motivation of delegation. Helping others succeed. Secondly, learning to focus on others rather than self is a mark of unselfishness. The human nature is selfish by default. We use self-preservation as an end in itself. We fear that if we do not try to help ourselves, we will fail. We will lose out. We give in to all kinds of suspicions that seem to pit the world and everyone against us. As a result, such actions breed distrust and distrust leads to disunity. In trying to consolidate one's power, one gets tempted toward tyranny. In wanting to control others, one moves toward preventing others from achieving their potential. Thirdly, we fail to be leaders. Leaders are to lead people toward personal growth and organizational success. Not training others is essentially preparing for eventual demise of the whole organization. A healthy organization can only thrive well if there is an atmosphere of trust, of learning, and of giving. Some of the quotes from John Maxwell are appropriate.

  • "To reach the upper levels of leadership that create elite organizations, leaders must transition from producers to developers." (181)
  • "Former Secretary of Lanor Robert Reich pointed out, 'If employers fail to upgrade their workers, then they're trying to be competitive only with their capital.'" (185)
  • "Never forget that leadership is the art of helping people change from who they're thought to be to who they ought to be." (187)
  • "Don't allow yourself to become the lid on your organization. Give it the best chance for a bright future by developing other leaders." (188)
  • "Farzin Madjidi, professor of leadership at Pepperdine University, asserts, 'We need leaders who empower people and create other leaders. It's no longer good enough for a manager to make sure that everybody has something to do and is producing. Today, all employees must 'buy in' and take ownership of everything they're doing. To foster this, it's important that employees should make decisions that most directly affect them. That's how the best decisions are made. That's the essence of empowerment.'" (190)
  • "You cannot become an effective Level 4 leader unless you are willing to let go of some of your responsibilities. So what's a good rule of thumb for transferring ownership of a leadership responsibility to someone else? I use the 80 percent rule. If someone on my team can do one of my tasks 80 percent as well as I do (or better), then I give him or her responsibility for it. If you want to be an effective leader, you must move from perfectionist to pragmatist." (191)

A) Barriers to People-Development Level Leadership

The chief reason why many leaders are unable to progress toward Level 4 leadership is insecurity and a lack of maturity. Four barriers are mentioned by John Maxwell.

  1. Self-centeredness
  2. Insecure and easily threatened by others
  3. Shortsightedness
  4. Lack of Commitment

The word 'equip' seems to be a foreign term in people who are insecure and unwilling to train others. They think of themselves being the disadvantaged. They are fearful that no one will help them if they try to help others. Gerald Brooks says it well, "When you become a leader you give up the right to think about yourself." This is worth pondering. Indeed, leaders must be others-centered. Christian leaders must be God-centered so that they can be others-centered in Christ-like ways. When one overcomes self-centeredness, one is free to empower others, to help others do their job better. When tackling insecurity, three areas need to be tackled.

  • Ego: Are you doing things to beef up your ego? Are you using others for your ego's ends?
  • Control: Are you trying to take credit or to assign blame to others? Do you tend to control people more or to energize and encourage them more?
  • Trust: Secure leaders see trust as the glue of any organization.

B) Developing People

Level 4 leaders need to be able to KNOW the potential of people through recruiting and positioning, to SHOW the leader by modeling and equipping, and to GROW a leader by developing, empowering, and measuring. These 7 areas are keys to developing Level 4 leadership.

  1. Recruiting: Maxwell lists 4 Cs when looking for potential leaders. Chemistry is needed. Character is critical. Capacity ensures sustaining of the long process. Contribution is expected, that leaders will learn not just to do the bare minimum, but their best.
  2. Positioning: This places the right people in the right positions.
  3. Modeling: Showing others how to lead resembles Jesus' call to his disciples to come and see.
  4. Equipping: This is helping others to do well. I like the way Maxwell puts it through the five-step equipping model.
       Step 1 - I do it (competence)
       Step 2 - I do it and you are with me (demonstration)
       Step 3 - You do it and I am with you (coaching)
       Step 4 - You do it (empowerment)
       Step 5 - You do it and someone is with you (reproduction)
  5. Developing: Not only is one only trained to do the job, one is trained to live life well. Challenge them to grow and reach their highest potential. Support them where necessary.
  6. Empowering: The joy is to enable others to succeed and to celebrate their successes.
  7. Measuring: Feedback mechanism is important for improvement as well as training leaders. Maxwell proposes a six-degrees checklist.
    1. Look into it. Report. I'll decide what to do.
    2. Look into it. Report alternatives with pros and cons and your recommendation.
    3. Look into it. Let me know what you intend to do, but don't do it unless I say yes.
    4. Look into it. Let me know what you intend to do and do it unless I say no.
    5. Take action. Let me know what you did.
    6. Take action. No further contact required.

C) Cultivating Level 4 Leadership

Four things to do with others.

  1. The highest goal of leadership is to develop leaders, not gain followers or do work
  2. Create a leadership culture by championing and defining good leadership. Teach leadership through regular, frequent basis. Practice leadership by helping leaders to plan and execute. Coach them. Reward them.
  3. Not just  a job but a life commitment. This enables leaders to look beyond the 9-5 job environment. After all, leaders are people, not machines.

Eight things to self-examine and cultivate.

  1. Be willing to keep growing yourself
  2. Make a decision to know that developing people is worth it
  3. Work through your insecurities, and don't give in to them
  4. Find the best people, develop and train them
  5. Commit your time with them
  6. Create a personal development process
  7. Work with people
  8. Use both hard and soft skills
  9. Be responsible in energizing others
  10. Remain approachable through leading, role modeling, and coaching.

My Comments

Of all the levels so far, I find this Level 4 most energizing for the following reasons. Firstly, it points us away from ourselves and to focus on others. This is what Philippians 2:3-4 is all about. We need to learn to put the interests of others above ourselves, regardless of our leadership titles. Secondly, it is life-giving and is long-term in nature. I like teachings that aim to sustain people for the long haul. Life is not a sprint. It is a marathon. Thirdly, there is a great need in this world to grow leaders and to enable leaders to be the best versions of themselves.

Next week, I will discuss Level 5 leadership: The Pinnacle.


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