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“Position is a poor substitute for influence.”

What distinguishes a good leader from a great one? What type of leaders influence rather than command? How does leadership style affect the culture?

Are all questions I had before starting my research on this topic. Being an AIESECer exposes me to experimenting with different leadership styles and qualities, until I find the one that suits me best. And I believe that is the case for all youth leaders around the world. 

However what if I told you we can summarize the different leadership styles and qualities into 5 Leadership stages. 

John C. Maxwell was able to do this through his book “ The 5 Levels of Leadership” using knowledge and experience he has gained over the past 40 years. 

In his book Maxwell perfectly orchestrated how leadership comes in levels, and not all leaders can reach level 5, which is the key to becoming a great leader, rather than a good one. In this article we will swiftly go through each level and what Sahar Al Muhtaseb, Founder of Neptune Careers thinks of them. 

  • Level 1 : Positional Leader

This level is not necessarily the starting point for every leader, but it demands the minimum from a leader. Level 1 leaders hold positions that drive their teams and anyone can assume this position. However, they cannot lead a group of volunteers since there is no actual control over them, and the job title does not hold any authority over them.

Sahar summarized this level briefly: “As someone who has worked with many level 1 leaders, one common characteristic they all share is their lack of ability to listen to their teams, which is the reason they fail to influence” 

  • Level 2 : Permission Leader     “As you transition to become a Level 2 leader you start to form relationships with your team, it is that connection that drives their teams towards working and achieving their goals’ ‘ mentioned sahar in regards to how she views permission leaders. However, there is a downside to permission leaders that sahar pointed out to us, “The flaws of a level 2 leadership lie with the fact that the people are loyal to the person, not the cause, not the company, not the mission. If that person decides to leave the company then the likelihood of their people’s motivation and team rhythm to go downhill.”

Sahar took us through a story of a manager she once worked under who made sure that every company she leaves, she ensures that her team and the company’s work rhythm stays constant even without her being there anymore. 

“I truly believe that anyone who has such a skill of elevating the work environment without the need of them being there at all times is a competitive advantage” mentioned Sahar.

  • Level 3 : Production Leader

To put it in simple-terms : A result-oriented leader. One who motivates others to get things done. Our lovely guest, Sahar,  identifies as someone who is results-driven. She once worked with a leader who only cared about getting things done, meaning she trusted Sahar and her team with the operational side of things and provided them with the freedom to get things done in their own way, rather than micro-manage her way towards the results. Which was one of the reasons she was able to multitask and manage multiple teams other than Sahar’s team.

Sahar and John Maxwell, both agree that even a Level 3 leader must possess Level 2 qualities since a team consists of not only numbers but also individuals.

  • Level 4 : People Development

A leader that reproduces and helps in the birth of other leaders, is one of a level 4 leader. Sahar emphasizes the rarity of Level 4 leaders in the workplace, who not only lead with excellence but also foster the development of other leaders. A pure example of a Level 4 leadership environment is that of a leading Jordanian company, most of their employees leave only to start their own businesses. 

“To me, a level 4 leader is one that combines both level 2 and 3 efficiently, and effectively” stated Sahar.

  • Level 5 : Pinnacle

A niche group of leaders. That is how John described Level 5 leaders. 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.

Now, you’re someone who is at the start of their leadership development journey, and you may be wondering what is the first or most important step/quality a leader must possess in order to become a great leader, not a good one. 

The answer is Self-awareness. If you lack in that department, then the likelihood of you transcending through the levels of leadership are close to nothing. 

And this is a quality Sahar emphasized on its importance greatly.

While working with a global company Sahar recalls they used to have monthly self-assessment evaluation, and how it was even more important than the peer-assessment evaluation

This just shows that a leader who knows their strengths, weaknesses, and how to capitalize and improve them, is one who is ready and prepared to voyage through their leadership journey. One way to improve one’s self-awareness is to have a mentor, advises Sahar. A mentor who gives you feedback constantly side-by-side to your own evaluation of yourself. 

Sahar Al Muhataseb 

Linkedin : Sahar Al Muhataseb