Levels of Leadership

Recently, I read a summary prepared by Courtney Dodd, Extension Program Specialist – 4-H, of John Maxwell’s levels of leadership. Maxwell is a leadership expert who speaks at numerous conferences and has authored several books on aspects of leadership. Courtney did an excellent job of summarizing these levels of leadership. Everything said about leadership definitely applies to how we lead volunteers who support Extension programs. So, here they are…

Level 1: Position Level – This is where we all start. When you are at this level, people follow you because they have to, most likely because of your title. To me, this is similar to starting out as a county Extension agent or moving to a new position. However, this position does not make you a good leader. This is a time where you can shape and define who you are as a leader!

Level 2: Permission Level – In this stage, people follow you because they want to. Since level one, you have begun connecting with people, and these relationships are the foundation of leadership. As you get to know your volunteers, it’s important to build relationships with them. Take time to get to know them. Listen and observe.

Level 3: Production Level – At this level of leadership, you are “producing by example.” In other words, you are modeling what others want to see – a positive attitude, ethical behavior, respect, etc. In doing so, you will attract others, momentum builds and volunteers will step up to help out. Remember, a positive attitude is contagious!

Level 4: People-Development Level – This level focuses on exactly what it’s named – developing people! The success of our volunteer programs starts the minute a volunteer walks in for the very first time. It’s all about who we recruit in to the program to serve as a volunteer, positioning them to serve in an area that interests them, and then equipping them with the proper training and resources.

Level 5: Pinnacle Level – This is the highest point of your leadership abilities. You’ve done it all and you’ve done it well. And, people (your volunteers) follow you because of what you’ve done and who you are. So, all of your hard work has paid off. However, the work is not done. Why? Because leadership is always ongoing. We are constantly learning and growing. And, we are at a different level of leadership with each of our volunteers. By knowing what level you are on with each person you lead, then you’ll know, more specifically, how to lead them!

Posted by Dale A. Fritz, Ph.D., District Extension Administrator

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