How to develop yourself and others through the Four Levels of Leadership

Optimal Leadership

I have noticed over the 2,000 hours of coaching leaders, that there are four distinct stages that we all go through, before we get to fully functioning and highly effective Optimal Leadership (stage 4).

And yet people, understandably, get stuck. Often because they simply aren’t aware of where they are, and where they could be in terms of effectiveness.

So I love sharing this model, The Four Levels of Leadership, because it not only helps leaders to see where they could be, the possibilities and the opportunities, but also they get to share it with the emerging leaders in their teams too.

1. Reactive Leadership

This is where a new, inexperienced leader has just been promoted – has the pot plant, the car park (maybe), and is fervently hoping that people do what they should do. Because if they don’t, the leader has not much idea what to do to fix it.

The team is often in confusion at this stage, as the leader veers left and right, is unstructured in their approach, often exhibits emotionality, and often fails to get the result.

People only follow a reactive leader, because they have the title, not because they have any trust. Yet.

The idea is to strongly mentor this individual so they move through this phase quickly.

Signs you have someone in the reactive phase of leadership:

  • They have low confidence
  • Low trust of the team
  • Low accountability
  • High “hope”
  • They tend to avoid crucial conversations
  • They can tend to want to be “friends” with everyone or can do the opposite and be distant

2. Dictator Leadership

This is a crucial stage, and we all go through it. The key is to not stay here too long.

The Dictator leader, because they are not getting results through their team, decides to turn on the pressure. They tell rather than show. They broadcast rather than listen. They believe their way is best, and ultimately it’s their way or the highway. Pretty painful to be in their team, right?

They become distanced from the team because they don’t trust them to do a good job. And if, by chance they do, the Dictator Leader takes the credit.

The low trust causes lower performance and tension.

This leader needs regular feedback and mentoring to keep them on track.

Signs you have a Dictator Leader in your midst:

  • Low confidence
  • Improving competence
  • Low trust
  • Accountability is being demanded
  • They feel important because of position and apparent authority
  • High disappointment in team
  • Tough conversations involve blaming others
  • Low self-awareness of the environment they have created
  • The team tries to find their own way and develops bad habits
  • The team stops using systems and structure
  • Fear of the leader

3. Action Leadership

This is when it starts to get interesting. You are getting results. Consistently. There’s a buzz about the team. An energy. It’s fun.

But YOU need to be there. When you are on holiday, things slow down. Bad habits in the team creep in. Feels familiar? Most leaders stop here…because they think that getting the results in itself is the end game. It’s not. Look at all the companies who have gone down the pan, once the main leader has left. Too many.

Signs you have an Action Leader in your midst:

  • Performance improving
  • Confidence growing as long as results are there
  • Competence in the team, as long as the leader is there
  • Team trust in what is seen, not in what is possible
  • Leader doesn’t know how to get the team to perform without them there
  • Crucial conversations misfire because leader is unaware how frustrated they are with the team
  • People miss training and development because no-one sees it as important
  • Team does not always feel understood or appreciated

4. Optimal Leadership

The jump from Action to Optimal is learning how to inspire action in others without having to demonstrate your own competence all the time. The team thinks for themselves. They improve the way things are done without having to be asked. They are self-sufficient. Your job is about reporting up and you have more time and choices. It is the goal for all leaders who are ambitious to demonstrate their growth, contribution, and abilities.

Optimal Leaders are the ones we remember when we work for them.

Signs you have an Optimal Leader in your midst:

  • High confidence
  • High competence
  • High trust
  • High accountability
  • Crucial conversations are appreciated by the team and are integrated into day to day operations
  • Leader has high reliance on working through the team
  • Inspires the team
  • Leader believes in the team
  • Sees how to develop the team
  • Leader speaks plainly so the team know where they stand

It is my mission to help 10,000 leaders reach Optimal Leadership. Join my FREE Facebook Group here, to be a part of an amazing community of like-minded passionate individuals who are hell-bent on creating inspiring cultures where amazing people thrive.

With huge thanks to The Coaching Institute


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