The Levels of Leadership

September 27, 2011

Leadership, Personal Excellence

The Guardian Leadership logo represents the ascension through the four levels of leadership; personal, direct, organizational and strategic.  They build in complexity and also represent the logical path of leadership development. The pyramid is not comprised of uniform layers stacked on one another because you never truly leave any of the layers behind.  Regardless of where you are in your rise through the organization you will always be a direct leader – someone always reports directly to you.  As a strategic leader you require an understanding of the practical application of the organizational level or you can set yourself up for failure.

The pyramid also represents the logical progression of leadership development. You must first practice personal leadership before you can be a credible direct leader.  In fact credibility is a key concept throughout your progression as a leader.  You will not be accepted as a credible organizational leader if you have not been an effective direct leader, and so on.  Your success depends on your development at lower levels of formal leadership.

Personal Leadership…

The personal level is the beginning of building your leadership credibility.  You not only build the technical and tactical knowledge that will make you successful in your position but you also build credibility with your peers based upon your demonstrated character and competence.  You must also demonstrate that you are a good follower; someone who represents the ideal employee. Look at yourself through the eyes of your leader and the organization.  How would you want your followers to act and be that person.  Here you begin to understand what you must be, know and do to enjoy success as you progress through your career.

Direct Leadership…

Direct leadership is the first level of formal leadership. You are responsible for leading individuals and most likely teams of individuals. This level demands that you have a knowledge of individual motivational theory and theories of team leadership.  It’s not enough to be good at the technical and tactical aspects of your line position. You have taken on a whole new career as a formal leader.

Organizational Leadership…

At the organizational level, you begin to lead through subordinate leaders; a whole new set of  specialized leadership skills. While applying these skills, you are still responsible for direct leadership of your direct reports and being a good follower. At this level you will create policy and influence organizational culture. Results depend on your ability to lead through others.

Strategic Leadership…

Here your leadership  takes the organizational environment into consideration.  The demand on your skill level increases as you create the vision and values of your organization and understand the way that it interacts with the outside world.  You need to lead through several layers of subordinate leaders and this type of leadership demands a whole new skill-set.  Problems and solutions are more complex.

Leadership goes beyond being good at your job or God given charisma that draws others to you.  It is both an art and a science that must be learned and practiced to maximize personal and organizational success.  Learning to lead is like learning to run.  First you crawl, then you walk and if you work hard enough at it, you run.

Leave a comment: How did you progress through the levels of leadership?
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