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Ken Keller: The seven levels of leadership

Posted: October 14, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 14, 2012 2:00 a.m.

In Jim Collin’s bestselling book “From Good to Great” he writes of five levels of leadership; I believe that there are seven levels of leadership, described below.

As you read through each description, evaluate not only where you see yourself, but also where you see those that work with you, and for you, including your vendors and clients.

The very bad

Meet the internal terrorist. These individuals are negative leaders, starting rumors, are disruptive, pushing limits and creating havoc in the organization.

They stir things up, are argumentative without offering positive opinions. When asked how they might do something better, these individuals have plenty of ideas, but will not take any responsibility.

They enjoy the popularity that their terrorism brings. These individuals have a lot to offer but the attitude they have makes them a severe liability.

Just present and accounted for

Meet the disengaged employee; they show up on time and follow the rules, but are not interested in doing more than what is expected.

Individuals like this often fight change, are reluctant to progress upward because it means more work, results and responsibility is expected.

This kind of individual would rather be somewhere else and works only because it is required.

The good

Meet the contributor, the highly capable individual, engaged and loyal. They make productive contributions to the team, applying their talents, knowledge and skills to whatever the task is they are assigned. This individual has good work habits, and seeks opportunities to learn. Every organization should be looking for more individuals like this.

Team member

After mastering the skills of a highly capable individual, the next step is to move to being a contributing team member. (Keep in mind that not every individual, no matter how talented, wants to be part of a team. Loners abound in the work world).

The contributing team member works well in a group, making a solid effort towards defined group objectives.

Competent supervisor

The competent manager leads a team. These individuals organize people and other resources to predetermined objectives.

An individual at this level understands and can deal effectively with individuals who are terrorists or disengaged.

Superior manager

An effective leader is committed to the active pursuit of a clear and compelling vision, and by their energy, focus and progress, stimulates higher performance from those that they lead.

If a vision is missing, they create it. If the vision becomes cloudy, they refocus until it becomes clear again.

These individuals are persistent, yet realistic. They lead from the front ... their mantra is “Follow me.”

These individuals are rare, and you can see them from a distance because they have a contagious attitude worth catching.

Inspiring leader

This rare individual builds greatness in an organization through a combination of personal humility and professional will.

These are not the people you see on magazine covers or hosting television shows. Chances are, you have never heard of anyone at this level of leadership, because they stay out of the limelight, and spend their energy not posturing in the press, but by taking the organization they are responsible for to a different place...a better place.

These definitions and descriptions raise interesting questions. Have you taken a census of how many of your employees are in each category?

Are you tolerating terrorists? Do you know the cost of having these individuals corrode your company from the inside out? How did your disengaged employees get there? What are you doing to re-engage them? Are you developing those individuals who can make a stronger contribution or are you squelching them?

Finally, where do you place yourself and what will you do to move to the next level?

Ken Keller is CEO of STAR Business Consulting Inc., a company that works with companies interested in growing top line revenue. He can be reached at Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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