Skip to content

Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #134: 10 Lessons from 10 Years of the 5 Levels

April 29, 2021
Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #134: 10 Lessons from 10 Years of the 5 Levels

It’s been 10 years since The 5 Levels of Leadership book was published. Today, Chris and Perry discuss the impact this book has made on them personally and on the leaders they work with.

Want to enhance your organization’s leadership culture? Learn more about our 5 Levels of Leadership private workshops HERE – Offered virtually and on-site to meet your organization’s health guidelines.

Download our Learning Guide for this podcast!

Read the Transcript:

Perry Holley:    Welcome to the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast, where our goal is to help you increase your reputation as a leader, increase your ability to influence others, and increase your ability to fully engage your team to deliver remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holley, a John Maxwell Facilitator and Coach.

Chris Goede:     And I’m Chris Goede, Vice President with The John Maxwell Company. Welcome and thank you for joining. As a quick reminder, please visit if you have a question for Perry or I, comment. Also Perry does a Leader’s Guide for you to download as you work through each one of our podcasts, you can find that there, or even about some of our public workshops. Well, I’m really excited. We talk a lot about 5 Levels, we’re going to talk about that again today, but also I know one of your favorite pieces of the content, 360° Leader, we’re going to be doing a public workshop there. If that’s something you’re interested in, you can find out more about those resources at that website.

Well, today’s topic, you guys know I absolutely love this portion of the podcast; this is the only time Perry really lets me talk is when I share his titles with you, but this one’s really special to Perry and I, because we absolutely have gone through the last 100 plus maybe 30, 40 podcasts, and everything we do is based off of the principles of The 5 Levels of Leadership.

And so the title today is, What 10 years of The Five Levels of Leadership Has Taught Us, because we’re at our ten-year anniversary.

Perry Holley:    Ten years. Happy Anniversary.

Chris Goede:     Happy Anniversary. Ten years of the book. Now the principles in the model are 20 plus years old, right? John actually had that in the first chapter of Developing the Leader Within You some 20 plus years ago, but the actual book, because he got so much respect and talk about the actual chapter, John went back and wrote a book on it. It’s 10 years old today. And so we’re going to dive in, just share some personal stories about the model and how it’s impacted us.

Perry Holley:    Fantastic. Well, I was thinking about it and he said 10 years and how it’s really changed in me personally, but it’s impacted a real generation of leaders that we get the opportunity and the privilege of working with. I picked five things, I know you’d like that, that made a real difference for me. And I know you picked five things that made an impact for you, even though I threw you a curve with the 10 things upfront, it’s really two sets of five.

Chris Goede:     I love it.

Perry Holley:    I don’t know if you saw that. Did you see what I just did?

Chris Goede:     I did. I saw it. I love it.

Perry Holley:    Yeah. So I’ll just go ahead and get started. And then we’ll kind of go back and forth on that. So number one for me was, I do think The 5 Levels taught a generation of leaders that leadership is not about your title or position. It’s about your level of influence with every person in your circle of influence. And that idea of moving away from position to influence, I know is enormous for me personally, but everybody we teach, they’re thinking, “Wow, I was kind of brought up to think it was being the boss.” Uh, no.

Chris Goede:     And it’s also, you see people that don’t have any direct reports going, “Well, I’m not a leader.” And we’re like, “No, no, no, no, no, no. Let’s talk about the word influence.” And I think you’re spot on. I think it’s been a lot of eye-opening conversations when people begin to understand that leadership really is influence.

Perry Holley:    And you know that I did a workshop this week and I had a senior team, but they had one person they didn’t tell me they had put it in there was an aspiring senior team member, but had no direct reports at that moment. And she came to me in a break and said, “I don’t know why I’m here. I’m not a leader.” And it just opened up that entire conversation about, “Oh, you’re leading from the middle or you’re leading without a title. That’s the ultimate of influence right there.” And then she leaned in the rest of the day.

Chris Goede:     That’s awesome. That’s a perfect example. Well, number one for me is, and you’ve heard us talk about this, is that this has created a common language for leadership inside organizations, but also individuals when they begin to talk about it. But for us, the impact I’ve really seen on me and then is the impact I’ve seen on organizations that developing a common language. It goes back to the fact, if you don’t know how to define something, but yet you’re talking about your culture again, this is what we’re talking about is your leadership culture inside your organization, how 5 Levels impacts that, which is how you think, act, and interact, right?

If you don’t have a common language of speaking, then everybody’s going to be speaking a different language. And we’ve used the example of going out to lunch with somebody who doesn’t speak the same language, there won’t be a whole lot of conversation or connection going on. And this allows you to do that, of which, remember, common language leads to beliefs, which then leads to behavior. And as we’re thinking about cultures inside your organization, we are looking for, not to make everybody the same, but we’re looking for behavioral change of the way that individuals are made. And that common language is the first part of that.

Perry Holley:    I love that. We see it, I see it, firsthand when after we’d done a workshop and we get the concepts going, but then we do a coaching engagement with that organization, I’ll be on the phone with these leaders that we’re coaching and they’ll say, “Well, I’ve got a Level Two problem and I really haven’t connected. And we’re talking about how to…”. I’m thinking, “They’re using the language. They’re talking about it.”

Chris Goede:     They’re getting it.

To be a Successful Leader, You Need Feedback on Your Leadership.

We’re excited to announce our new and improved Organizational Effectiveness Survey (OES). The OES gathers feedback from employees to give leaders and management the knowledge and action plans needed to develop a more effective and productive work environment. Our new version measures 4 areas of your business: Leadership, People, Strategy, and Performance. 

Perry Holley:    All right. Number two for me, oh, we talk so much about engagement and the employee engagement problem in most businesses, but I think The 5 Levels has really shown me that the engagement level of my team is completely a leadership issue and that level of buy-in, it’s on me, the leader, and that by developing the right influence and climbing those levels of influence of The 5 Levels, I can drive engagement of the team.

Chris Goede:     That’s good. Number two for me is, as I think about this is, people won’t go along with you unless they get along with you. And I began to think about that of some leaders I’ve had in the past of whether or not I went along with their leadership, with their vision, with their direction. And when you think about it, there are some that if you don’t necessarily connect with at Level Two, our foundation of it, and get along with it, you’re not going along with them. I know I didn’t, I wasn’t all in. You talk about engagement. You talk about discretionary effort, that’s not happening unless you figure out a way to connect to your team, to get along with them. We’re not saying build relationships. We’re not saying that this is something that you have to go out to dinner with after work, whatever, that doesn’t have to happen. There are ways for you to connect and get along with those that are inside your culture, inside your environment, in order for you to be able as a team, win-win, to achieve what the organization is asking you to do.

Perry Holley:    Right. That’s something the Positional Model of Leadership doesn’t teach; you don’t really, I don’t have to connect. “Just do what I said. I have the right to tell you what to do.” But if you’re talking influence and growing influence, you absolutely have to connect and get that buy-in. So it’s a Level Two effort there. Number three for me, this was big, was that if I can even gain more influence, I can get a greater result. My team can produce better results. So the greater my influence with the individuals on the team, the greater the result. And the whole idea to me of growing influence for higher and higher level results, was not something I had ever considered before. I really thought I had a team, you hire the right people, you’ve got them there, but it goes back to disengagement and distractions and other things that are going on that if I can have more influence, I can drive higher results because that team wants to come in and work together.

Chris Goede:     That’s good. Number three for me is, values matter. Your personal values matter. And when I think about this, there’s a couple of things that I think about underneath it. Number one, values, your values, are your decision-making filter, which then drives your behavior. And as you’ve said on this podcast several times, people are watching you all the time.

Perry Holley:    Right. All the time.

Chris Goede:     And that behavior is driven by decisions you make, which is driven by your values. And so that matters when it comes to leadership. Also on the other side, this is something that, man, has really, really stuck with me as I’ve learned and studied this model, is that if you don’t understand the values of those that you work with, not work for you, everybody, you are missing a great opportunity to impact and add value to that individual.

Because if you have conversations and you understand what they value, then you’re going to be able to connect and lead them at a far greater level. And before I really began studying this model, leading with this model, I probably couldn’t even have told you what my values are, and nor would I have been able to say that that is tied to anything about leadership. And I’m really excited because on our next podcast, I want to take just a minute. I want to make sure that everybody, maybe you don’t finish listening to Perry and I on this one, you’re like, “Oh, we’ve heard that message before.” I want to encourage you to listen to our next one, because we’re going to talk about values from a completely different angle around John’s new book and the Change Your World movement, so make sure that you tune in in our next episode because it speaks to values to this point, but it is something different that I think will make a difference in your organization.

Perry Holley:    I agree. Go for a minute, just comment, if you wouldn’t mind, we spend a lot of time talking about developing your culture and designing a culture, not defaulting to a culture, I think that values… Give us a few thoughts on values and the culture that you design in your organization.

Chris Goede:     Yeah. I think if you want… We go back to this, how do people think, how do they act, how do they interact, specifically around the interact, if you don’t understand what people value, you are going to not have inclusivity. We’ve talked about that, we got great response from our last series about that, and that’s really what we’re about. Whereas if you make sure that you believe in, that you value, and you unconditionally love people, you will build a culture and engagement level that the team is there for each other. And that’s why I think it’s so important, because unintentionally, we are probably losing production, maybe our EBITDA is not as high as it should be, all of that because of the fact that we are not valuing the values of our people. And by doing that unintentionally, we are driving disengagement.

I love your example of, we talk about 10 people in the boat rowing. Well, when you unintentionally or intentionally ask somebody to do something, to be a part of a team or a movement, whatever, that actually conflicts with one of their personal values, I’m sorry, but they’re going to be in the back of the boat, dropping the anchors, and as you say, rowing the other way.

Perry Holley:    Drilling a hole.

Chris Goede:     Yeah. Poking holes in the boat. And so while it’s a simple process, simple principle, it takes a little bit of intentionality behind it, but it’s a powerful tool once you get that. And I can’t talk enough about the power of values in driving a culture inside an organization.Perry Holley:    Yeah. I love that. And I always, when we do the workshop, we do a values exercise, and I just always ask people, we’re in Level One, that positional level, when we talk about it, why would we talk about values here is because we’re talking influence, not position. If you just want to stay at position and be the boss, forget the values, nobody cares. But if you want to have influence, grow your influence, and climb those levels, people are watching you all the time and they’re trying to determine, “Am I going to give you permission,” which is Level Two, “Am I going to give you permission to be my leader, to be my influencer?” Well, how do I make that decision? By how you act, behave, react, that all comes out of your values. So I love that the whole concept of values is such an integral part of being able to climb the ladder of influence.

Chris Goede:     Totally agree.

Perry Holley:    Number four for me, when I think an impact that had on me was that follow, I’ve heard John say this; I’ll be honest, I discounted it the first time I heard it, I warn everybody when I tell them, “You’re going to discount this, but pay attention, it’s so important”, but that followers want to know three things about you as their leader. And those three things are: can you help me, do you care about me, and can I trust you? And that really came up as a Level Two, going to Level Three. Why am I going to lean in and really produce results with this team and buy into you at that high a level is I know that as my leader, you’re trying to help me. You’re in there with me. You care about me as a person, not just an employee, and that we’ve built a bond of trust between us as we produce that momentum going forward.

Chris Goede:     Yeah, absolutely. It’s funny. I was smiling while you were saying that, because most all of John’s principles, and he would tell you that if he was here with us, are simple. It’s whether or not you’re going to be intentional about living them out. And you’re like, “Oh yeah, no, I know that.”

Perry Holley:    I tell people now they’re sitting there, they’ve got their arms crossed or whatever, “Listen,” I go, “I’m going to tell you something that’s profound, and you’re not going to write it down because it’s going to sound so simple, but I’m going to tell you, it’ll change your life.” And then they start getting their pencils out.

Chris Goede:     A little peer pressure, they see one person writing it down.

Perry Holley:    I know you’re not going to write this down, but go ahead and write this down.

Chris Goede:     I love it. Well, number four for me, and as I think through this, this is a book that John just wrote last year, really around this title, it’s about Level Four of The 5 Levels model, which is the leader’s greatest return is in developing other people. And for me, I used to think it was, “Oh, when you get into a senior position, a later season in life, you can begin to have Level Four influence into…” and that’s wrong. As you work through this model and these principles, you can begin to add value, there’s that value word again, and develop people that are inside your influence that will give you a tremendous amount of return.

And the greatest joy that I have is when I see people that I have influence with then taking some of the things that we just talked about in a conversation, it didn’t have to be a structured coaching conversation, whatever, it was like, “How can I help so-and-so with that?” And then you see him start to live that out and flourish and then do it better than you do. And that is just more rewarding to me than anything else. And so that Level Four about, that’s the greatest return, your return on investment, not a financial number, it is that you’ve seen another individual just flourish in the areas that they should.

Perry Holley:    And it’s a multiplication. You’re not adding you to everything, your team is multiplying you by making more of you; reproducing leadership in other people. So it’s really a great one. Number five for me, you said leader’s greatest return, I said a leader’s greatest role, is that of a change agent. I did not get this when I was a young leader, that my role, my job is to continue to look for ways to tweak and to perfect the processes, the systems, the way that we do things, and we’ve said here, and you can Tweet this if you want, but if there’s no need for change, there is no need for a leader.

We can do just fine with the troops. We don’t need leaders if there’s no need for change. And it took me a long time to figure out, because people are always pushing back saying, “Why do we have to do… Everything’s just fine.” If your status quo is not fine, if somebody else is catching, is moving, you’ve got to be looking for ways to improve the business and improve the team. And that’s your job as a leader, to have that vision to see further.

Chris Goede:     That’s good. Number five for me, is really about your leadership legacy. When you begin thinking about Level Five in The 5 Levels of Leadership, John calls it the Pinnacle Level, and I like to use the word Legacy Level, and it kind of ties into this, it’s about where your focus begins solely on developing other leaders, always. There’s no start, no end date. Your legacy as a leader is going to be built by developing other leaders. And I think if you can become a leader of leaders and a leader that develops leaders, like for me, that just goes back to this greatest return, that’s so rewarding. And before I really understood this principle, again, I put leadership in a box and it was organizational, it was title, and this and that, and now you begin to look at it in a completely different light about what influence truly is, what leadership truly is. And I think that’s where legacy comes in is when you look back and think about all the leaders that you have developed, that’s big for me. That keeps me up at night.

Perry Holley:    Yeah. I love that. There’s so many lessons, and these are only a few that have stuck out to us, but congratulations to our leader and founder, John Maxwell, 10 years of this. But like you said, it’s a 25 or more year thought process of The Levels of Influence, and we say leadership is influence, so it’s The 5 Levels of Leadership. But why don’t you to wrap it up for us.

Chris Goede:     Yeah, so, man, as Perry mentioned, there’s so much we could talk about. This is something that we do with organizations around the world. This is our passion. These are the guard rails. And then what we do is we say, “We need leaders understanding and leading like this.” Now, are there competencies that come into play at each level? Yes, we do all kinds of coaching and training and all stuff around that, but you’ve got to understand this, this is the core. And so what I want to do is, since it’s the ten-year anniversary, they’re re-releasing the book, put a new cover on it, making it look all shiny and fancy, is that, I want you to know that if you’re interested in Perry and I having a conversation with your leadership team, maybe we’ll do a keynote on the actual content itself, maybe hear some more stories about the impact, we would absolutely love to do that.

And so if you will go to, you can either use the number five or spell it out, There’s an application there you can fill out for us. We’ll pick a couple of organizations, come spend some time virtually with your leadership team. The other thing is, I want to mention as I wrap up, is that with this new book, we are going to offer another public workshop. We’re doing those virtually now as well. You don’t have to fly anywhere, social distancing in your own location. And what we want to do is we want to actually offer that because of the anniversary of the release of the 10 year.

If you’re listening to this podcast, we already have the public workshop price discounted because of the anniversary, but if you’re listening to this podcast, if you will go and visit, let us know you want to be a part of that public workshop, we will reach back out to you and make sure that you receive another discount on top of what we’re already doing. Perry and I don’t normally talk about that, about trying to get you into another public workshop and all that kind of stuff, but with this being the 10-year anniversary, it just brought back up to us how important this is to organizations, and we want to be able to help you. So that’s how I’d wrap it up.

Perry Holley:    Double discount, there can’t be anything bad about that.

Chris Goede:     Double discount.

Perry Holley:    Well thank you for joining us. Again, there’s a Learner Guide on this recapping some of those thoughts. You can also leave other comments and questions for us at We’re always so grateful that you would spend this time with us. That’s all today from the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast.

Be the first to comment on "Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #134: 10 Lessons from 10 Years of the 5 Levels"

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *