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8 Steps to Developing People – 1 of 8

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”
- Jack Welch

In my last article, a brief overview of the 8 steps to developing people, I noted that the starting point is developing ourselves. Knowing what we need to work on and why points us in the right direction in step one of our leadership journey.

You Are Here

Before embarking on our journey, we must first locate ourselves. I’m sure we have all been in elevator lobbies and took notice of a small diagram on the wall with either a red dot or an arrow accompanied by the words “you are here.” That simple diagram enables us to gain our bearings; knowing where we stand clarifies where we need to take our next steps toward our intended destination.

Before embarking on our journey, we should pause long enough to answer a simple question. Is your company and organization or an organism?

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines organization as:

a. the act or process of organizing or of being organized.

b. the condition or manner of being organized.

We can see that organization speaks to a condition or structure that is organized.

On the other hand, an organism is living and, therefore, under the right conditions, will multiply. In essence, any company that has a culture of developing people will, in time, multiply. Any organization with a people development culture is more than a system with structure; it is a living organism that will multiply.


The five levels of leadership by John C. Maxwell is the starting point for our journey of developing people.

Level 1 — Position

“I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.”
- Ralph Nader

Position is the entry-level where our journey begins. This level requires no ability to get started; people will automatically follow us out of respect for the position. There’s a grace period that begins on our first day of work. Time will reveal who we are as leaders; if we aren’t sure, our people will let us know!

Level 1 allows us to begin investing in ourselves and developing the necessary skills to work with teams successfully. At this level, we should grow in self-awareness, chart our course, and set our priorities.

Level 2 — Permission

At level 2, we strengthen relationships; if successful, people willingly follow, which we should take as permission granted to lead them; this is where we should learn to connect with others and become a positive influence in their lives. These working relationships lay the foundation for the next level.

Level 3 — Production

Level 3 is all about productivity. The targeted outcome is the name of the game here.

Productivity is high and delivered with quality assurance. You’ll become influential and have a higher level of credibility. Earning level 3 credibility comes from standing on the foundational principles acquired on levels 1 and 2, and so on to level 5.

Level 4 — People Development

Level 4 leaders understand the responsibilities of levels one through three; from position through permission, they become more productive. At level 4, we grow from producing to reproducing. We learn to add value to the organization through the first three levels by adding value to those around us. To this point, we’ve demonstrated competencies for investing in the correct principles and habits that consistently reproduce targeted outcomes.

At level 4, we are demonstrating competencies for choosing the right people. By investing in the right people, we reproduce ourselves, thus multiplying value to them and the organization. Multiplying at the people development level means we’re reproducing leaders who function at level 4! Leaders who reproduce level 4 leaders who do the same will eventually transition to level 5.

Level 5 — Pinnacle

Level 5 is the highest level of leadership as well as the most challenging. It is my understanding that it takes multipliers a lifetime of developing multipliers to stand in level 5. What makes this level so challenging is Pinnacle leaders are intentionally multiplying legacies, thus multiplying value for a generation they will never see.

John Maxwell states that “Level 5 leaders often transcend their position, their organization, and sometimes their industry.”

“I have always thought that what is needed is the development of people who are interested not in being leaders as much as in developing leadership in others.”
- Ella Baker

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