3 Levels of True Leadership
Most people will find themselves in a position of influence at some point in their lives. It may be in the family, at work, entrepreneurism, or in informal settings. Nonetheless, leadership is within all of us.
Because leadership at its core is about blazing a new path that has a following. In the phrase, “standing on the shoulders of giants,” it makes us wonder where did the giants come from? Those giants were leaders, innovators, organizers, and most of their achievements live on in stories, lore, literature, writings, science or teachings.
In leadership, there are primarily 4 reasons why people will choose to follow you. They feel you can achieve a result: competence. They generally like you: charisma. They believe you hold information that is accurate: expertise. Or, they feel safe and certain: stability. These four reasons give us an idea of what different people value in leadership and provide us leaders an influence strategy.
Most leadership books or management textbooks seem to allude to two levels of leadership. This is because the 4 reasons people follow you are within those two levels. I believe, however, there are three levels and the third one being the most relevant to our overall life purpose and divine purpose.
Managers are 1st level leaders. First understand, many people will not even be defined as a 1st level leader. A 1st level leader is essentially when one has formal or informal responsibilities over someone. The followers are a result of a hierarchy granting legitimate power (family, organizational chart, job title etc.). Generally, assuming the hierarchy is not corrupt, this is due to a level of competence achieved.
Therefore, the first level of leadership is when others have recognized you as competent in achieving a result of some kind. This may be a 360-degree recognition, it could be from peers, your leader, or people whom follow you. This is what qualifies you to lead others.
A manager is someone who can manage people and provide direction operationally. Operational direction is the daily roles and responsibilities to keep people occupied and moving in a direction. This is obviously essential in any business role.
I recently heard the quote:
“CEO’s look out and COO’s look down.”
This is referring to the Chief Executive Officer and the Chief Operations Officer. The manager is competent in managing information and people.
Leaders are 2nd level leaders. Some managers are more “doers” they will get results and get things done. While visionary’s typically come up with more strategy. Managers are excellent and certainly a complement and necessity to the visionary.
However, Sun Zao, author of Art of War wrote:
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”
Tactics are what I’m referring to as operations. Strategy is the role of the leader. Tactics is the role of the manager.
This quote speaks quite highly to the power of a visionary which is what I am defining as the key characteristic of a leader. A leader is someone who can creatively come up with a vision and surround themselves with the right key players to ground that vision into a result. They do not follow orders, but they pioneer a new direction and feel confident giving direction. They are judged by the quality of the strategy.
The leader has virtuous characteristics and highly noble behavior. Leaders tend to have more characteristics that resemble someone of nobility versus someone who just executes tasks. I could detail out a list of characteristics from a leader, but that may very well be another article within itself.
Then the question becomes, what possibly could the next level of leadership be? If a leader is a visionary, pioneers a new direction, and executes work in a highly ethical and virtuous domain, what could possibly be better than that?
#3 The Hero
As I was thinking about what to discuss in my next video blog it was Veteran’s Day. I was trying to identify what makes people do such incredible acts of courage on the battle field. My research led me to discover that high amounts of serotonin were an evolutionary benefit to sacrifice for your team or group. Serotonin is a chemical within our brains that adjust the status we take in our cultures hierarchy. In other words, the chemical that drives levels of leadership.
Then, I connected that into my last 18 months of research to identify how are legends born. Many of them are very similar. Legends, stories, and myths have been around long before the written word. They were told for centuries, or perhaps millennial since we have been conscious of our ancestors.
So what makes a person qualified to live on throughout time in these myths and legends?
David M. Eagleman wrote:
“There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.”
So how do we become heroic enough in this life to extend our story for generations? This is where the virtue of courage is considered.
Remember standing on the shoulders of giants? How does one become one of those giants? They must leave something behind that is worth progressing. That is the spirit of heroic leadership. Hero’s are people who demonstrate acts of courage to a level that creates a story for centuries or perhaps millennia.
Most people will not be heroes. The average person is forgotten just two generations after their death.
That is why the final level of leadership is to become a hero. Do something courageous that will leave behind a virtue, shoulders to stand on, or a modern-day fairy tale.
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