Level 5 Leadership


Over three decades ago, I heard one of my earliest leadership mentors, Dr. John Maxwell, speak about the five levels of leadership. He described them this way:

1) POSITION (Rights) People follow you because they have to.

2) PERMISSION (Relationships) People follow you because they want to.

3) PRODUCTION (Results) People follow because of what you have done for the organization.

4) PEOPLE DEVELOMPENT (Reproduction) People follow because of what you have done for them.

5) PINNACLE (Respect) People follow because of who you are and what you represent.

As a young 30-something church planter, I set my sights on Level 5.

About 15 years later, Jim Collins book, “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… And Others Don’t was published and I was introduced to another definition of the five levels of leadership. Collins and his team had researched the best performing companies in America to find out what commonalities were true of these companies that had performed far above the market average over a sustained period. Some of the key commonalities I recall were the Flywheel Effect, the Hedgehog Effect, Confronting the Brutal Facts, Getting the Right People on the Bus and Level 5 Leadership. Collins identified Level 5 leaders as humble and driven to do what’s best for the company.

Once again, something about Jim Collins discussion of Level 5 leadership caught my attention. I wanted to be a great leader, not just a good one. So, I tried to be brutally honest with myself at that stage of my leadership. Am I a Level 5 leader? Do people follow me because of who I am and what I represent? Am I walking with humility or has my success of starting and growing a larger-than-average church distorted my ego? Am I driven to do what’s best for the organization I launched some 15 years prior?  My answers  continued to direct my focus toward Level 5 Leadership.

Ultimately, an honest conversation with myself, led me to a five-year process of developing a succession plan in my organization, Cape Christian. If the church I started and was leading, was going to thrive beyond my tenure, I needed to make sure it was set up for success. Way too often, I had watched churches go through a life cycle; growth, stabilization, stagnation, and decline. I couldn’t think of anything more disappointing in my leadership journey than to watch my major leadership investment fade to a declining second-rate organization during my older years when I wanted to move toward lessening involvement. So, I prepared a succession plan for a younger leader to take the lead role, sooner, rather than later.

Want to hear more? My next blog post will be a more detailed discussion of Level 5 Leadership and the characteristics that Jim Collins found in the greatest leaders. And, then, I will post a blog to share with you how I developed my succession plan over ten years ago and the amazing successes in our organization during this journey. Stay tuned!


NOTE:  I would love to hear your comments about Level 5 Leaders that you have encountered along the way.  And I would be honored if you share this new blog with others who might be interested!



I Have a Dream


I was almost a 10 year old. We had no television in our home at the time. Growing up in a rural farm community of Oregon, I had no idea that history was being made on August 28, 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. Across the country that day, Martin Luther King, Jr., was leaving a memorable mark on the civil rights timeline of the United Stages. The imagination of civil rights activists and sympathizers, was captured with the leading line of the entire last half of Dr. King’s speech—“I have a dream…” As this Southern black church pulpit-groomed orator articulated his vision with line after line of “I have a dream…,” the torch of change and transformation lit the hearts of the masses in America. This is the month we will set aside an entire day to remember the progress of Dr. King’s dream and to recommit ourselves to fight for the parts of the dream not yet realized.

In a whole different vein of thought, I also have a dream. I have a dream that leaders will one day see that a pivotal part of their leadership responsibility is to prepare the organization they lead for success after they are no longer in the lead role. I have a dream that it would become the norm for church and ministry leaders to develop and implement leadership succession plans. I have a dream that businesses would intentionally prepare next generation leaders to go further and higher than the current leaders. I have a dream that ministry and business leaders would become passionate about developing themselves as “Level 5” leaders (the topic of a future blog post)—caring less about their own short-term success than they do for the long-term success of their organization. I have a dream.

This blog and website is fueled by the dream that started growing in me nearly fifteen years ago. As an entrepreneurial ministry leader, my primary calling was to start and grow a church. I carried out my call. By the normal measurables of church plants, I was a success. But I changed the rules. What if my biggest measurement of success was my ability to equip and prepare the future young leaders and the organization for a succession plan? What if the new measurement of success was based on the organization’s numbers still going up and to the right five years after I was no longer in the lead seat?

Now it is nearly nine years since the first succession was implemented. Two more successions have been navigated successfully. I’ve consulted with leaders of other organizations during their succession process. I’m now even more convinced that my dream can become reality. So stay tuned to this blog along the way for practical and thought-provoking successful succession inspiration! And to make sure you don’t miss a future blog post, subscribe via email right here on this website.

Coming Soon!

This website/blog will be focused on inspiring transformissional leadership successions.  Intentional legacy-leaving leadership is one of my biggest passions.  I love to help forward-thinking leaders plan for both their future and for the future of the organizations they lead.   To me, “level five leadership” is demonstrated when the leader cares more about the success of the organization than their own comfort.

I love the words of Tom Mullins, “A transition will be one of the greatest tests of your leadership, but it will also serve as one of the greatest rewards and testimonies of your legacy.”  I can’t wait to have some great conversations and share some practical learnings I’ve uncovered during my own personal journey with three successful leadership successions and through my consultations with other leaders and their transitions.

If you want to get a notice when the website is completed and the postings start, feel free drop me an email at dennis@successfulsuccessions.com and I’ll keep you informed!