Updated: May 6, 2022
What are the 4 Levels of Leadership?
The 4 levels look like this:
Level 1– Reactive
Level 2 – Authoritarian
Level 3 – Responsive
Level 4 – Inspirational
The way to think about these levels is that they are either “Below the Line Leadership” or
“Above the Line Leadership”. As leaders we want to make sure we’re above the line.
Above the line leadership is about: taking ownership; having accountability; being open
minded; taking on the responsibility; being curious; being transparent; being present to live in
the moment; questioning our beliefs; and having a commitment to learning. Above the line
leadership propels us forward, towards growth.
Below the line leadership is about: making excuses; rationalisations and justifications;
blaming others; blaming lack of money, time or other resources; being defensive; feeling the
need to be right; and proving a point. A below the line approach to leadership restricts our
ability to move forward.
Levels 1 and 2 Leadership are below the line, which would fall into the category of poor management.
Level 1 Leadership is Reactive
A reactive leader is someone who spends all their time reacting to
situations and problems. They’re never having a vision for the future, or planning
strategically. They’re constantly putting out fires, always “busy” & stressed. They avoid
confrontation and are not good at giving constructive feedback.
Level 2 Leadership is Authoritarian
An authoritarian leader is someone who is a little more confident
about facing challenges, but has a tendency to blame others. They give more feedback than
a reactive leader but tend to do it in an unresourceful way - they may be heavy-handed and
blunt, rather than using emotional intelligence in their interactions with team members.
Levels 3 and 4 Leadership are more functional.
Level 3 is Responsive
A responsive leader is someone who leads their team by showing
them how to do it. The upside is the team sees exactly how the leader wants things done,
but the downside to this level is the only way the team performs well is for the leader to be
constantly demonstrating how to perform well themselves. So the leader cannot step back
and work on the business, because they are always “in the trenches” getting the day to day
tasks done with the other team members.
Level 4 is Inspirational
An inspirational leader is a visionary and a strategist who is always thinking ahead to best serve the long term prospects of the organisation. They inspire the team and want to cultivate a bright future for the team members. They genuinely care about the development of individuals in the team, not just how they can get the person to do the immediate job at hand.
Inspirational leaders support each team member’s journey to grow into a leader.
Those are the 4 levels of leadership. The most successful leaders are Level 4 leaders, who
are inspirational leaders, who inspire, influence and innovate.
Why is it important to strive for the highest levels of leadership?
Unless a leader develops their leadership abilities, they won't have what it takes to help
move the organisation towards its goals. Leaders who rely only on their natural leadership
ability are less equipped to deal with the challenges the business will face and won't have all
the things they need to succeed. By contrast, the leaders who have a growth mindset, and
work on their leadership capacity, are far better equipped for success. They want to learn as
much as they can. This constant desire for growth and development prepares them for
A leader will not be able to guide and mentor their team members on how to lead, unless the
leader is also taking the steps needed to grow and move up the levels of leadership. This is
because, until they are on the growth journey themselves, they don't really know exactly
what skills and qualities great leaders require. When people demonstrate that they are
growing their own leadership capacity, that signifies they are on the road to becoming Level
How do you move towards Level 4 Leadership?
Take action each day to develop other leaders in the organisation. In order to do this, you will need to block out times in the week for mentoring activities with team members.
Be aware that becoming a Level 4 leader can take a long time and won’t happen immediately. Taking small steps on a very regular basis is how it can be achieved.
Create drive and focus for your growth journey by deciding on and reminding yourself regularly of all the reasons why you are seeking to become a Level 4 leader. For example, what drives you to create leaders from your team? How does that impact the business, your life, and others’ lives?
Notice and make a record of the positive changes you see in your team members that you are mentoring. This will highlight and reinforce the positive differences that regular leadership development creates, creating a virtuous circle of growth and positive change.
We all have one thing in common. You know there is more…and it starts with you.
Take the first steps today to move yourself forward towards Level 4 Leadership, book your complimentary success strategy session with Kath today.