The Four Layers of Leadership

The Four Layers of Leadership

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The Four Levels of Leadership
By Mark Wager

The difference between a company that excels and a company that is just good is found in the depth of leadership rather than the quality of leadership. The company that performs well has good leadership. The type of leadership that encourages innovation and engagement. This type of leadership is also found in the companies that outperform expectations.

So if the leadership has the same quality than why does one company outperform the other?

The answer is in the depth of leadership. The elite companies have leadership at all levels of the organisation and not just in certain business areas. To achieve a high level of success leadership at the top is not enough. Leadership must be at all levels of an organisation and it is only when this happens that a self-sustaining culture of innovation and commitment can thrive.

What are the levels of leadership?

Every organisation needs different levels of leadership; each level requires a slightly different skill set. There are four such levels and this article will explore each of these levels in turn.

Level One: Strategic leadership
Typical role: CEO

When we think of leaders it’s usually this level that comes to mind. This is the level that oversees an organisation. Strategic leaders usually influence thousands to several hundreds of thousands of people. Their influence will even go beyond the organisation and impact the industry they are in. They establish structure, allocate resources and communicate a strategic vision for the organisation. The view they have of the business is measured in years rather than days.

Level Two: Organisational leadership.
Typical role: General Manager

This level can easily be overlooked but the organisational leaders play an important role. They are responsible for turning the strategic vision into policies which in turn leads into results. They often lead indirectly through the Direct leaders and commonly conduct themselves outside their area of expertise. This type of leader influences people more often through policymaking and systems integration rather than through face-to-face contact. This often leads to ground-level staff being unsure of the contribution these leaders have on the overall success of the organisation.

Level Three: Direct leadership
Typical role: Supervisor

This level used to be referred to as “front-line” leadership. The Direct leaders are recognised for helping others achieve. Their influence over people is primarily focused on their immediate team and comes via direct action (face-to-face contact). The Direct leaders are responsible for the provision of clear and concise expectations and the immediate feedback of positive reinforcement and of corrective behaviour. It’s this interaction of proving positive and corrective feedback that is viewed by the staff members as representing the organisation’s values and beliefs which is why this level of leadership has such a high level of importance when it comes down to employee engagement. More than organisational leaders and even at least as much as the strategic leader. If you want to improve employee engagement then work on improving the Direct leadership level.

Level Four: Ground-level leadership
Typical role: Subject Matter Expert

The Ground level leadership is vital and is often the most overlooked component. This is the leadership that comes from the subject matter experts who work in the front-line. They have no reports but they have a large amount of influence over their colleagues and it’s this influence that is important especially during any cultural change process. The view of colleagues will always carry weight and if those colleagues have high levels of technical expertise or strong personal characteristics then the weight of those opinions are even greater.

In summary, for an organisation to succeed it needs quality leadership at the strategic level but if a company wants to exceed all expectations and reach its potential then it needs quality leadership at not just the strategic level, but also the organisational level, the direct level and the ground level.

“Leadership is not just the province of people at the top. Leadership can occur at all levels and by any individual. In fact, we see that it is important for leaders to develop leadership in those below them” – Bernard M. Bass & Ronald E. Riggio (Transformational Leadership)

About the Author:

Mark Wager is an experienced Leadership Coach and international author. Mark specialises in turning intelligent people into quality leaders through coaching and customised workshops.

If you have any comments or questions regarding the above article or leadership in general feel free to contact Mark on Twitter or via the enquiry form below

Posted: Monday 6 January 2014


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