Why do some leaders transform their environments, while others barely make a ripple? The difference lies in their ability to influence. As we continue our series on John Maxwell’s top 5 laws from “The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth,” we turn our focus to the Law of Influence. This law asserts that leadership isn’t just about vision or strategy; it’s fundamentally about influencing those around you to achieve great things. If you’re catching up, I encourage you to explore our previous discussions on the Laws of Awareness, Intentionality, and Consistency, which set the stage for this powerful exploration.

The Essence of the Law of Influence: Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership

Influence is not merely exerted by position or authority; it grows through deeper relationships and sustained personal and professional excellence. John Maxwell describes this beautifully in his “5 Levels of Leadership,” which illustrates how leaders can expand their influence:

  1. Position – The initial level where influence is based on the authority of the position. Here, influence is limited to the rights granted by the position and often does not extend beyond basic job descriptions.
  2. Permission – Moving beyond mere positional authority, this level sees leaders gaining influence by earning their followers’ trust, showing that they value their team members not just as employees but as people. This level is where true followers begin to emerge.
  3. Production – At this level, leaders gain influence through their ability to achieve results. They demonstrate competence, which not only boosts their credibility but also motivates their teams to perform better, seeing their leader as a model for success.
  4. People Development – Leaders expand their influence significantly at this level by investing in their people, mentoring and developing them, which multiplies the influence through empowered others who can lead in their own right.
  5. Pinnacle – The highest level of leadership, achieved by those who excel at developing leaders who are capable of continuing the legacy. This level is marked by a lifetime of building influence and creating a lasting impact that transcends the leader’s direct involvement.

Integrating Maxwell’s Levels of Leadership into our discussion illuminates how influence evolves from basic authority to a more profound, relationship-based dynamic. Each level builds on the previous ones, showing that their influence naturally expands as leaders develop their ability to connect, produce, and empower.

While the first four levels are most relevant to the discussion of actively building and enhancing influence, the fifth level, Pinnacle, represents the zenith of a leadership journey. Achieving this level is a lifelong process that unfolds as leaders continue to apply the principles of the preceding levels consistently over time.

Why Influence Matters

Influence is the cornerstone of effective leadership, shaping not only individual leaders’ success but also their organizations’ culture and outcomes. Below are key reasons why influence is a critical asset in leadership:

  • Empowerment and Engagement: Leaders at higher levels of influence foster more engagement and empowerment among their teams. They create environments where people feel valued and part of the success.
  • Sustainable Change and Innovation: Influential leaders drive change more effectively, as they have the trust and buy-in needed to navigate through uncertainty.
  • Legacy and Impact: By reaching the higher levels of leadership, leaders create a lasting impact, developing other leaders who continue to advance the mission and values.

Building Your Influence – Practical Strategies

Understanding the importance of influence, the next step is to develop it intentionally. Reflecting on Maxwell’s levels, here are practical strategies that leaders can employ to cultivate and enhance their influence effectively: 

  1. Focusing on Relationships: Prioritize building trust and rapport. Influence at the Permission level hinges on others knowing your core values and that you care about them, not just about what they can do for you.
  2. Delivering Results: Demonstrate competence, core values and the ability to achieve results. This builds your credibility and shows that you can lead the team to success.
  3. Developing Others: Invest time in mentoring and developing future leaders. This not only extends your influence but also strengthens the overall organization.

Real-World Example: Bridging Levels of Influence

Consider Anita, a CEO who advanced through Maxwell’s levels by transforming her approach at each stage. Starting with the authority of her position, she quickly moved to gain permission by engaging with her team personally, showing genuine concern for their aspirations, goals and well-being. By consistently delivering impressive results, she solidified her influence at the Production level. Eventually, Anita focused on developing her team members, which multiplied her influence and solidified her legacy as a leader who empowered others.

Connecting to the Next Law

As we continue to explore these transformative principles, our next discussion will focus on the Law of the Rubber Band. This law emphasizes the need to stretch beyond comfort zones, a natural continuation of applying influence to foster growth and resilience.

Conclusion and Call to Action

Mastering the art of influence is both a journey and a responsibility. Ready to elevate your leadership and create a lasting impact? Connect with me by clicking the link below to refine your influence strategies and transform your leadership potential into powerful, actionable success.