Let me ask you the same question I asked a room full of financial advisors this past week. When you signed up to become a financial advisor, did you know you also signed up to lead people and all that entails? If you’re like most of them, you’re probably thinking, no, not really. 

See, here’s what I’ve found over several decades of coaching financial advisors who became business owners or team leaders. They didn’t realize how difficult it would be to go from success to success because of how much it would depend on people and especially their ability to lead them.

Level 1 – Position

John Maxwell, leadership expert, best-selling author, and founder of the John Maxwell Group, identified five levels in which leaders must evolve to achieve greatness in their businesses and lives. The first level is where most “leaders” start, and many get stuck. They become leaders by “Position.” It could be a successful financial advisor who starts their own firm, or one promoted within a larger firm who now has people reporting to them.

In most cases, they proved themselves very competent at their trade and in some cases, may even have management experience. Either way, at this level, people follow them because of their title or position, out of fear they could lose their job.  Staying at this level frequently leads to a plateau in growth because of the toxic and dysfunctional culture it creates.  At this point, for anything to change, the leader much change.  They must recommit to leading and continue developing those essential skills. 

As the business grows requiring more employees, Level 1 leaders become increasingly frustrated with the complexities of getting people to do what they feel they can do much easier, better, and quicker on their own. Eventually, those under them tire of being treated like cogs in their business machine. Frustration, conflict, and drama lead to disengagement and eventual turnover. Their business just can’t seem to move to that next level of growth because the leader hasn’t moved to the next level of leadership.

Simply lacking the will and/or skill to get the most out of those around them, many founding owners of a business will want to consider hiring a CEO, COO or Managing Director from outside the firm or promote someone from within. Otherwise, if they have the will, they will need to develop Level 2 skills.

Level 2 – Permission

This is why many founding owners of a business will have to hire a CEO from outside the company. They don’t know how to get the most out of those around them which takes us to Level 2, leading with “Permission.” This means they’ve earned the essential trust required for people to want to follow them, not because they have to but because they want to.

Level 2, leading with “Permission” means the leader has earned the essential trust required for people to want to follow them, not because they have to but because they want to. In essence, they’ve given emotional permission for the leader to lead them. John Maxwell suggests, “When you like people and treat them like individuals who have value, you begin to develop influence with them. You develop trust.” Trust is something you earn, it takes investing in relationships with those who work for you. It requires a commitment to integrity, saying what you mean and meaning what you say. It requires competence in both the technical role the leader plays as a financial advisor and as a leader. It can no longer be “do as I say not as I do.”

To move from Level 1 to Level 2 and beyond requires a tremendous amount of self-awareness and commitment to personal development. It’s a paradigm shift from a transactional to a transformative leadership style and an independent to an interdependent mindset. The leader must realize they can no longer shoulder the weight of growth on their own. They must now focus more on strengthening the mind, body, and spirit of their people.

Level 3 – Production

Successful transition from Level 1 to 2 makes moving to Level 3 all the easier and more rewarding where people are now following because of the leader’s “Production”, the results as a team.  With growth and success resulting from a team effort, they become even more confident in the leader and more enthused about their future potential. Success as a team means personal success, growth, and prosperity. This is like an NFL team that no longer just believes they can win some games, they believe they could win the Super Bowl!

Level 4 – People Development

With growth comes the need for succession, the development of new leaders. This is where Level 4, “People Development” becomes the focus. As the business grows, the leader must shift to replication of great leadership within the company. They become true servant leaders who teach, mentor, and multiply. People follow them now because they know the leader is preparing them for their next-level career opportunities. They want to follow them because they want to be like them and perhaps even better.

Level 5 – Pinnacle

Finally, for the rarest of leaders, through years of leading at all four levels, one might finally reach the “Pinnacle”, Level 5. These leaders are well known in their industry, not as financial advisors, or technical gurus but as leaders and influencers in the field. John puts it this way, “What you do daily, over time, becomes your legacy.” This level can take years of hard daily work to reach but from the summit, the view is breathtaking. Level 5 leaders can see their influence on generations to come.

If you’re a leader feeling stuck at one of these levels, especially Level 1, and want to break out, let me help. There are several ways you can begin that transition, perhaps starting with a short but powerful assessment to determine your leadership style. Our “Confident Leader Insight Assessment” is a fun and easy step to see where your thinking might be holding you back. You can take the assessment HERE. I’ll even send you a recorded review of the results if you email me for the full report. 

Or better yet, you can schedule a complimentary 30-minute clarity session with me to interpret your results and help you prepare for a great 2023. Just click this link below to find a convenient time to connect.