The Mission Exchange and CrossGlobal Link have merged, forming Missio Nexus. You can visit their website here. Access for individuals starts at under $30. The services include:

  • 52 book reviews (electronically delivered – 1 per week)
  • 36 book summaries (electronically delivered – 3 per month)
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  • discounted access to the most extensive library of mission-focused webinars in the English language
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Accessing their services just for the book summaries is well worth the cost. Below is a sample from the July edition of Leader’s Edge Book Summary of John Maxwell’s recent book The 5 Levels of Leadership. Each book summary includes the content of the book by category of:

  • Best chapter
  • Best quotes
  • Best illustration
  • Best idea
  • Best take away
  • Recommendation

5 Levels of Leadership

Author: John Maxwell

Publisher: Center Street, October 2011, Hardcover 304 pages, also available in Kindle format
ISBN: 159995365X


John Maxwell introduced us to the idea of 5 Levels of Leadership in his book, Developing the Leader Within You, and has been teaching it for years. He has finally given us a full treatment of the topic in this book. Building on the premise that leadership is influence, Maxwell develops his leadership taxonomy with the following 5 levels: 1) Position – people follow because they have to, 2) Permission – people follow because they want to, 3) Production – people follow because of what you have done for the organization, 4) People Development – people follow because of what you have done for them, 5) Pinnacle – people follow because of who you are and what you represent.

 Best chapter

Many leaders plateau on Level 3 and don’t move from production to people development. “To reach the upper levels of leadership that create elite organizations, leaders must transition from producers to developers.” (p. 181) This chapter (like the rest of the book) is filled with information to help leaders understand Level 4 and take practical next steps to get there. “Anyone can replicate physical capital. But the one resource nobody can replicate is the dedication, the teamwork, the skills of a company’s employees.” (p. 185, quoting Robert Reich)

Best quotes

“Leadership is much less about what you do, and much more about who you are. If you view leadership as a bag of manipulative tricks or charismatic behaviors to advance your own personal interest, then people have every right to be cynical. But if your leadership flows first and foremost from inner character and integrity of ambition, then you can justly ask people to lend themselves to your organization and its mission.” (p. 45)

“President Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” (p. 56)

“When people follow a leader because they have to, they will do only what they have to.” (p. 61)

“You see, when there is danger, a good leader takes the front line. But when there is celebration, a good leader stays in the back room. If you want the cooperation of human beings around you, make them feel that they are important. And you do that by being humble.” (pg.77 – quoting Nelson Mandela)

“In times of difficulty, relationships are a shelter. In times of opportunity, they are a launching pad. Trust is required for people to feel safe enough to create, share, question, attempt, and risk. Without it, leadership is weak and teamwork is impossible.” (p. 94)

“High achievers sometimes intimidate their followers. But when leaders are relational, their followers naturally get closer to them. That sometimes means that they mistake kindness for weakness.” (p. 99)

“It’s important to remember that while the things we have in common may make relationships enjoyable, the differences are what really make them interesting.” (p. 103)

“The size or the worthiness of a leader’s vision often isn’t what determines whether it will be achieved. The determining factor is usually the level of the leader. Before you ask people to move forward to achieve the vision, they must first buy into you as the leader.” (p. 120)

“Leaders must be willing to sacrifice for the sake of the vision. If achieving the vision is worth building the team, it is also worth risking the relationships.” (p. 124)

“How do you make an organization better? Invest in the people who work in it. Companies get better when their people get better. That’s why investing in people always gives a greater return to an organization.” (p. 173)

“Many leaders don’t want to share responsibility with others because they don’t want to lose any of their power. But when you share leadership with others, it doesn’t actually take away from you. Instead, it actually gives you something you can get only by developing others: it gives you back time.” (p. 191)

“The goal in life is not to live forever. The goal in life is to create something that does.” (p. 254)

Best illustration

One of my favorite stories was about a successful businessman named Peter, who had been invited by the president to come to his home and have breakfast.

On the day of their appointment, Peter dressed in his best and asked one of the company drivers, Dumi, to take him to Mr. Mandela’s home. To Peter’s amazement, his host was waiting for him in the parking area. Peter recalled,

I felt both extremely elated and humbled that Mr. Mandela was waiting outside for me. He warmly greeted the driver and me. He then gestured that we enter the house. However, in the traditional way of corporate behaviour and protocol, the driver retreated quietly and remained in the car. Mr. Mandela invited me to the breakfast table. Just before we started eating, my host seemed to miss something. He asked, “Peter, I thought there were two of you?” I responded, “No, sir. I came alone.” “What about the other gentleman?” he insisted, and I replied, “No, sir. That one is just a driver. He will wait in the car.” At that point Mr. Mandela stood up and went out to where the driver was. He introduced himself to the driver and asked him to join us for breakfast. Mr. Mandela then walked to the kitchen and said, “Dumi is joining us for breakfast. Can we have another plate, please?”

Peter never forgot what Mandela did. And neither did Dumi. Peter went on to say, “When leaders learn to see the personalities that lie behind these seemingly humble titles [drivers, guards, and servants], the people in those jobs do not just feel appreciated, they discover and walk into new horizons of their lives. They become great performers at what they do. They find personal fulfillment.” (p. 92 – Maxwell quotes here from Leading like Madiba: Leadership Lessons from Nelson Mandela)

File under: status free leadership, servant leadership, humility

 Best idea

On finding the balance between care and candor, Maxwell offers the following questions:

Have I invested enough in the relationship to be candid with them?

Do I truly value them as people?

Am I sure this is their issue and not mine?

Am I sure I’m not speaking up because I feel threatened?

Is the issue more important than the relationship?

Does this conversation clearly serve their interests and not just mine?

Am I willing to invest time and energy to help them change?

Am I willing to show them how to do something, not just say what’s wrong?

Am I willing and able to set clear, specific expectations?

If you can answer yes to all of these questions, then your motives are probably right and you have a good chance of being able to communicate effectively. (p. 116)

 Best take away

The book includes assessment questions to help you discover where you are on the 5 Levels of Leadership. Doing this as prep for reading the book would be your best take away.


Answer the assessment questions as honestly as you can in order to determine what level you are on now. Then read the book, giving special attention to what it will take to move up to the next level as a leader. Consider working on this with your team to model your commitment to personal growth and invest in others.

Visit Missio Nexus to learn more about their Leader’s Edge Book Summaries and their other resources.