Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers. Leaders not only read what others have to say in books, but they read what their people are saying every day. Just as there are levels of success that we can all rise to, there are levels that we as leaders must lead on. To lead on each level, the leaders must go to each level. There are three levels that the better leaders go to.
Level #1 – The easiest level to lead on is the one that you are on. This is your comfort zone. It is the place where you shine. This is where you stand out because you are so good at what you do. This is the place where you do not have to think about what to do next. You do not have to be that intentional here. All you need here is your intuition because it works. This is the organization level. You have the thirty-thousand-foot view of the company or department and you know where you want to go. You are growing and you are going. You know how to lead here because you are a good leader.
Level #2 – The second level to lead on is the one your team is on. Maybe you are on the team actively day-to-day or maybe you interact with them on a less frequent basis. It does not matter. It only matters that you are accessible and active as a vital part. A vital part of something is one that is at least partially responsible for vitality. You must lead also on the team level. For a department, a company, a firm to grow, it takes a team. As John Maxwell says, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” Teamwork makes great things happen. Space travel becomes possible. Infrastructure gets built. Cities evolve, Super bowls get won, and children get an education. When you lead on the team level, the best things tend to happen, and you become recognized as the ”best” leader yet.
Level #3 – The third level to lead on is one that is not often frequented by most leaders. This one is not intuitive. This one is much more demanding. It requires intention and it requires you to leave your comfort zone. This level is one-on-one. It is uncomfortable to learn about an employee’s struggles. It is uncomfortable to spend your off time talking to someone who is not a part of your immediate team about their dreams and hopes. It is uncomfortable to celebrate your most productive employee’s move to a better position that is outside your company. This level, though unfrequented, is responsible for the life’s blood of the company. Without this level, the other two levels would have nowhere to build from. The leaders that lead here really help the company get better because they help the people get better. They show their people that there is always better. There is always a higher level to rise to and there is always greater value to be brought. People see that things just get better because of you. Out of all the levels to lead on, this one makes you the better leader for the job.
If you think about it, this is the ideal progression for true growth. Good, best, and better. You see, good is good and it is average. It could even be above average but good is not best and it is not better. Best implies a stopping point. It implies done, finished, there is nothing more because we have arrived. Better implies that even if you fall short, you can get better, it implies that even when you hit the mark, you can get better. Whether you want to call yourself a better leader or the best leader does not matter. What matters is that you lead on all three levels if you really want to knock it out of the park. Lead at the company level, the team level, and one-on-one with those who are in the trenches.