What They Forgot to Tell You About Being a Level 5 Leader

If leadership is in your blood, it’s what you aspire to… it’s what you’re gifted for… it’s your calling…

It’s likely that you pride yourself in growing to new levels of leadership.  You look for opportunities to grow.  You dream of more influence.  You seek out greater leadership opportunities.  You thrive in being challenged.

Leadership experts define the growth continuum of leadership in 5 stages with the Level 5 Leader being the pinnacle of leadership.

But leadership at that level comes with some costs, and not all of those are understood before you get there.

One thing that I think is often over-looked in leadership development is that the leader must learn to take care of him or herself.  There is a lot of discussion about servant leadership which is absolutely essential in developing to a Level 5 Leader.  In fact, I don’t think you can climb the leadership growth chart if you haven’t learned to put your team before yourself.  Your #1 goal is the health and development of your team.

However, in my own life and I suspect in many of yours, when I have only thought about the health and development of my team and have not balanced that with taking care of my health, I have found myself completely out-of-sorts because I have sacrificed some essentials of my own well-being.

I talk a lot about the importance of self-leadership and often that is in relation to continual growth and knowledge.  I don’t have trouble making time for those things.  I understand that as I learn, I help the team learn.  I have no trouble putting in long hours or extra time in personal development in hopes that it makes me better for my team.

The wake up call for me lately is that I can’t expect someone else to be responsible for watching out for me.  If I’m going to be a Level 5 Leader I have to be mature enough spiritually and emotionally to monitor and manage my health.

Here’s what they’ve forgotten to tell you about Level 5 Leadership:

No one is responsible to take care of you except for you.

For most of our leadership life, we’re sandwiched between those we lead and those who lead us.  Being in the middle of the sandwich is a really comfortable place to be.  You get to lead others and exercise your leadership muscles and you have others ahead of you watching, coaching and directing you.

Once you attain Level 5 Leadership, you’re no longer in the middle. You’re top side is exposed and it’s up to you as to whether you allow that side to get banged, beat up, torn apart and destroyed or whether you find some protective measures to keep you thriving and healthy.

So what are you doing to take care of you?

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  • Ben Reed September 14, 2011  

    I’m nowhere near ready to claim that I’m a Level 5 leader…but I definitely feel this truth.  I need to take time to invest in myself.

    I do that best through reading and running.  Both give me energy.  And I do neither enough.

    Thanks for the post, Jenni!

  • Brad September 14, 2011  


    I’m so glad this was mentioned as we talked today. I checked it out… and couldn’t agree more.

    Although Ill leave it up to someone else to determine whether or not I’m a L5 leader… I know what its like to have my top side exposed.

    I have, over the years, sacrificed my health, weight, alone time & general well being for the team & church I lead.

    And many times, my sacrifice didn’t bring the intended supernatural results I was hoping/praying for…

    In the last 10 months I embraced a total recreation of that process ad I’ve become more protective of my family and personal time. I’ve been willing to enforce healthy boundaries while still working harder than anyone expected me to.

    I’ve lost 53 lbs, gained endurance & ultimately, learned to get more done in the time I have to give.

    My wife & kids are happier, I’m more fulfilled & my team & church are more healthy and growing rapidly…

    Thanks for the reminder.

  • Lindsey September 14, 2011  

    Thanks for the wise words Jenni. So thoughtful. So true. They remind me of a quote from Nancy Beach –  “As a leader, you are responsible for carving out a life that has a rhythm that renews you. It’s not anybody else’s job.”

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