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The Five Levels Of Leadership

You are your primary asset as a leader. Your leadership influence is determined by how you show up in the moment.

When we examine what makes an effective leader and what leadership is truly about, we discover that the characteristics revealed align with what it means to be a well-rounded integral human being, the type of person who contributes to the planet and gives back and produces in a way that makes a difference in the world around us. At its core, leadership is about relationship building and being radically human.

The question we ask is this: When you lead, who shows up—which self do you deploy?

The authors of the book Mastering Leadership, Bob Anderson and Bill Adams, mentioned in their book:

“Our research revealed that there are five levels of leadership, and they determine which self we deploy as leaders. These stages can be looked at as a spectrum of behavior, where leaders are rated more effective as they move through each stage of development.

Leadership is something more; it enhances this very same capability in others. Leadership is ultimately about scaling the capacity and capability of an organization to create outcomes that matter most to fulfill the vision of its desired future. Leadership scales capacity and capability in others, through teams, and in the organization. Leadership scales the capability in the organization to thrive by constantly and agilely reinventing itself in the kind of volatile, ever-changing conditions that we find ourselves in today.”

The five levels of leadership are:- 

1. Egocentric Leadership

The focus of egocentric leaders is squarely on themselves—egocentric leaders do not notice the needs of others, which may compete with their own. At about the age of 8, we as humans enter an egocentric stage of our lives. This stage, which normally ends as we transition into early adulthood, is important to our development as it enables us to get our needs met and to gain independence as we mature. However, as we become leaders, a focus solely on ourselves to the exclusion of our employees, peers, customers, and others can become debilitating, and ultimately, ineffective and unproductive.

2. Reactive Leadership

Reactive leaders tend to identify with certain strengths—overdeveloping them while underdeveloping others. They emphasize caution over creating results, self-protection over productive engagement, and aggression over building alignment. These self-limiting styles overemphasize the focus on gaining the approval of others, protecting oneself, and getting results through high-control tactics.

3. Creative Leadership

Creative Leaders are less self-centric and are much more about the development the capacity and capability of the organization. They are approachable and skillful in working with people, listen well, build high-performing teams, mentor and develop capability in others, and empower their people. Creative Leaders embody their vision calmly and with integrity and courage, and improve organizational systems.

4. Integral Leadership

Integral leaders take Creative leadership to a higher level. They are Creative leaders who have a vision that expands to include systemic welfare. Integral leaders create and internalize a greater vision of the whole system, becoming an architect of its future. They don’t just focus on a vision tailored solely to their organization—they consider the welfare of the larger, interdependent system in which their organization exists. Integral leaders are servant leaders, becoming the servant of the whole.

5. Unitive Leadership

The highest level of leadership is Unitive. Unitive leaders have evolved into the highest knowledge of who they are. This level is quite rare, but it can be attained by those who engage in long-term spiritual practices. Unitive leaders are not disengaged from the world around them—they exist at the highest level of sacred union with All that Is, and they function as global visionaries and enact world service for the universal good.


Our world is rapidly changing, bringing with it tremendous opportunity—and tremendous peril. Leaders create the weather in organisations; the leadership style they employ has a significant impact on the organisational climate, culture, and outcomes. As leaders advance through the five levels of leadership, they improve their effectiveness as leaders, resulting in the prosperity of their organisations, employees, and customers.

Which level of leadership do you bring to work each day, and how does this affect those who work for and with you, your customers, and the communities in which you operate? Are you accumulating or deducting? Creating or obliterating? Contributing or detracting?

Becoming a master of leadership requires deliberate development and effort. While we will not claim that this is an easy path, everyone has the tools necessary to take it. With focus and practise, and with honest feedback from those around us, we can achieve great leadership. And exceptional leadership is something we all desire—both within ourselves and with those with whom we work.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is an Egocentric Leader?

Leaders who are egocentric fail to consider the needs of others, which can conflict with their own. We humans reach an egocentric stage of our lives about the age of eight. This stage, which usually ends as we enter early adulthood, is critical to our growth because it allows us to meet our basic needs and gain independence as we grow older.

What are the qualities of a reactive leader?

Reactive leaders have a tendency to overdevelop certain attributes while underdeveloping others. They value caution over performance, self-preservation over constructive interaction, and aggression over alignment building.

How and why do creative leaders act as an asset for an organisation?

Creative leaders are less self-centered and are more concerned with the organization’s development. They are approachable and skilled at collaborating with others, communicate well, create high-performing teams, coach and improve others’ abilities, and inspire their employees.

How are Integral leaders better than creative leaders?

Integral leaders raise the bar on creative leadership. They are visionary leaders with a broad vision that encompasses systemic welfare. Integral leaders develop and internalise a larger view of the structure as a whole, being its creator.

Who is a Unitive Leader?

Unitive leadership is the highest degree of leadership. Unitive leaders have reached the pinnacle of their understanding of who they are. This is a very rare degree, but it can be achieved by those who practise spiritual practises for a long time.

How does a leadership style affect an organisation?

In organisations, leaders build the weather; the leadership style they employ has a profound effect on the environment, culture, and results.

How does the five levels of leadership help a leader in their growth?

Leaders strengthen their effectiveness as leaders as they progress across the five levels of leadership, resulting in the success of their organisations, staff, and consumers.