Level Two Leadership in Lean

Level Two Leadership – Permission – You Can’t Lead People Until You Like People 

John Maxwell, in his book “The 5 Levels of Leadership” writes that this leadership level is about the human relationships that the leader has built up around him. Making the shift from Level 1 leadership -Position to Level 2 leadership- Permission is a person’s first real step into leadership.

Leadership is influence, and when a leader learns to function on the Permission level, everything changes. This is where people do more than merely comply with orders. They start to follow. And they do so because they want to, not because they have to. Why? Because the leader influences people with relationships, not just position.

Building relationships develop a foundation for effectively leading others. It also breaks down organizational silos as people connect across the lines between their job descriptions or departments. The more barriers come down and relationships deepen, the broader the foundation for leading others becomes.

As a Level 2 leader, team management and team-building skills are skills that must be mastered. The most fundamental team management skill managers must master is the motivation of their team and their team members.  You cannot accomplish your goals as a manager or team leader unless your team is motivated to perform, produce, and to deliver the results needed.

Motivating each of the individuals on your team requires recognition by the manager or team leader that each team member’s motivation needs are different and that the primary source of their motivation comes from within the individual. And motivating the team requires a different approach from motivating the team members.

Within lean management, teamwork is a further aspect of engaging individuals by getting them to build strong relationships across process steps, staff functions, and with suppliers. As Dr. Ishikawa once famously noted: the coworkers in the next step of the process are not our enemies, they are our customers.

Motivation is relevant to lean because it’s motivation through engagement. The article, How Do I Keep My Lean Team Motivated For The Long Term, by Michael Bale’, lists three key dimensions of motivation in a lean management system: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.


recognizes the need for individuals to have some control over what they do when they do it, who they do it with, and how they do it. The Andon system, for example, gives a very large amount of control to the individual worker over the entire chain. This is an essential part of lean management which requires careful nurturing and constant leadership to develop as it should.


is about the drive to become better at what we do. Most of our organizations emphasize compliance over competence, an approach that kills engagement and kaizen every time. Mastery is about seeing your abilities not as finite but as infinitely improvable. This is the core of the kaizen spirit and this what people find so rewarding in kaizen when it is encouraged.


is a strong need in most of us: we want to take part in something bigger, more enduring than our day-to-day. A key aspect of respect is to work hard at sharing the objectives of the company with every employee so they understand the larger picture.

When people feel liked, cared for, included, valued, and trusted, they begin to work together with their leader and each other. And that can change the entire working environment. The old saying is true: people go along with leaders they get along with. You can like people without leading them, but you cannot lead people well without liking them. That’s what Level 2 is all about.

Leadership Assessment1

Read the following ten statements and place a checkmark next to each one you agree is true for you. Answer using your first instinct. Please do not skip questions, and do not go back and change any of your responses.

Level 2 Leadership Questions

  • People outside of my department or area of responsibility respect my opinions and frequently seek me out for advice.
  • I know my strengths and weaknesses and rarely get blindsided in my work.
  • I genuinely like most people and want to help them.
  • I am very consistent and even-​­tempered in my interaction with the people who work for me.
  • When I say something to the people on my team, they always know they can count on it because I am trustworthy.
  • I have developed solid relationships with all of the people who work for me.
  • The people who work with me find me likable and pleasant nearly 100 percent of the time.
  • When I need to have a candid conversation with team members to correct errors or take care of problems, I follow through and don’t allow too much time to go by.
  • I believe that employees desire more than just a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work; most desire encouragement and I give it to them.
  • I have developed relationships with everyone who works for me.

1- John Maxell- The 5 Levels of Leadership

If you marked eight or more of the above statements as true for you, you have mastered Level 2 Leadership.

Next week’s blog will discuss Level 3 Leadership: Production

A special thanks to Cheryl Archer for developing this blog post!

As always it is an honor serving you and I hope that you and your company are getting better every day!

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