The 3 Ascending Levels of Leadership Success

“Success comes in cans—I can, you can, we can.” Anonymous

Mountains. Shrub on mountain slope.

Climbing the mountain is competence. Enabling others to climb the mountain is leadership.

Level 1 leadership: Individual performance – I can.

Meeting expectation earns a paycheck. Exceeding expectation earns opportunity.

Don’t seek favors. Earn opportunities.

Earn opportunity:

  1. Do things you aren’t paid to do. But avoid jumping into other people’s turf.
  2. Do more than you are paid to do. You aren’t qualified for leadership if you always need credit and compensation to excel.
  3. Volunteer for tough assignments.
  4. Think more about contributing than complaining.

“Procrastination is the assassin of opportunity.” Anonymous

Level 2 leadership: Help others perform – you can.

Climbing the mountain is competence. Enabling others to climb the mountain is leadership.


New leaders end up exhausted and burned out. They retain old responsibilities, take on new responsibilites, and struggle to enable others.

Leadership incudes telling. A neophyte-leader can tell. Exceptional leaders enable.

Rise above telling – become an enabler.

It’s easy to tell. It’s exponential to enable.

When they shine, you shine. You aren’t qualified to lead if you need to out-perform everyone on your team.

Enable others:

  1. Know and maximize strengths.
  2. Navigate the relationship between support and challenge. Some leaders support too much. Others challenge too much.
  3. Honor effort and celebrate progress.


Some leaders I coach aspire to ask better questions. Their desire springs from watching me ask questions.

Mentoring opportunity: What do you do that others want to emulate?

Level 3 leadership: Enable others to enable others – we can.

Exceptional leaders enable others to enable others.

Room to fail:

The drive for quick results cancels your ability to enable others to enable others.

Profound learning includes failure. Learning and growth stop when failure isn’t an option.

Find quick inexpensive ways for people to learn how to enable others to enable others.

What suggestions do you have for leaders who want to enable performance in others?

How might leaders enable others to enable others?

Bonus material:

6 Mistakes New Leaders Make and How to Avoid Them |

How to Set Your First-Time Managers Up for Success | CCL