Leadership is Human Business


“Leadership is essentially human business” wrote John C. Maxwell in his book, “The 5 Levels of Leadership.”

Upon reading that sentence, I stopped for a moment and put down the book. It was a five-word nugget that packed a punch. Leadership is human business, and I had never thought about it like that.

The second level of leadership in John C. Maxwell’s book is Permission. Like I mentioned last week, it’s the level where people start to follow you for more than your position, but rather because they want to follow you.

However, Permission requires you to deal with a person as a whole, not just the good parts or the business parts. It’s about relationships, and that means it can get messy. Maxwell wrote, “The more we learn about others, the more disappointed we may be. Why? Because each of us has imperfections and irritating habits. We all fail. After the Nixon years, Billy Graham said, ‘Everybody has a little Watergate in him.’”

In essence, we’re human. Being a leader means dealing in the realm of human business, both the fun and messy sides. But, Maxwell made sure to note that sometimes it’s the differences in people that make relationships that much more interesting. If it weren’t messy, it wouldn’t be a nearly as remarkable journey.

So, how do you gain people’s permission to lead? Maxwell gave five best behaviors:

  1. Connect with Yourself Before Trying to Connect with Others: Self-awareness is key. Who are you and what makes you tick?
  2. Develop a People-Oriented Leadership Style: Think in terms of people. It’s about souls versus systems. Herb Kelleher said, “Unless a leader has an awareness of humanity, a sensitivity toward the hopes and aspirations of those he leads, and the capacity to analyze the emotional forces that motivate conduct, he will be unable to produce and be successful regardless of how often other incentives are given.”
  3. Practice the Golden Rule: Treat others as you want to be treated.
  4. Become the Chief Encourager of Your Team: Maxwell quoted Mother Teresa on this one, saying “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are endless.”
  5. Strike a Balance between Care and Candor: “If you care about people, treat them with respect and build positive relationships with them, you actually have more numerous opportunities to speak candidly and have hard conversations with them that will help them to grow and perform better.”

Building relationships with your staff and your fellow co-owners can be difficult. However, if you want them to see you as a Permission leader, it’s going to take effort. Start thinking about your next steps and start being self-aware. Then dive into human business.

Heather is the editor for Box Pro Magazine. Contact her at heather@peakemedia.com.