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The 3 Levels of Leadership in an Organisation


Guest articles > The 3 Levels of Leadership in an Organisation


by: Simon Hazeldine


“A leader is not the one who does everything. A leader is the one who makes it possible for others to do.”
Paulo Freire

It is a common mistake to think that leaders only exist at senior levels in organisations. It is also a mistake to think that leaders are only required at senior levels in organisations.

A humorous sign I once saw above a person's desk indicates that people in organisations recognise the need for leadership:

“Leaders are like eagles. We don’t have either of them here.”

It does not matter at what management level you are operating in your organisation. It does not matter what your job title or role is. You can be a leader.

Organisations need leaders at every level.

Whilst it is useful to understand the demands that are placed on a leader at various levels in an organisation it cannot be stated strongly enough that leadership is required throughout an organisation.

People can be leaders at any level and at anytime. You do not need to wait to be appointed to an “official” leadership position. A leader is anyone who chooses to lead.

With this said, let us explore some of the demands that leaders face at differing levels of the organisation.

What level are you operating at?

An important area to consider is at what level in your organisation are you operating as a leader? Effective leaders will understand at what level in the organisation they are operating and more importantly what they need to be doing at each level.

We can usefully analyse three levels of leadership within an organisation:

  1. People Leaders
  2. Operational Leaders
  3. Strategic Leaders

People leaders

People leaders are the first “official” leaders in an organisation. They are given a role that requires them to lead. This is different from the more informal leadership role that someone may choose to take within the organisation.

People leaders generally operate at a team level and their main responsibility is for the people who work in their team. Their focus is primarily on day-to day tactical accomplishments that they and their team are responsible for.

People leaders need to spend a considerable amount of time coaching, training, developing, and influencing small groups and individuals. As the first line leaders in an organisation they will also be required to inspire and motivate the people in their teams to improved levels of performance.

People leaders are often the medium through which organizations communicate to their employees.

Operational leaders

Operational leaders usually have responsibility for a departmental function or functions. They will often need to manage managers that are beyond their own functional area. Their focus is primarily on optimizing the processes & performance of their unit.

Operational leaders need to balance short-term functional concerns with a longer view on sustaining and driving competitive advantage.

Strategic leaders

Strategic leaders operate at the senior levels in an organisation and will have responsibility for a (sometimes wide) range of organisational functions. T heir focus is on driving execution.

Strategic leaders need to ensure alignment between organisational strategy and the capability of the organisation.

Strategic leaders – as the name implies – need to formulate future strategy.

What level of leadership are you operating at?


Simon Hazeldine is a best selling author, professional speaker and performance consultant. He is passionate about helping individuals and organisations improve their performance.

Simon is the bestselling author of Bare Knuckle Selling, BareKnuckle Negotiating, Bare Knuckle Customer Service and The Inner Winner.

For more valuable information on improving your sales, profits and performance (including sample chapters from all of Simon's best selling books) at zero cost to you visit: today!

Contributor: Simon Hazeldine

Published here on: 19-Apr-09

Classification: Leadership



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