The Ladder of Leadership is a proxy for how much control the team has. Control is decision making authority.

At level 1, all the control rests on the boss. “I’ll tell you what to do.”

Further up the ladder at level 5, the team is saying “This is what we intend to do”. Level 6 is the team saying “This is what we’ve done”.

Ladder of Leadership - Figure 1a

It’s situational in the sense that in any particular situation, leaders may need to operate anywhere on the spectrum. If you have a brand-new team and they don’t really know what their purpose is yet or you don’t know what their technical abilities are, you may need to drop down and you may need to tell them what to do.

However, it’s also aspirational. The aspiration is always to drive to level 5. 5 is the bullseye because that’s the sweet spot between communication and authority/empowerment. So, at level 5 the team is saying, “I intend to…” and there is a lot of communication because it happens before taking action.

So, it’s situational in that at any time you may need to operate up and down on this ladder, but it’s aspirational in that whenever you operate on the lower end of the ladder, you’re always thinking “Ok now, next time can I move slightly up?” Level 5, “intent”, is where you want to get to.

I’m David Marquet, and that’s your Leadership Nudge.