“For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.” – Psalm 36:9

Sir Kyffin Simpson is a Barbadian entrepreneur well known for his stellar contribution to the development of the retail and commercial distribution of energy and energy-related products in the Caribbean and beyond.

Last September, he very kindly sent me an envelope in the mail. It contained a message which stated: “I trust this note finds you well and I recently purchased a copy of the enclosed book – ‘The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential – by John C. Maxwell’ and immediately thought that it might be of interest to you.”

I was indeed honoured by this very kind gesture.

John C. Maxwell is an international leadership expert and coach, who, in this book, explains how true leadership works and makes it accessible to everyone.

He states that “Leadership is a process and not a position, leadership does not come from your title. In fact, being named to a position is only the first and the lowest of the five levels that every effective leader achieves. To become more than a boss people are required to follow, you must master the ability to inspire and build a team that produces not only results but also future leaders”.

He explains that “the Five Levels of Leadership are: (1) Position – People follow because they have to; (2) Permission – People follow because they want to; (3) Production – People follow because of what you have done for the organization; (4) People Development – People follow because of what you have done for them personally; and (5) Pinnacle – People follow because of who you are and what you represent”.

He counsels: “By combining the advice contained in these pages with work and a willingness to learn, anyone can rise to a higher and more effective level of leadership and thus make a greater impact”.

The definition of a leader is an individual who can lead a group of people towards achieving a specific set of objectives. In a given country, it is the amalgam of leaders among the social partners, including the government, the private sector, the trade unions, and members of civil society, that guide the people on a path towards sustainable success. It is fair to say that if there was good leadership within each of the social partners then the synergies generated among them would be a formidable force leading to the achievement of sustainable success.

Certainly, in each country in the Caribbean, we have not been able to achieve sustainable success and I conclude that the leadership has been suboptimal for some or all of the social partners. It is very often casually repeated that the reason for the failure of the countries to maintain a path of sustainable success is the lack of good leadership but this is where it ends and nothing is done about it.

At the introduction of each level of leadership in his book, Maxwell gives a vivid appreciation of where you are: (1) The Position – It’s a great place to visit but you would not want to live there; (2) Permission – You can’t lead people until you like people; (3) Production – Making things happen separates real leaders from the Wannabes; (4) People Development – Helping individual leaders grow extends your influence and impact; and (5) The Pinnacle – The highest leadership accomplishment is developing other leaders to level 4.

What better than a little introspection at this stage to demonstrate my leadership experience throughout my professional career in the hope that it might be of assistance to others.

I have found myself in many leadership roles in my career: (1) Creating a Biometrics Unit at the Faculty of Agriculture, University of the West Indies (1968 -1974); (2) Establishing of agricultural statistics units for the design and analysis of experiments in agricultural departments in each Caricom country (1974-1977); (3) Pioneering a management consulting company in the Caribbean (1977-2000); (4) Developing a model for diversifying the economies of the Caribbean led by the service exports industries (1998-2001); (5) Rolling out the model in the Caribbean (2001-2008); (6) Testing the efficacy of the model in a live environment (2008-2012); and (7) Shepherding start-up clients, based on the tenets of the model, on their journey to sustainable success (2012 to date).

I assumed the position (level 1) of leader on each occasion and realized immediately that leadership was not a position but a process. The concept of building a team came naturally to me and we quickly developed a fully cooperative family spirit (level 2). We concentrated on the objectives at hand and the achievement of results meant that people wanted to be associated with success (level 3). We were very focused on a high productivity culture and people followed because of what they had experienced in their own personal development (level 4). The greatest gratification came when individuals began to leave our team in search of greener pastures which meant that they were now ready to pursue leadership on their own (level 5).

As a first step towards sustainable success, the social partner leaders should examine themselves to determine at which level of Maxwell’s Five Levels of Leadership they are performing and try to improve themselves.

In the meantime, let’s shine our inner leadership light so that we may bless the lives who follow us.

(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc. – CBET. His columns may be found at and

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