The Four Levels of the Leadership Journey

A leader’s journey involves four distinct levels of development. We refer to this as The Four Levels of the Leadership Journey. We use our conceptual framework to help our coaching clients navigate their journey and to scale our leadership development programs to match our participants’ expected frame of reference.

The Four Levels of the Leadership Journey

The 100 to 200 journey

The 100-level leader on their way to 200-level is an outstanding individual contributor with solid technical knowledge and a desire to continuously improve. Those who consistently demonstrate excellence in their body of work are often promoted to manager. The expectation is that the new leader will manage the work of several people, consistently delivering on time and within budget, thereby freeing up their manager to think and act at a higher conceptual level.

Common pinch point: New managers often resist the vulnerability of delegating while simultaneously taking on more and more in an effort to demonstrate their potential to the organization.

The 200 to 300 journey

The 200-level leader is a reliable, trustworthy producer. The expectation of a 200-level leader on their way to 300-level is subject-matter expertise in their area of the business as well as the ability to manage multiple strategic initiatives simultaneously, to manage competing priorities effectively, and to quantify tradeoffs accurately to senior management to enable decision-making. Furthermore, leading at this level includes continuous improvement in the specific area of the business and the development of a strong team and of the individual talent on it (to maintain a pipeline of talent and ensure succession).

Common pinch point: 300-level thinking requires a 30,000-foot perspective, yet a manager/senior manager is often stuck in the operational weeds of the day-to-day.

The 300 to 400 journey

Experienced leaders with large remits have demonstrated the ability to manage complexity and to consistently deliver quality results over time. The expectation of a 300-level leader on their way to 400-level is strong people development skills, effective prioritization, and delegation coupled with an enterprise view and an understanding of the larger business environment. 300- and 400-level leaders collectively impact the speed of change in the organization.

Common pinch point: “Zooming out” and “zooming in” to consider macro and micro views, taking satisfaction and having confidence in the long-term wins of strategic leadership vs. the immediate successes of day-to-day operations.

The 400 journey

The 400-level leader effectively leads multiple teams within their function to deliver results every time. They are leaders of leaders. They understand and accept that they do their best work through others. They consistently “zoom out” to consider external stakeholders, the larger business environment, and trends that may impact the business. They regularly engage their direct reports to “zoom in” on the business and make adjustments that maintain the organization’s trajectory. With 300-level leaders, they collectively impact the speed of change in the organization. Common pinch point: Self-trust and collective senior team leadership.