She is at the top of the game.

Pinnacle Leadership

Dave Kinnear1-On Leadership

She is at the top of the game.


Back in 2000, John Maxwell authored a book entitled Developing the Leader Within You. In that book, he posited that there are five levels of leadership. He named those levels Position, Permission, Production, People Development, and Pinnacle. In this fifth and final post in this series, I discuss the Personhood or Pinnacle level of leadership.


The fifth and highest level in Maxwell’s levels of leadership has been referred to as either “Pinnacle” or “Personhood.” At this level, the leader has

become iconic within his industry or company. Because of his status in the organization, employees will do essentially anything he asks to please him. Along with the personal satisfaction of achieving such loyalty, the leader is in a position to inspire future leaders in his company and beyond.

All Together

One definition of a pinnacle is “the highest point of development or achievement.” The implication is that Pinnacle Leadership has put all the previous levels together to reach the leadership summit. The truth is, however; as leaders, we are never done learning and growing. Still, hard-working and growth-minded individuals will hopefully reach a point where they are recognized by the larger community as outstanding leaders.

Keep Moving

In the image above, it appears that there is no place else to go once we’ve reached the pinnacle. Except, perhaps, back down the way we came. However, in real life, there is always the next challenge. Generally, that will not require going backward, but instead moving forward with more knowledge and challenges. It is obvious to me that, as leaders, we cannot rest on our laurels very long or we will become obsolete.

Growth Minded

Our organizations must always change and today, that change happens faster than ever. As the organization changes, it is likely that new leadership skills will also be required. Perhaps a good example of that is the hot topic of the day—multiple generations in the workplace. Communication is more complicated than ever. Millennials are digital natives while much of the Boomer and Generation X leaders have had to acquire the skills necessary to easily use technology effectively.

Many Millennials have no idea what we mean when we ask them to “cc” (carbon copy) someone. They have no clue what it means when we say “hang up” the phone. And while this lost connection with the physical world is not dissimilar to the differences between other generations, the disconnect is wider now. [as an aside: Do you know where the term “three sheets to the wind” came from to describe someone who has overindulged a bit in an alcoholic drink? Hint, it’s from our seafaring days.]

New leadership skills might mean that we will best serve our company if we learn how to translate our experiences to modern world terms for the younger generation. We may need to figure out exactly what medium we use to communicate not only with our employees and peers but with our markets and customers.


We have a saying in the coaching world that we invite CEOs to a coaching session and people show up. I like the alternate term personhood better than the pinnacle for this level of leadership. Leaders are people, after all, and we bring all our experiences, biases, and world views to our leadership tasks. There is no implied end to the growth of either personhood or leadership. We may never reach the top, but we may momentarily be in the spotlight as leaders.

Continuous growth and learning are appropriate for us as leaders as well as for our people. As Socrates put it, “The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being.”