Level Three Leadership – James Clawson [Book Summary]

by Nick

At first glance, this book may seem like another standard text about management and organizational culture. However, the reader, to his surprise, will find that the book of James Clawson pays a lot of attention to the history of labor relations, psychology, and the trends in the transformation of the modern workplace.

The author shares interesting observations and the results of important scientific research, and also gives a number of quite relevant recommendations on the use of meditation techniques, the development of “inner vision” and martial arts.

Despite a number of repetitions, the book cannot be called a dry guide to personnel management, although a specialist in this field will find useful diagrams and summaries of existing concepts in it.

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Leader’s Worldview

Do not flatter yourself with the romantic halo of the art of managing people: there is no magic or secret formulas in it. Leadership does not come from impressive titles or spacious rooms – all these are just distractions. The key to the top manager’s office is a leadership worldview.

“Most experts agree that the industrialized world is undergoing a major change in the managerial paradigm that transforms our understanding of the business, how it is organized and poses new challenges and dilemmas for the business.”

How do leaders differ from bureaucrats, administrators, and ordinary employees? Leaders know how to pose questions correctly. They have the courage to take risks and the insight to see problems, tasks, and opportunities that are not obvious to others. Leaders search for new information and innovative solutions, asking completely different questions than those asked by leaders of a different type. Compare:

  • Subordinate: “What is required of me?”; “Can you remove the obstacles that bother me?”; “How do I get more power?”
  • Bureaucrat: “Where are the forms to be completed?”; “What are the procedures that I should follow?”; “In what sequence are decisions approved?”
  • Administrator: “How can we maintain market share?”; “Why should we deviate from the established procedures?”; “What is the corporate policy on this?”
  • Leader: “What do we need to do?”; “What problems do you need to solve for this?”; “What can be done to rectify the situation?”

The Summary you might like: The High-Potential Leader

Stages in the History of Management

Historians of economics distinguish three main stages of evolution in the culture of management and labor relations.

  1. The transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture in the primitive era.
  2. The transition from agriculture to industrial production at the end of the XVIII century.
  3. The current transition from the industrial era to the high-tech “information age”.

“The principles of organizations and leadership, which have worked perfectly for the past 100 years, are being replaced by others based on new beliefs about people, economics, and ways of organizing enterprises.”

In the agrarian era, the aristocracy dominated. Occupation, power, and wealth depended on origin and gender. In this patriarchal society, workers worked for the benefit of the aristocracy, and working relations were determined by the notion that “the father knows best”. In such a social system, the talents of people belonging to the lower classes were not recognized.

“When people work on what they believe and value … they give all the best.”

After a series of revolutions in Europe and America, for the most part of the 19th and 20th centuries, bureaucrats began to manage relations in the workplace. The power of the aristocrat was replaced by the power of the office (in French, the “bureau”). In this social structure, workers were always sure that “the boss knows better”.

In the industrial era, there was a clear regulation of labor operations and relations, and workers had certain rights. The power of those who had the position, in other words, their office in the office, expanded, so that a layer of middle managers and administrators of different levels was formed. Talented workers have more opportunities to apply their talents. Moreover, the bureaucratic system now and then generated cumbersome procedures, a multi-level job hierarchy and tons of documents.

“Many of those who are vested with formal power … turn out to be weak or ineffective leaders who are not respected by people.”

With the advent of the information age, the number of levels of bureaucracy sharply decreased. The high pace of technological progress requires leaders to be quick, resourceful, knowledge of innovations and the ability to see the picture outside the bureaucratic framework.

Thanks to technological innovation, modern jobs are very diverse, spread across the planet and often “virtual”. Mid-level managers with their traditional methods have lost a significant part of the influence that has been transferred to employees with expert knowledge and key information. The composition of this category of leaders varies depending on industry conditions and the specifics of specific projects, but the new general formula remains unchanged: “the one who owns the information knows best.” In order to manage organizations in this new era of “infocracy” whose borders are blurred,

Four-element Leadership Model

A true leader is distinguished by respect for people, ethical values and strategic vision. Like a coach of a sports team, the leader of the work team must seek the interaction of players with each other, creating the foundation for this in the form of trusting relationships and developing a sense of commitment to the team. The corporate leadership model can be represented in the form of a rectangle diagram with four vertices:

  1. Leader. This position, located at the top of the scheme, is responsible for ensuring results, profit, and development. Leaders push their teams towards transformations, influencing them with their personality, energy, education, vision, and experience. Your success as a leader depends on your personal qualities.
  2. Project or task. Each organization has a work plan with clearly defined targets. To ensure that the goals are achieved, senior managers must take into account the pressure of competitors, alternative sources of financing and recruitment procedures. As a leader, you need to develop skills for identifying and evaluating a wide variety of situations and personality types and further work with them.
  3. Staff. The leader needs people whom he will lead. Be aware of the nature of your employees, their skills, life values, and the education they received. Respect these features.
  4. Organization. The leader is sensitive to the internal culture of his organization, which is formed under the influence of personal traits of employees, the procedures adopted in the company and its managerial structure.

Leadership Levels

Level 1 leaders are easy to recognize. Their leadership style is a legacy of the industrial revolution that began at the end of the 18th century. Such leaders pay attention only to the external, observable features of the behavior of their subordinates. They look at people as mechanisms that can be programmed for productive work. Mostly they ensure that the actions of employees are consistent with corporate values.

A person with such a mentality of the controller does not understand either the mindset or the feelings of his subordinates. In a leadership environment of the first level, employees who are faced with the ever-changing demands of a modern workplace begin to feel their disempowerment and lose interest in teamwork. The result of this process is the prosperity of mediocrity.

“If people believe that they are obliged to follow your orders out of fear of losing their jobs or fears for their well-being, it means that you have gone from leadership to coercion.”

Leaders of the second level already consider the thoughts and intentions of employees important and listen to them. And the leaders of the third level go even further, being most attentive to the sphere of the unconscious – the “values, beliefs, ideas and expectations” of employees.

In order to learn to take into account such factors of a higher order, leaders must first achieve a clear understanding of their own views and values. Having understood their “values, beliefs, perceptions and expectations”, they will be able to implement procedures, projects and incentive methods that place a personality at the forefront. If first-level leaders are most concerned about whether employees comply with the rules and requirements, then third-level leaders seek to engage and motivate subordinates.

Ethical Aspects of Leadership

A skeptical reader will say that the third-level leader is a manipulator. Indeed, managing people by analyzing their emotions and values may seem psychological manipulation to someone. However, effective leadership has nothing to do with it. You can talk about manipulation when you force others to do what you need, although they did not give you consent and do not understand your tricks and tricks. Respect for moral, ethical and legal issues raises third-level leadership to a completely different, higher level.

“Leaders who aspire to a post for the sake of the post themselves, in the end, are only temporary workers who do not achieve anything special and are soon forgotten.”

In the case of “manipulating with coercion,” the manipulator puts the other person in a situation of choice between two options, each of which is unacceptable to him. So, in the movie “Sophie’s Choice”, the Nazi forces the heroine to choose which of her two children to keep alive.

Manipulation is unacceptable, immoral and unethical in a situation of working relationships, even if it concerns extremely important corporate issues. Healthy relationships at work are built on honesty, the fulfillment of promises, justice and equality, as well as mutual respect – the cornerstones of ethical leadership.

Behavioral Factors

The fate of each person is determined by two factors. Genes are responsible for inherited characteristics in the fields of intelligence, physiology, and emotions. Traits such as eye color are transmitted from parents to a person, but in addition to them, there are also various kinds of predispositions – for example, a tendency to depression and mental disorders, extraordinary intelligence, and short temper. And the second factor that determines the life and development of an individual is individual circumstances: the upbringing received and the values acquired.

“I believe that truly effective leaders with a moral foundation begin with an idea, mission, goal to benefit fellow citizens, and not at all with attempts to gain leadership attributes such as honor, power, respect, and money.”

These two factors are manifested every day and in every person, so managing relationships in the team is a difficult task for company leaders. Leaders of the third level try to analyze these factors in all their diversity and use the findings in order to engage and motivate employees. In those organizations that do not have such leaders, due to the large discrepancy between personal expectations and the requirements presented, employees are often emotionally distanced from what is happening in the company or simply leave. Among dissatisfied employees, many quit (or wait until they are fired) precisely because the company does not understand, does not recognize and does not reward their unique skills or unique tasks that they solve.

Leader Personnel Decisions

The responsibilities of a leader include finding, hiring and training new employees. The competitiveness of your company directly depends on how effective you are in this area. The hiring approach should be consistent with the organization’s core goals and corporate culture. Personnel decisions have a lasting impact on the business, therefore, leading companies are developing new methods for assessing the skills of candidates. Communication and teamwork skills are given the same importance as professional skills.

Six steps to effective leadership

There is a system of steps leading to effective leadership, but this path is not easy. Transforming into a Leader is a six-step process.

  1. Define your “center.” Who you are? What are your goals and values? Do not try to control others or even simply understand them if you are not able to control yourself and understand yourself. Meditate, write down your thoughts, do martial arts. Find a way to identify your “center” and determine your inner attitudes.
  2. Clarify your possibilities. What would you like to achieve? What tasks and projects grab your attention? What are your goals in business? How do you imagine success?
  3. Find out how other participants can contribute. How can your team help you? How are you going to evaluate and reward employees? To what extent are you ready to delegate authority? A good team skillfully uses the skills of each of its members, and everyone has clearly defined roles. You need a person who plays the role of an attentive to little things practitioner who gives out tasks to everyone, as well as a process coordinator, innovators, and performers. Take care of the balance of power between “dreamers” and “pragmatists”. Having empowered employees and setting tasks for them, do not give in to the temptation to engage in petty control.
  4. Provide support. What systems, resources, and technologies do you offer your team? How to provide her feedback? Be creative in your tasks. BancOne has an unusual way of providing feedback to the leaders of newly acquired local banks. Each president of the local bank was regularly sent a report with performance indicators, in which his organization was compared with others in the corporation. In an effort to improve their performance, bank presidents began to exchange data with each other. The exchange of information through such an informal network has led to a significant improvement in the results of the entire organization.
  5. Never give up. Set goals that are meaningful in the long run and inspire employees all the time. Thomas Edison remade his invention more than a thousand times until he created a successful version of the light bulb. Infect your colleagues with the same perseverance and determination.
  6. Quantify and celebrate successes. Success is not always associated with money. Any person needs to be recognized by those around him and that his work is carefully evaluated. Work standards and promotion methods are very important here. A common mistake of so many leaders is the desire to achieve planned profit targets to the detriment of working on the long-term goals and strategy of the company. Develop a reward system for your employees that supports their movement towards these long-term goals.


  • The management culture went through two stages in its development – the aristocracy and the bureaucracy – and in the modern era has entered a new stage, which can be called infocracy.
  • The information revolution led to the emergence of horizontal structures, where the influence passed to employees with information and expert knowledge.
  • In the information age, new management styles are needed, not new bureaucratic structures.
  • Three levels of leadership behavior are as follows: the first is work with the “visible layer” observed by the behavior of subordinates, the second is work with conscious thinking, the third is work with “values, beliefs, perceptions and expectations.”
  • Level 1 leaders are easy to recognize. Their leadership style is a legacy of the industrial revolution that began at the end of the 18th century. Employees are mechanisms for them.
  • For third-level leaders, the employee’s personality is important.
  • The leader of the third level does not force or intimidate, but involves and motivates.
  • The competitiveness of a company depends on the leader’s ability to hire people.
  • Constant changes require managers to be good psychologists, aware of technological trends, engage in strategic planning and be able to respond quickly to changes.
  • The essence of leadership is in energy management. But before you try to control the energy of others, learn to manage your own.

Why You Should Read “Level Three Leadership”

  • To become a well-educated leader
  • To find out the best techniques top managers use to rule the company
  • To separate yourself from your competitors by offering a unique leading framework

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