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Foundational | Relational | Operational | Developmental | Legacy – A Leadership Guide

Discover the art of leadership through five essential stages, from establishing authority to creating a lasting legacy. Whether you're a budding leader or an experienced visionary, this guide reveals the transformative power of effective leadership. Dive into a narrative that goes beyond titles, equipping you with strategies to inspire and achieve enduring influence. Your roadmap to understanding impactful leadership begins here.

Foundational Leadership

In the initial phase of leadership, authority stems directly from one's designated position within an organization. This level is characterized by compliance from team members, who follow directives primarily due to the structured hierarchy and their roles. A leader's influence is somewhat constrained by the lack of personal bonds with the team at this foundational level. However, it is a crucial phase for establishing the basics of leadership, such as responsibility, organization, and enforcing standards.

Relational Leadership

As one progresses to the next level, leadership transcends the bounds of titles. Here, the focus shifts to fostering meaningful connections with and among team members. A leader at this stage encourages a collaborative spirit by cultivating a culture of trust and mutual respect. This interpersonal approach to leadership creates a more harmonious and willing following, as team members are guided not just by duty but by genuine respect and camaraderie.

Operational Leadership

Operational leaders distinguish themselves by setting clear objectives and mobilizing their teams towards achieving tangible results. At this juncture, the efficacy of a leader is gauged by performance and the attainment of organizational goals. Followers begin to acknowledge the leader's contribution not just to the team's dynamic but to the success and productivity of the organization as a whole. This leadership level is pivotal for establishing credibility and a track record of success.

Developmental Leadership

This stage is pivotal in a leader's journey, marked by a commitment to team members' professional and personal growth. A developmental leader invests time in mentoring and coaching, recognizing the multiplicative effect of enhancing the capabilities of individuals. The leader builds a resilient and agile team by nurturing potential and encouraging advancement. Followers become loyal due to professional growth and the leader's investment in their overall well-being and career trajectory.

Legacy Leadership

Attaining the pinnacle of leadership is about creating a culture that outlasts the leader's direct involvement. It's about instilling values and visions that perpetuate through the actions of others. Legacy leaders are visionaries who inspire change and foster new leaders, ensuring that their influence endures through the success of their successors. This ultimate leadership level is characterized by shared achievement and the leader's dedication to a purpose beyond their tenure.


These elaborated points offer a richer, more detailed roadmap for the leadership journey, with each stage building upon the last and contributing to a comprehensive framework for aspiring leaders to evaluate and enhance their leadership style and impact.


This brief guide is an excellent tool for a team of leaders. Ask each member to read this short blog in advance and be prepared to identify which stage of leadership development they believe they have achieved. Further, challenge them to be prepared with several examples of why they self-identified as having achieved that particular stage. For further discussion, start each week's meeting by identifying one of the stages and then asking how a leader can master and move beyond that stage.

About the Author

John Seville is an entrepreneurial technology and business leader. He has successfully launched four businesses during his career: Computer Consultants of Colorado, Chief Technology Consultants, (the) Center for Transformative Coaching, and his most recent venture, Ascent Leadership Group, which he started in 2018 and serves as the Managing Principal. In addition to his entrepreneurial ventures, John has served in multiple corporate CIO and COO roles. In 2013, the Denver Business Journal (DBJ) and the Society for Information Management (SIM) nominated John for the Colorado CIO of the Year award. Connect with John by emailing him at


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