#51 Guru Peter Anderton: The 2 Simple Principles Behind Every Great Leader
April 26, 2022
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Everyone is a leader.

You’ve probably heard this before, and maybe you chuckled to yourself a little when you read that sentence. It does sound a bit like a pep talk a life coach would give their mentee.

However, leadership speaker (and former chocolate maker) Peter Anderton believes wholeheartedly in this message. And that’s because, as he notes in this 2016 TEDx Talk, “Leadership isn’t about position; leadership is about who you are.”

There’s a ton of leadership advice out there, from weighty tomes like Sun Tzu’s The Art of War to autobiographies on Steve Jobs to blog posts by Tony Robbins. Wading through it all is confusing and time-consuming at best.

What if there was a way to cut through all the noise? Read on to find out why Anderton thinks that everything about leadership comes down to one of two simple rules.


Leadership Advice As Old As Time

As Anderton notes in the talk, we’ve already received the best leadership advice centuries, even millennia ago.

Ancient wise sages—from Laozi and Sun Tzu in China to Cicero and Jesus in Europe and the Near East—all had a similar message. Leadership isn’t about dominion, they espoused. It’s about service.

And that seemed to be the prevailing advice until more modern times when figures like Niccolò Machiavelli, Thomas Carlyle, and Frederick Taylor (and his theory of scientific management) began muddying the waters. Undeniably smart though they were, their more “me-focused” views on leadership resulted in the current vast distances between managers and workers we still experience today.

“Rather than producing simplicity, [they] produced more and more complexity,” Anderton notes. “More and more models have buried the true message of leadership deeper and deeper and deeper.”


The Only Rules You Need to Know

It’s time to refocus. Leaders, says Anderton, don’t make more followers. They make more leaders. But how?


Rule Number 1

Anderton shares the first rule of leadership he rediscovered:




Authentic leadership, he continues, is about “turning up at the top end of who we really are.” And any one of us can do that, so long as we really take the time to understand ourselves.

He points the viewer to John Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership. People follow a leader because:

  1. They have to
  2. Of how they feel about you as an individual
  3. Of what you’ve achieved
  4. Of what you’ve done for them
  5. Of who you are and what you represent

As you can see, each layer forms a deeper level of commitment. But the choice to commit to you isn’t yours. It’s the followers.


Rule Number 2

Level 5 of Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership says people follow a leader because they believe in what they represent. “Ultimately,” Anderton elaborates, “if we want to inspire others, it’s about who we are.”

And that leads us to the second of Anderton’s leadership rules:




Creating change in a team, a company, a community group, or even your own family “starts with who you are and how you behave.” That means diving deep into yourself to uncover the expectations you want others to live up to and start living up to those yourself.


Consider How You Influence the World

If these rules seem somewhat contradictory and a bit esoteric, we get it! To help you better understand the concepts, ask yourself:

  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Do you behave transparently?
  • What environment are you creating?

At the end of the day, we live in a complex world that’s crying out for simplicity. Why not, as Anderton so eloquently puts it, “take the lead on these two simple rules, because there isn’t a single element of leadership that doesn’t follow one of these two principles.”

Do you agree with Peter Anderton when he says we need to look back at ancient wisdom to find out how to be a good leader? Or do you consider his breakdown too simplistic?

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