This is it – it’s time to reveal all. I’ve dangled rule #2 of leadership in front of you more than once without telling you exactly what it is – it’s time to bring it out into the open.

Remember – everything you need to know about leadership comes down to one of two rules. Everything else is just noise. Rule #1 of leadership tells us that leadership is not about you! It’s not about your instructions, your solutions, your ideas, your ego – it’s about THEM!

Before I reveal rule #2 let’s just check in with the theory of Authentic leadership.

Authentic leadership

Authentic leadership is not the only leadership theory doing the rounds today – but it’s the one that will lead us to rule #2. Authentic leadership isn’t about being a born leader or developing a fixed set of characteristics – it’s simply that we need to be authentic, turning up at the top end of who we really are. It’s less about trying to be someone else, and more about being yourself, brilliantly.

Anyone of us can be a leader, but it starts with having a clear understanding of who we are, what we stand for, what our strengths and weaknesses are and behaving in a transparent way that puts all of these things together.

Remember John Maxwell’s 5 levels of leadership. Level 1 is when people follow because they have to. Level 1 in the biscuit factory meant a queue at the clock machine 5 minutes before the end of the shift, each one changed and poised to slide the card through the reader the second they could leave. This is where they give you their minimum, never their best. However…

    • At level 2 they follow you because of the RELATIONSHIP you have with them
    • At level 3 they follow you because of what you have done for the ORGANISATION
    • At level 4 they follow you because of what you have done for THEM as an individual
    • At level 5 they follow you because of WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU REPRESENT

Each level represents a deeper level of commitment than the one before. Shifting from one level to the next is all about choice – but not your choice, theirs. (That’s rule #1!) If we have a boss, we HAVE to work for them because they’re the boss – that’s leadership as a position – level 1 leadership. But when we CHOOSE to follow someone because of what they DO and WHO they are then the sky’s the limit!

Apparently much misquoted but no less powerful for it – the words “Be the change you want to see in the world” bring us face to face with rule # 2! In fact rule #2 of leadership is as simple and profound as rule # 1 – Rule #2 of leadership recognises if you want the best from those around you it starts with what YOU do and who YOU are.

It begins with who you are

Rule # 2 of leadership states – Leadership is ONLY about you. And a whole host of theories – from Avolio’s to Zaleznik’s – state if we want to inspire others it begins with who we are.

And that’s the leader’s biggest challenge. When the chips are down and everything seems to be going down the pan we want everyone ELSE to change. We feel like we are the only ones who care. The only ones who really understand the situation. As far as we are concerned we are the LAST ones who need to change – THEY are the ones who need to change!

But the environment in our teams are simply a reflection of us! Leadership – and life – is a lot like that. Things go a little pear shaped from time to time. And it’s not unusual for us to blame others when they do. But true leaders look themselves in the mirror and say – if I want anything to be different – it starts with me.

The power of rule # 2

That’s the power of rule #2. Rule #2 says let’s stop waiting for everyone else to get their act together and start cleaning up our own act. If others are ever going to live up to our expectations then it starts with us. How are WE behaving? Are we standing up for what we believe or are we just doing time? What DO we stand for? Who ARE we?

Nelson Mandela nailed rule #2 when he said “until I changed myself I could not change others.

But don’t go thinking this is anything new. Back in the ancient world:

  • Lao Tzu said “Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.”
  • Cicero said “The enemy is within the gates; it is with our OWN luxury, our OWN folly, our OWN criminality that we have to contend.”
  • Jesus said “as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”

We can only make a difference by starting with ourselves. Our own beliefs. Our own thinking. Our own behaviour. Ancient wisdom understood rule #2 LONG ago.

Rule #2 recognises people around us do not come with remote controls. If we want to change our environment – we can only start by changing ourselves. Because as leaders, our thinking and behaviour CREATES our environment. It’s ONLY about us!

What environment are you creating?

It’s time to ask ourselves – what environment are we creating?

Today – we are simply rediscovering and repackaging what was understood long ago. And when it comes to leadership too many of us are sat on the floor – surrounded by wrapping paper – playing with the boxes rather than using the messages right at the heart.

We live in a complex age. And the one thing our age is crying out for is simplicity. So let’s take the lead with these 2 simple rules. Because there isn’t a SINGLE element of leadership – at home, at work, in school or in the community that doesn’t hinge on them.

You see, there’s no such thing as the perfect leader. But the next best thing is a leader who really gets AND uses rule #1 and rule #2. Do you?

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Peter Anderton

Author: Peter Anderton

A sought after coach and change agent, Peter has spent many years in Organisational Development, focusing on developing high performance leadership teams, executive coaching, strategy and change. He builds relationships quickly and is as comfortable in the boardroom as he is at ‘grass roots’. Known for his integrity, energy and a real passion for making things happen, he has a uniquely direct yet supportive style that delivers.

Peter is a qualified NLP master practitioner, a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD and a Chartered Engineer.