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10 Signs You’re A Follower Instead Of A Leader

10 Signs You’re A Follower Instead Of A Leader

While the term leadership is often applied in the world of business, it is in fact a far broader concept that can be applied throughout everyday life. From visionary thought leaders and military generals to those who simply want to build a better life for themselves, leadership is an attribute that can help everyone to achieve their individual goals.

This underlines the importance of self-improvement, as we look to develop the fundamental leadership skills that will enable us to achieve multiple forms of success. Without these, you may consign yourself to the role of follower and struggle to achieve your full potential as an individual.

With this in mind, here are 10 clear signs that you are a follower rather than a bold and confident leader:

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1. You lack emotional intelligence

While emotional intelligence may not seem like a fundamental component of successful leadership, it is impossible to build an aura of respect and authority without valuing the feelings of those around us. It can also isolate you from others, making it difficult to form either personal or professional relationships. Take the example set by Mitt Romney when campaigning in the U.S. election of 2012, when he famously claimed that ‘43% of the American population were losers’. This type of senseless diatribe shows a complete lack of respect for others, while it also showcases a lack of common sense and restraint. Unless you can empathise or respect the feelings of fellow humans, it is impossible to lead others or develop beneficial relationships for the future.

2. You are easily influenced in your decision making

Decision making is another crucial aspect of leadership, whether you are a captain of industry, keen to improve your existing lifestyle or voting in an election. Successful leaders are decisive and able to think independently, for example, while those who follow are all too easily influenced when attempting to reach a definitive conclusion. This was underlined during the recent UK election; as although an estimated 30 million votes were cast nationwide there is additional evidence to suggest that 59% of the electorate would be unable to name the British Prime Minister. This raises the spectre of ignorant voting, and unless you are able to research specific topics and think independently to make an informed decision you will never be able to succeed in leadership.

3. You follow rules rather than breaking them

There are a number of fundamental differences between leaders and followers, with their unique approach to rules providing a prominent example. While leaders are receptive to the need for change and capable of breaking rules for the greater good, followers are far more inclined to adhere to the status quo without question. There is also an issue of courage, as those with leadership potential have far greater conviction when it comes to driving change and pushing even unpopular reforms. If you have aspirations of leadership, you must therefore develop an analytical mind that can identify opportunities for change and remain strong in the face of criticism.

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4. You are risk averse

In the pursuit of change, you may also need to take risks in addition to breaking rules. As a result of this, the stereotypical leader has a huge appetite for risk and is willing to trust their instinct when making difficult decisions. In contrast, followers tend to be risk-averse in their nature and are unwilling to take actions or decisions that may trigger a negative reaction in some. If you wish to overcome this innate fear and emerge as a strong leader that can control individual situations, you will need to step out of your comfort zone and start taking calculated risks for the greater good.

5. You are receptive to talent

From a business perspective, talent is crucial to breaking new ground and achieving long-term success. Those with genuine leadership skills therefore tend to attract and engage talent better than followers, primarily because they are secure in their own abilities and able to surround themselves with uniquely skilled individuals without becoming envious. As followers typically lack a strong, independent mind and self-confidence, they can quickly begin to question their own ability when they are surrounded by highly skilled and talented individuals. This can create a barrier to forging any positive professional or personal relationships, and in this respect developing an appreciation of talent and unique skill-sets can enable you lead a much-improved existence.

6. You get results in the wrong way

There is a fine line between leadership and bullying, and this is underlined by the fact that successful CEO’s such as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos have been accused of using intimidatory tactics. Despite this, true leadership skills enable individuals to influence and inspire others through encouragement, whereas followers who attempt to lead often resort to using aggression, manipulation and coercion to solicit compliance. It is crucial that you understand this core difference, and remember that the ends do not justify the means when it comes attempting to lead others. Aggression alone does not make you a leader, and in fact it can prevent you from ever achieving your full potential as an individual.

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7. You lack time management skills

This is one of the more subtle differences that separate leaders from followers, as those with leadership qualities have innate time management skills that enable them to organise both themselves and those around them. Whether you manage a team of employees or simply want to develop an effective daily schedule, your ability to prioritise tasks and complete them efficiently is crucial. Followers tend to lack this skill, as their lack of foresight and passive nature means that are happy either to drift or allow others to manage their time. To change this behavioural pattern you will need to take the initiative and be proactive when scheduling tasks and creating time frames for completion.

8. You lack discipline as an individual

According to inspirational entrepreneur and author Jim Rohn, discipline is “the bridge between goals and accomplishment”. This is something that true leaders can identify with, as they tend to be extremely disciplined in their nature and are able to work in an extremely focused and dedicated manner at all time. In contrast, followers tend to be easily distracted by their surroundings and lack the mental fortitude to achieve long-term aspirations. This can highly detrimental, as even those with a strong sense of ambition and a keen work-ethic will fail without drive or self-discipline. Fortunately discipline can be learned over a period of time, especially if you are willing to schedule goals and develop a long-term plan for your advancement as an employee or individual.

9. You are not in control of your emotions

In a similar vein, leaders tend to retain greater control of their emotions and maintain a more consistent mood. This is not to say that they do not struggle with emotional highs and lows (as we all do), but they do possess the mental strength and character to manage these feelings without it impacting on their productivity or mood. Followers often lack this ability, which means that they are prone to emotional outbursts or periods of depression that can distract them from achieving a specific goal. To overcome this sensitivity and emerge as a potential leader, you must therefore embrace practical techniques for taking control of your emotions and challenging them into positive energy.

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10. You lack a clear and translatable vision

Famous essayist and poet Jonathon Swift was renowned for his interpretation of being a visionary, which he described as the art ‘of seeing what is invisible to others’. This also provides a clear distinction between leaders and followers, as while the former have a clear and concise understand of what they want to achieve in the long-term the latter are more inclined to live for the moment. This is why clarity of thought is such an important leadership quality, as is the willingness to make sacrifices today for the good of tomorrow. If you want to develop your leadership skills, it is imperative that you are able to prioritise clearly defined, long-term goals that can be achieved through a series of stages.

Featured photo credit: Leadership – Jessica Lucia via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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