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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 April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

Reference

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