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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 13, 2020

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

    This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

    We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

    Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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    When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

    Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

    4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

    Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

    For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

    Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

    5. Make Decisions

    For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

    If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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    If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

    Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

    I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

    This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

    The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

    6. Take Some Form of Action

    Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

    The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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    It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

    Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

    The Bottom Line

    Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

    When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

    More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

    Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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