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:
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.
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.
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.
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