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This Important Element In You Brain Decides If You’re A Leader Or A Follower

This Important Element In You Brain Decides If You’re A Leader Or A Follower
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While we all have pre-conceived notions about what distinguishes leaders from followers, these are not necessarily accurate or based on any scientific fact. Much of this stems from a misunderstanding of how the human mind works, particularly in relation to our retention of information and cognitive thought processes.

If you have ever seen Janet Echelman’s famous artwork, you will see a visual representation of how the human brain works. These pieces rely on subtle intersections and independencies, through which single threads are combined to create an overall visage. Similarly, the average baby’s brain contains 100 million neurons, which are capable of constructing and weaving information patterns that become increasingly complex as cognitive skills develop.

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How Reflective Intelligence is Crucial in Leadership

The complexity of the human mind and the impact of environment means that concepts such as leadership and following are not fixed forever. Despite this, there is one central element in the brain which empowers leadership and leader qualities, and this the capacity for reflective intelligence. While human intelligence tends to be reflective in nature, natural leaders show a higher capacity for this and are therefore able to display far greater levels of foresight through their thoughts and actions.

Individuals who showcase high levels of reflective intelligence also have a greater survival instinct and a more innate ability to spontaneously tackle and solve problems, which are crucial leader qualities particularly in a professional environment.

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While the way in which reflective intelligence manifests itself in strong leadership is clear, however, how does it work within the human mind? Essentially, reflection is an ability of the brain to consciously manipulate the information that it is provide with, enabling us to process and rehearse options prior to taking action. In the example of positive and decisive problem solving, reflective intelligence allows us to recall and process relevant information that informs our actions, leading to quick and effective resolutions.

How to Nurture Reflective Intelligence in the Human Mind

We have already touched on how our roles as leaders and followers are not set in tone, and this is supported by the fact that we all boast some level of reflective intelligence. There are also exercises that can help to develop this skill, both in ourselves, our children and those around us.

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One of the first exercises is to provoke critical and creative thinking in the brain. Actively and deliberately engaging in critical thought and analysis encourages reflection, forcing you to detect the relationships that exist between objects, thoughts and actions (even those that appear to be entirely unrelated). By drawing on your knowledge and a store of information, you can challenge your thought processes before arriving at new, innovative and most importantly informed conclusions.

Leader Qualities can become second nature over time

Interestingly, you can also develop your own level of reflective intelligence by actively teaching your children and those around you. As a parent, for example, you can ask your child’s opinion on specific characters and their actions while reading them a story or watching a film. This not only sharpens your child’s level of reflective intelligence and empowers them as critical thinkers, but it also helps you to ensure that your leadership qualities quickly become second nature over time.

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This is the most important thing to remember, as while we all possess natural leadership skills to some degree or another there are certain mental elements that we can develop with practice. The reflective dimension of human intelligence offers an example of this, as this needs to be consciously cultivated and exercised if it is to be developed and realised over time. You will also find that those with true leadership qualities repeat learning activities on a regular basis, as their reflective intelligence grows and its manifestations quickly become second nature over time.

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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)
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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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