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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

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 March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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