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If We’re All Talented People, Why Do We Still Need a Leader?

If We’re All Talented People, Why Do We Still Need a Leader?

A 2015 study by Gallup revealed that a shocking 1 in 2 people who quit their jobs left because of poor management.[1] Fewer than 1/3 of American workers report feeling engaged at work, and poor leadership is partly to blame. If leaders are so bad for our work environment, why do we still have them?

Unexpectedly, leadership is in our biology.

As much as many of us hate to admit it, we are naturally predisposed to seek the guidance of leaders. The dynamic between leaders and followers can be found across countless species– from horses to bees to wolves. Leaders compel groups to act in order to keep them safe or help them fulfill a biological need to eat, drink, or reproduce.[2]

Primates have evolved to form complex social hierarchies. Like chimps and macaques, we humans have created social structures to guarantee that our basic needs are met and ensure the well-being of the group.[3]

In the animal kingdom, some creatures reach leadership status through circumstances.

These are called circumstantial leaders. For example, if a stallion is killed, leadership of the herd reverts to the next dominant horse in line. Equines work to understand who is “high horse” every day so that they can ensure that their leader is the strongest and the most likely to assure their survival.

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While it has gotten easier for us to get what we need, we still organize ourselves into hierarchies in response to circumstances. Some leaders come to their positions organically. For example, a worker with specialized training may find themselves in charge of a professional development workshop simply because they possess knowledge that their coworkers need.

Some species actively assert their leadership abilities to convince others to follow them.

These are called prospective leaders.Ants and bees send members of their group in search of food sources. These scouts return to their group after finding food, and they convince others to follow them through “dances” or distinct flight patterns.

Human leaders also assert their desire to take on leadership roles. They may volunteer to take on more responsibility or apply for jobs that enable them to take on leadership roles. They make their intent to lead explicit to the rest of the group. If they make their case convincingly enough, others will follow them.

We are wired to have things in order.

This information about animal social hierarchies is all well and good, but it doesn’t seem to explain why you need to listen to your boss today. As it turns out, leaders in the work place are a continuation of our natural inclination to organize.

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From early hominids, to hunter-gathers, to the current members of the Information Age, leaders rise to create order.[4]

Organization of groups and new technology helped people transition from livings as nomads to agrarians to agriculturalists. The Neolithic Revolution, which marked an increased reliance on agriculture,[5] spurred human settlements to grow and organize in new ways.

This organization was necessary to maintain control and safeguard the settlements’ survival. Settlement development continued for thousands of years and resulted in some of today’s most impressive archaeological remains. The pyramids at Giza were not constructed by a bunch of individuals depositing 15-ton blocks at their leisure, after all. Real cooperation and skill went into building these elaborate tombs, and it was all done at the behest of their leaders, the pharaohs.

The massive Bronze Age palaces of Mycenae, Tiryns, and Pylos exemplify regional centers in Greece. We see similar evidence for social hierarchy in the Mississippian United States in the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex. Although these communities conceptualized their worlds differently and existed on opposite ends of the globe, the result of their leadership structure was the same; they could ensure the survival of their people through amassing resources, which could be redistributed in the event of a crisis. These settlement structures also enabled groups to trade items within their network to enrich the lives of their people and further reinforce the status of certain members of these groups.

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Games such as Sid Meier’s Civilization help modern audiences understand the way that leadership styles adapted to address socio-political and environmental issues throughout human history.[6]

Our definition of leadership has changed though.

In general, past leadership styles relied on centralized control and the presence of an exalted leader. (Think of all the god-kings that pepper our history books.) Today, leadership tends to be more diffuse, collaborative, and group-oriented.[7] Our interest in democracies is one example of this distribution of power across multiple entities.

In addition to unifying us to ensure the survival of the species, our leaders work to help our companies and businesses survive. Leadership is constantly evolving to address the changing social and political climate. At this point, there seems to be a disconnect between what we need from our leaders and what they offer us today, which could explain why we question our need for them. Recent scholarship considers finding solid leadership talent to be one of the top concerns facing businesses today.[8]

Modern leaders do best when they avoid autocracy.

Democratic leaders seek input from team members. The combined intellectual and creative input leads to a more energetic and optimistic work environment. Leaders who seek to develop the skills of their subordinates foster a growth mindset in the workplace.

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Group leaders may have a great deal of skill, but the most gifted leaders recognize that they must give their team members opportunities to shine in order to support their objectives. Distributing some power enables employees to become more confident, competent, and invested. When everyone is committed to the outcome, the combined talents of the group exceed the capabilities of the leader acting alone.

The tendency toward collaboration is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

One of the biggest struggles that companies face today is the readiness gap. [9] A recent study found that only 25% of Fortune 500 companies felt they had leaders adequately prepared to fill leadership roles. When we consider this gap, it is easy to understand why our bosses may occasionally do cringe-worthy things. Developing leadership skills takes time, and right now our demand outstrips the supply.

Even with a talented workforce, we still need leaders to shape our direction and lead us toward an overarching vision. In spite of a perceived lack of experience, the best leaders work to grow their skills. Rather than take on an adversarial relationship with our superiors, there may be room for negotiation and input that can lead to profound outcomes for all of us.

A world without leaders could be chaotic.

Despite the fact that sometimes our bosses miss the mark, when they do their jobs well, their employees have more freedom to excel in their roles. Managers have administrative responsibilities for which we are unaware. When they take on these burdens, they allow us to focus and make our day run more smoothly. Our leaders resolve conflicts and help us unify around a collective vision.

Even on our leaders’ worst days, their presence is preferable to a world in which they don’t exist. While we could survive without leaders, competition over resources would likely lead to violence and destabilization, and it would stall our ability to innovate as a society. Imagine a workplace in which there is no one to resolve conflicts and no one to have the final say.

It takes visionaries to motivate groups of people to unite around a common goal. Public works, advances in modern technology, and our continuous drive toward making the world a better place could not happen without leadership and collaboration.

Reference

More by this author

Angelina Phebus

Writer, Yoga Instructor (RYT 200)

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Last Updated on November 19, 2019

15 Productive Things to Do When Bored (So Time Is Not Wasted)

15 Productive Things to Do When Bored (So Time Is Not Wasted)

For most people, when they’re bored, they just sit there and don’t know what to do. They watch the clock ticks and the time passes by, and then several hours are gone.

But what if I tell you that when you really are feeling bored and don’t know what to do during your downtime, there’re lots of things you can do to feel (and really be) productive?

Here are 15 productive things to do when bored based on the principles of elimination, consumption and work.

1. Eliminate Clutter

One of the reasons why you’re not as prolific as you want may be that you have too much clutter.

Productive things to do when bored include tidying up your desk, removing books you’ll never read from your bookshelf and deleting the smartphone apps you never use.

Not only will you have done some housecleaning, the task might also give you energy to move on to the next, bigger task.

This guide will help you make decluttering easier: How to Declutter Your Life and Reduce Stress (The Ultimate Guide)

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2. Eliminate Distractions

Is there anything in particular that’s distracting you? If you’re looking for productive things to do when bored, zone in on what specifically is slowing down your productivity.

Social media is a popular detractor, for example. Sign out of your social networks so you can focus on things that actually matter.

Take a look at these techniques to free yourself from social media distractions: How Not To Let Social Media Control Your Body and Mind

3. Eliminate Concerns

Are you worried about something? Is that concern getting in the way of your productivity?

Deal with the problems that are keeping you from spending your time as well as you should. Examples include tasks like double-checking your schedule and sending follow-up emails.

By removing all of your stressors, you’ll be a lot more prolific.

4. Eliminate the Unnecessary

There are a lot of things in our lives that might be nice but are distractions to our productivity because they’re not necessary.

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Find out what those things are and remove them from your place of work.

If you find everything around you necessary, then maybe you can try this One Question to Help You Successfully Declutter Anything.

5. Eliminate Quick Tasks

Even if you don’t have enough energy for a big task, you might have enough to do a small one.

Check off items on your to-do list that can be done quickly like making a phone call or sending off an email.

6. Consume Knowledge

When you’re bored, it’s an opportune time to learn. One of the most productive things to do is to learn anything on the internet. It could be watching YouTube tutorials, or learning facts and skills on these 24 Killer Websites that Make You Cleverer.

7. Consume Data (or Maps)

Information isn’t the same as knowledge. Are there names, terms, dates, statistics, places or something similar you need to ingrain in your head?

Studying data or maps is one of the most productive things you can do when you feel bored.

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8. Consume Fiction

You have to be careful with this one; you can’t just watch an episode of your favorite TV show and call the time you spent productive. But you can pick some meaningful fictions and start reading. Here’re some recommendations for you: 30 Books That Everyone Should Read At Least Once In Their Lives

9. Consume Non-fiction

Reading a biography about someone in your profession or an account of historical events relevant to your career can be extremely productive things to do when bored. Time can be well-spent watching, reading or listening to something that inspires you:

10. Consume Culture

By consuming culture not only are you enriching yourself, you’re also trying a new experience. Taking part in activities you haven’t done before can be very productive things to do when bored.

11. Work on Your Work

Work is probably the hardest thing to do when bored, but it’s still possible to muscle through the lethargy and get things done.

If you’re unmotivated, remind yourself that your time best spent is doing the work that pays your income. A cash incentive goes a long way towards productivity.

12. Work on Your Craft

If you don’t feel like doing something career-related, try something artistic!

Creative activities like painting or creative writing could be the perfect productive things to do when bored.

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13. Work on Your Physical Health

If you don’t have a lot of energy to do something mental, hopefully you at least have the energy to partake in a physical activity.

Some productive things to do when you’re bored are running, walking, biking and lifting weights. Any kind of exercise is likely to free you from boredom.

14. Work on Your Emotional Health

Is there a personal issue that’s making it hard for you to be interested in anything? If so, address it. You’ll find productivity a whole lot easier.

Become emotionally healthy by learning about these 15 Things Emotionally Healthy People Do.

15. Work on your Mental Health

Boredom is often in reality something akin to anxiety or depression. Try doing mental exercises that help you focus on positive experiences and mindfulness to alleviate you of what you’re perceiving as boredom.

Practicing mindfulness and meditation can calm and relax you, take a look at this beginner’s guide to meditation: Meditation for Beginners: How to Meditate Deeply and Quickly

A few simple steps towards improving your mental health can go a long way, not only towards productivity but your happiness in general.

Want to Stop Procrastinating?

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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