Are you a leader or a follower? It’s a question that is often asked with the implication that there is only one real answer. Either you are a leader, or you are not. You are fit only to be shepherded by the strong, intelligent, and brave. What a way to look at leadership!
Before we continue, it is important that you know that this is not the case. Leaders are important, but so are followers. After all, where would leaders be without followers? The world needs leaders, but it also needs followers. It’s also okay to start as a follower with the aim of becoming a leader, or to be a leader today and a follower tomorrow.
Whatever the case, it’s probably easier to break the question up into questions that address the qualities of leadership. This article won’t tell you whether you are a leader or a follower, but it will help you to answer the question reliably for yourself.
Are You Confident With The Situation?
Confidence is important to leadership, both confidence in yourself to lead and to handle the presenting situation. If you aren’t sure that you can lead or aren’t familiar with the type of situation that you are faced with, you probably are not the best person to lead in that situation.
When you pass up a leadership position in this circumstance it will protect you from making a critical error as a leader but it will also protect the team by allowing a better prepared person to step forward, increasing the team’s chances of success.
You should also have confidence in your team. Without a good team, the project will likely fail. If you don’t see much chance of success, do you want to be a leader or a follower when the ship goes down? Sometimes the decision to be a leader or a follower is based more on the situation than on your ability.
How Do You Handle Pressure?
When faced with great responsibility, some people rise to the occasion and others collapse under the pressure. Knowing which one you are can help you decide not only whether you are right for the position but just as important, whether the position is right for you.
It is also critical to consider what kind of position you want. Some leadership positions mean that you are truly at the top of the organization, while other leadership positions mean that you are in charge of a team but are also answering directly to someone else. Sometimes the latter position is often more stressful because you are caught between the top and the bottom. It is like being the meat in the sandwich.
Do You Have The Will To Serve?
This is an interesting question because often people think that leaders need to be directive, strong, and controlling to be leaders. However many of the best leaders are those that serve others rather than being overly directive and controlling. Sometimes these leaders are considered soft rather than strong. But that really is an erroneous perception.
Servant leaders are strong in developing people, helping them to become the best that they can be, not afraid to be followers, build systems based on cooperation, coordination, collaboration and commitment. They take risks to carry out their vision by truly engaging others in their vision.
The difference occurs when leaders tell people what to do, when to do it and how to do it rather than engaging them in what to do and leaving it up to them when and how to do it. So the question asks you to consider what kind of leader you want to become.
Can You Learn From The Canadian Geese?
The Canada Goose has learned to lead and to follow. When flying in formation they use their formation to reduce the wind and increase their speed. But the leader doesn’t always stay in front of the formation. When it becomes tired and feels like it can no longer lead it falls back and another one takes over. The Canadian goose is not afraid to lead and follow when necessary. The moral of this story is that leaders can learn to lead as well as to follow.
Do You Think Big Or Small?
A final question to ask yourself is whether you think big or think small.
Leaders often influence systems as they try to decide how best to handle large decisions with large implications. Leaders have to think big.
Followers, on the other hand, often have a narrow set of responsibilities that deal with more specialized knowledge. Followers have to think small.
Once again, there’s nothing wrong with thinking small, it just means that you are probably more valuable working with the details of your current position rather than working with the sweeping organizational choices that leaders often have to deal with.
The question asking whether you are a leader or a follower is a misleading. It implies that leaders and followers are cast in different molds.
The truth is, whether you are more fit to be a leader, or a follower depends less on who you are as a person and more about the situation. The real question to ask yourself is whether you have the experience and skills required to take on the job and do it well.
The Canadian goose knows when to lead and to follow based on the situation at hand. So does a great leader.
When you start asking the question based on the situation rather than based on yourself, you realize that the question shouldn’t be asked about what’s best for you but what’s best for the team. If you are what is best for the team, become the leader and serve your team or organization to the best of your ability and help your followers to grow so that they can become the best that they can be. If you are having second thoughts, let someone else take the lead. Then if you are still interested in becoming a leader develop your skills, personality, and experience to meet future challenges.
Thank you for reading and always stay safe, be well and continue becoming the best version of yourself.