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 “just” a follower, fit only to be shepherded by the strong, intelligent, and brave.
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.
t’s also okay to start a follower with the aim of becoming a leader, or to be a leader today and a follower tomorrow. Or a leader in some situations, and a follower in others. 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 confidence in yourself to handle the 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 aren’t the best person to lead in that situation.
Passing up a leadership position in this situation will protect you from making a critical error in a leadership position, but it will also protect the team by allowing a better prepared person to step forward, increasing the team’s chances of success.
You also should 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 it is on your ability.
How Well 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 whether you are right for the position, but whether the position is right for you.
It is also important to consider what kind of position you are looking at. Some leadership positions mean that you are truly at the top of the heap, while other leadership positions mean that you are in charge of a team but are also answering directly to someone else. The latter kind is often more stressful.
Do You Think Big Or Small?
A final question to ask yourself is whether you think big or think small.
Leaders often work in terms of systems, trying 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.
Are You A Leader Or A Follower?
“Are you a leader or a follower?” That’s a very misleading question. It implies that leaders and followers are born, 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 on the situation. Don’t ask yourself whether you are a lamb or a lion, ask yourself whether you have the experience and skills required to take on the job and do it well.
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, take the big chair. If you are having second thoughts, let someone else take it.