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Are You a Leader or Follower at Work?

Leader or Follower – It Is Something You Need to Think About

In a recent blog article, we spoke about interview questions. One question that seems to be cropping up more and more is “Are you a leader or follower?”. Being aware of the role you are intending to play within a company is decisive to your success. Regardless of the position, there may be instances when you’re called to lead a project or asked to fall back and assist someone else. So, when an interviewer asks, “Are you a leader or a follower?” it’s best to demonstrate that you can meet the demands of either role.

Leader or follower

Do Not Assume the Obvious

The truth is, there is no right or wrong answer to this as the hiring manager wants to get a feel for how you would fit into the company’s team. The employer wants to know that you have the capability of working well with others as either a leader or follower.

Many job hunters get tripped up by this question because they assume the hiring manager wants someone who can always lead – but the truth is not as cut and dried as that. You really need to give some thought to your reply so that you do not come across as merely giving an answer you assume the interviewer wants to hear. For these kinds of interview questions – stories about your experience can be a real asset.

Just like with any binary question, the interviewer wants to hear your response, followed by a reason for why you feel as though that response is true. As always, actions speak louder than words, so speaking about your past performance can always help make your answer even stronger.

Therefore, when a hiring manager asks, “Are you a leader or a follower?” it’s best to demonstrate that you can meet the demands of either role.

“While companies are almost always looking for candidates with leadership skills, it is also important to show that you know when to back down and respect another person’s leadership,” Nicole Wood of the coaching company Ama La Vida tells Glassdoor. “Cite specific examples which demonstrate that you are a strong leader – then, mention that you also recognise that at times you will need to take a supporting role for other people’s initiatives,”.

Similarly, they will want to see a list of licences, qualifications and machinery operating tickets that are relevant to the role you are applying for, including the date the qualification was obtained and/or the date the qualification expires. If you are in the middle of a Cert III or IV course when your mining resume is being prepared – put it on as ‘ongoing’ – recruiters like to see evidence of ongoing professional development, especially if you are committed enough to study whilst working – a big plus.

Leader or follower

Leader or Follower – Both Have Validity

Barbara Kellerman, a leadership lecturer at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government author of Followership: How Followers are Creating Change and Changing Leaders, says that significant shifts in technology and culture have changed that dynamic, giving followers more power. And there’s a lot you can learn about being a good leader by learning to be a good follower.

“Being a good follower doesn’t make you a sheep,” Kellerman says. “The truth is that most of us are in followership roles regularly”.

When good followers encounter a co-worker with questionable beliefs or a disagreeable manager, they are probably not going to fight every battle, Kellerman says. Playing the part of the follower is easier, simpler, and often less risky.

Good followers learn how to get along with those who have differences while not ignoring those differences. That is an important leadership trait, too, because a leader or manager can’t afford to be oblivious to the attitudes of those around him or her, Kellerman says.

In order to be a good follower, you need to be able to think for yourself. The best followers support and aid the leader when he or she is doing the right thing and stand up to the leader when he or she is headed in the wrong direction. Many of the same qualities that we admire in leaders, such as competence, motivation, intelligence, are the same qualities that we want in the very best followers. Furthermore, leaders, regardless of their level, also need to follow.

By demonstrating that you can be both a leader and a follower, you will show the hiring manager that you are a true team player and a cultural fit for any role. This is a great way to stand out from the crowd and help potential employers see your value.

Leader or follower

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