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Home » Blog » Leader or Follower- Which one is you?

Many are caught within the crosshairs of decision-making when it comes to choosing how to evolve their lives both professionally and socially- be a leader or a follower. There is still a little stigma associated with both titles although both roles offer a lot of interpretations and freedom to give them life. Going through various phases in life, we are required to be a party to either of these bands at all times. Being a leader is always looked upon more favourably in society than being a follower. Psychologically, leaders are always viewed as someone on top; those who lead a good life, show others the right way, and are thus prime role models; people that others aspire to be. Followers on the other hand, are considered regular run-of-the-mill people who do what they are told. According to societal bylaws, followers aspire to be leaders.

Leaders are seen everywhere; in the realm of politics, sports, military, religion, and of course as parents. Parents may be the most influential leaders in our early-stage development as a child. Thus, we start out as followers of our parents, and gradually with age the roles reverse with us leading them (hopefully). A good leader is influential but more importantly, a good leader is ethical. Lacking ethics will result in not only poor performance but also poor development of a leader’s followers. This applies predominantly in the workplace but also can apply to political and social leaders.

Leadership is the art of persuasion; the act of motivating people to do more than they ever thought possible in pursuit of a greater good, according to Forbes. It has nothing to do with title, authority, or seniority. It has nothing to do with how many people report to you and you don’t magically become one, once you reach a certain pay grade. Leadership is about social influence, not positional power. Followership is all about the ability to accomplish goals under a leader’s direction. Successful followership involves following instructions, completing assigned tasks, supporting initiatives, and being motivated. Good followers see the value in listening to others and helping achieve their vision. Followership is important because it contributes to a successful, cohesive team environment. Organizations rely on followership to accomplish complex goals and maintain a functioning hierarchy of operations. Followership is what keeps the machinery ticking like clockwork. While it’s true that an organization is only as good as its leaders, it is also only as good as its followers.

Let us take a quick peek into a few of the traits that make a leader or a follower-

What makes you a good Leader?

Do you go above and beyond? Leaders see their job descriptions as the bare minimum- the foundation upon which they build greatness. Leaders see their real role as adding value, and they add it whenever and wherever they see an opportunity.

Are you confident? Leaders see the talents and accomplishments of others as an asset. Leaders want to make things better, and they’ll take help anywhere they can find it. Leaders are true team players. They aren’t afraid to admit that they need other people to be strong where they’re weak.

Are you optimistic? When things go wrong, leaders don’t dwell on how bad things are. They are too busy trying to make things better.

Are you open to change? Leaders are maximisers who see opportunity in change. Because leaders want constant improvement, they’re never afraid to ask, “What’s next?”

Are you decisive? Leaders aren’t afraid to make a call, even when they’re not sure if it’s the right one. They’d rather make a decision and be wrong than suffer from the paralysis of indecision.

Are you accountable? When mistakes are made, followers are quick to blame circumstances and other people. Leaders, on the other hand, are quick to accept accountability for their actions. They don’t worry that admitting fault might make them look bad, because they know that shifting the blame would just make them look worse.

Are you humble? Perhaps the most defining trait, humility counts as gold as you go up the chain. Leaders are humble. They don’t allow any authority they may have to make them feel that they are better than anyone else. As such, they don’t hesitate to jump in and do the dirty work when needed, and they won’t ask anyone to do anything they wouldn’t be willing to do themselves.

What makes you a good Follower?

Loyalty- Good followers respect their obligation to be loyal to their employer. Followers who are not loyal are more likely to create problems between team members, compromise goal achievement and reduce the team’s productivity. As a follower, you have a strong allegiance and commitment to the company’s plans. You know that your obligation is to the company, not a given leader at a given point in time.

Courage- Followers must take direction but they also have an underlying obligation to do so only when the direction is ethical and proper. Good followership means having the courage to speak up when you have concerns. In your role as a follower, you may need to give negative feedback to a leader or other team members. This can be especially challenging if you need to confront a leader. If the situation is serious enough, you may consider taking your concerns to a higher level of leadership.

Tact- This trait is especially important. Sharing your ideas in a group setting while acknowledging a leader’s choices involves using emotional intelligence, interpersonal awareness, and tact. As leaders share their ideas, you may show appreciation for their guidance and address any concerns in a manner that focuses on finding solutions. Be prepared to give an honest assessment of what the leader is trying to achieve and how. Good leaders are grateful for constructive feedback from their team.

The Learnings

The main takeaway from these two sets of traits is that they are interchangeable. This means that somebody can be a leader in a certain situation but might be required to be a follower in another scenario. Or vice-versa. Society must leave itself susceptible to the adaptability between these two boxes and we must realise that it is frustrating to put somebody in a certain box and not allow them to move from it. Food for thought- all good leaders started out as brilliant followers. In the same vein, professionals must respect the circumstances and adapt to whatever role the situation dictates. Collectively, we must defeat ego and play both the roles with aplomb.