How to Answer Interview Question: Are You a Leader or A Follower?
Interview questions are strategically chosen to weigh an individual’s knowledge, experiences, and personality. The interviewer will want to know as much as possible about candidates to determine their suitability for the role in question. Therefore, it is imperative for you as a prospective candidate to review the job description as well as the organization’s expectations before going into an interview.
When you are asked if you consider yourself a leader or a follower, it might seem convenient to ascribe to the leadership angle; But remember “all good leaders are even better followers”. The recruiters are not looking for a narrow answer, instead, they are seeking to assess your sense of versatility and willingness to adjust to different roles based on the organization’s needs. So in approaching this question, it is expected that you talk about past experiences that display both your leadership and followership capabilities. This is so because it is the situation that dictates which of either quality becomes more dominant and not your choice.
That question has little to do with a leadership role you held previously. Even without ever holding a significant leadership position, you can still consider yourself a leader. Leadership in this context has to do with your character, sense of responsibility, impact, and overall influence. Similarly, there is no harm in balancing your leadership qualities with that of followership. You may not have had the privilege of commanding a team, but you are good at following directions and accomplishing tasks; That is both good followership and exemplary leadership. Hence, use your response to project your problem-solving and innovative skills and de-emphasize job titles or designations.
Factors to consider
- Consider the type of job you are interviewing for: ask yourself; is the job is more of a leading or following role? What type of qualities are the employers looking out for? Often, jobs require you to lead at some point and follow someone else at other times. Even if the position leans more in one direction, construct your answer in such a way that captures you both as a leader and a follower. In this case, it is good to start your answer by saying you are comfortable and can perform in both scenarios.
- Think of a previous experience that fits: think through the numerous task or projects you have executed, and identify those where both your leadership and followership traits came into play. Perhaps you might not have any formal leadership experience as a team leader, but you may have influenced your colleagues in different ways. It is also vital that your response captures your ability to follow instructions and listen to your superiors. Let it also emphasize how supportive you have been to your supervisor to achieve organizational goals. Do not bring up examples that may not align with the question
- Choose a balanced example: identify an example that doesn’t overly emphasize leadership against followership or vice versa. Let your example of scenario feature you both as a leader and a follower. Think about the decisions you made and how the situation affected your disposition to lead or follow. Include how your flexibility impacted the success of the task or project. While choosing an example, be conscious of the culture of the interviewing firm.
- Describe how you view yourself: you can start or conclude your answer with how you see yourself. If you consider yourself more as a leader or follower say so and tell them why. It is more appropriate to sight a situation where your personality came into play. If you are vying for a leadership position you can emphasize leadership traits while also expressing your desire to gain more leadership experience. For a low-level role, you should focus on your ability to work under minimum supervision and your openness to corrections while expressing your desire to lead soon. Let all your positions be backed up in your chosen example(s).
Examples of answers
Here are some samples of answers that can help you develop a suitable answer to the interview question on your leadership or followership skills:
“I see myself both as a leader and a follower. I approach each situation base on its peculiarity and respond to what it needs from me. I enjoy leading team projects when it aligns with my strength, but I am equally happy to be led on projects that better fit other colleagues’ leadership.
For instance, in my previous role in the works department of a Real Estate firm, I was one of two sub-heads in the department; While I was responsible for capital projects another colleague was in charge of technical services. The management approved the renovation of our office complex which fell under the preview of Deputy-Director Technical Services, but my director integrated me into it because of the role I played during the building’s construction.
I led the feasibility and procurement phase of the project while my colleague led the reconstruction phase of the work, we all gave the director weekly updates on work progress. I also provided the guy heading technical services with contemporary civil engineering tips which were incorporated. We were able to deliver a renewed office building that wowed all employees in a month; Two weeks ahead of schedule. The entire department got a Board of Directors’ commendation for the project”
“Up till this point of my young career life, I have always been a follower. I have tried to learn from those ahead of me and observed them as they lead the team. I am ready to lead if given the chance because I feel that I have already gained enough knowledge and experience to formulate my own opinions and attitudes. I also feel I am well prepared to properly guide and mentor those that will follow my leadership”
What not to do when answering the question
- Do not overly be on-sided; A good employee is always open to new directives and learning.
- Try not to dodge the question or give an answer that avoids the topic.
- Ignore using examples that include failed tasks.
- Do not lie: let your examples be actual occurrences with logical conclusions
In answering the question “Are you a leader or a follower” always take into account the role you are interviewing for and show the employer that you are a good fit for their exact need. Regardless of your approach, make sure you sound confident and sure of what you are saying. Employers want candidates who are aspiring to reach the top but are also careful not to end up hiring an over-ambitious or high-headed candidate