A common question for interviewers to ask is "Are you a leader or a follower?" When an interviewer asks if you are a leader or a follower, it might be tempting just to respond that you are a leader, since taking on responsibilities sounds like what a potential employer would want.
However, a hiring manager is looking for something more complex. He or she is trying to see if you are versatile and are willing to assume different roles based on what the company needs.
As you are answering this interview question, it is important to talk about past experiences that show you display characteristics of both a leader and a follower. Remember, both options have negative connotations:
Therefore, every organization values some leadership qualities but wants someone who will follow directives as well. Try to maintain a balance between the two.
In this article, we discuss how to answer this question and provide sample answers and tips for how to answer.
The question of whether you’re more of a leader or follower is tricky and it’s not always clear why the interviewer is asking.
In general, though, they’re asking this interview question with their particular job requirements in mind! They want to figure out if you’ll fit into the role.
Will you be able to do what’s expected of you? Will you enjoy the role and be likely to stay?
So the bottom line is: They’re asking because they want to know if you’ll fit with the role and with the team.
That means you need to do one important thing: Never go into an interview without reviewing the job description and knowing what the company wants! (The job description is the single best place to see what the employer is looking for in someone they hire).
If you’re unsure of what the interviewer wants for their job, you can say you’re good at both leading and following. However, if you’re confident that the job requires one particular skill set over the other (for example, if you’re interviewing for a Senior Director position where you’ll be overseeing a team of 20), you can be more precise in your answer.
While answering this interview question, tell a story that illustrates how you can be both a leader and a follower. Use the STAR method to frame your answer, focusing on Situation, Task, Action, and Results. This method makes it easy for you to tell your story with clear details about a problem and how you helped solve it. A STAR response includes the:
Here are the do's and don'ts to consider when answering the interview question "Are you a leader or a follower?" Keep all of the below in mind when formulating a response to this question. Remember to answer the question with confidence and to maintain eye contact with your interviewer when providing your response.
"I like to think of myself as both a good leader and follower. I approach each situation differently, and I respond to what it needs from me. I enjoy leading projects that relate to my strengths, but I'm also happy to follow the lead of others who may be a better fit.
For example, the current HR department at my company includes an HR manager and two generalists, including myself. Our company president assigned the department two big projects. We needed to rewrite the employee handbook and develop a new benefits package for our employees at the same time.
I have more experience with benefits, so I volunteered to lead this project. My manager provided me with some previous research as a starting point, I provided her with weekly updates about my progress. I also provided the other generalist with feedback about her drafts of the handbook. Since we both worked on projects more related to our specialties, we were able to complete both projects in full two weeks before our deadline."
"I would say that I am both. I definitely try to lead by an example, and I am not afraid to share my opinion, even with my superiors, or with people who have 20 years of experience in the field. On the other hand, I try to stay humble, and I believe that learning never ends. That’s why I do not consider myself superior to my subordinates or basically to anyone in the workplace. Neither superior, nor inferior. I am receptive to feedback and try to learn from people around me. That’s why I would say that I am both a leader and a follower."
"I play both roles well. I love to lead projects and teams. In my last position, I spearheaded two large projects taking 12 months in total and bringing our company $104,000 in revenue. I had 15 people reporting to me for those projects. However, I’m also able to follow someone’ else’s lead when necessary. I’ve assisted on projects where I wasn’t the leader, and I knew that trying to be a second leader would only disrupt the team and work. I think that by recognizing what’s needed based on the situation and my role, I’m able to decide how to best use my leadership abilities. Overall, I’m very comfortable leading, though, and it’s something I’m eager to do more of in my career. I saw on the job description that this position would be leading a team of six and possibly hiring a couple of more people as the group expands, and that’s something that excited me a lot about the job!"
"I am a leader and follower. Depending on the task, situation, and people. I can take charge when needed and know how to listen and follow directions. I think the most important thing is to adapt and be flexible.
I depend on what is required of me at any given moment. Being a leader or follower isn’t about one quality or another. It’s about being able to read a situation and respond accordingly."
Always remember, a great way to prepare for interview questions is to have a friend or family member pretend to be the interviewer who asks you questions while you practise your answers.
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