Are You a Leader or a Follower?

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Depending on the type of work dynamic at play within an organization- one of the most typical interview questions to come across is- “Are you a leader or a follower?” You might be asked something similar such as “Do you have any leadership experience?” or “Do you take instructions well?” The reason why many hiring managers ask these types of questions is to get a sense of 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 dry 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.

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How to Answer the ‘Are You a Leader or a Follower?’ Interview Question

Talk About Your Experience With Both: Most jobs require you to sometimes be a leader and sometimes be a follower. You should prepare a response to both scenarios in order to show that you can handle both positions equally well. Discuss a time when you led a group or took on extra responsibilities. Also talk about a time when you followed orders successfully and managed to bring excellent work to a company without necessarily having a leadership role. Employers do not necessarily want someone who always needs to be a leader- but at the same time they may not want someone who is just going to stand by waiting for instructions.

Focus on What the Job Needs: While you should mention that you can be either one- you should also take into consideration whichever role will be asked more of you in this particular job. For example if you are asked- “Are you a leader or a follower?” for an entry-level job- then it might be best to focus more on how well you work with a manager. However if you are going for a managerial position- then your focus should be on more of your leadership skills. Both qualities are needed- but it is crucial to be aware of context.

Show That You Are Willing to Adapt: A hiring manager may be skeptical of hiring you if they are occasionally going to need you to be a follower but you talk at great length about what a great leader you are. This may imply that you are only willing to lead a team and will be unable to take on a more subordinate role should the need arise. Answering this question effectively truly requires a balancing act of showing that you can do both. Many people fail with these kinds of interview questions because they merely state whether they are one thing or the other. Versatility is vital.

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Sample ‘Are You a Leader or a Follower’ Interview Answers

1. I have quite a bit of retail experience- and over the course of two years working at [company] I took on both leadership and subordinate roles. When I was first hired I was a sales associate- so that entailed taking a lot of instructions and doing whatever was asked of me by the manager. However- after three months of working there I was promoted to shift lead and shortly after that I became a manager myself. In addition to taking on more responsibilities- I also had to delegate tasks to everyone who was working. Even when I became a manager I still had the store owner to be accountable to- so I still needed to follow instructions and be a solid worker. At the end of the day I am perfectly comfortable in either role- and I am willing to adjust based on what is needed of me.

2. I am willing to adapt my working style depending on whatever is expected of me. I understand that this is an entry-level position- so being a follower is most likely going to come up more often. However- if the need arises where you need someone to step up and take on a project- I am more than willing to fill the leadership role as well. At my last job I oversaw the implementation of expanding the company’s social media presence. We saw great results- and my boss was very pleased with the work done. I feel like I can do both roles equally well.

This is an interview question that is very easy to slip up on if you are not ready for it. Take these pieces of advice to heart- and you will be thoroughly ready the next time you are asked- “Are you a leader or a follower?”

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