Interview Q&A: Are You A Leader Or A Follower?

Debra Wheatman
by Debra Wheatman   Career Advice Expert 
Published On : May 30, 2017

When an interviewer asks are you 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, every organization values some leadership qualities but wants someone who will follow directives as well. Try to maintain a balance between the two.

You are both a leader and a follower—the individual situation dictates which is more predominant in a given situation.

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.

Do

  • Talk about times where you took charge and assumed responsibilities.
  • Discuss times when you followed instructions successfully.
  • Demonstrate that you understand the appropriate contexts in which one would be a leader vs. a follower.
  • Emphasize skills that would benefit both a leader and a follower.
  • Mention past experiences where you were both a leader and a follower.
  • Focus on how being both a leader and a follower has a positive impact on the business.
  • Answer this question in a way that lets the interviewer know that you possess the capabilities to assume both roles, and that you can change based on the needs of the position.

Don’t

  • Say you are solely a leader and only talk about your leadership traits.
  • Say you are solely a follower and only talk about times where you took orders and performed tasks.
  • Come across as indecisive–you must provide answer that proves you possess the fluidity to be both a leader and a follower.

Additional Insight

Human beings are storytellers, so 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.

When you talk about results, avoid the temptation to merely focus on personal growth and understanding. Be sure to discuss the business impact of the result. This is what the hiring manager is looking for.

A hiring manager is trying to get a sense of how you would benefit the company as a whole, and you are showcasing your ability to serve a number of roles within the organization.

An organization needs both leaders and followers, and one is not more important than the other. In fact, being a good follower makes you a stronger leader.

Sample Answer

A good way to answer the question “Are you a leader or a follower?” is with a response like this:

In past jobs, I have been able to adapt to whatever was expected of me. When a group needed a leader, I was more than capable of handling that role, but at the same time, I recognize when it is better to take a step back and take direction from someone who is more knowledgeable than I am.

PS: If your foot isn’t in the interview door just quite yet, and you’re still in the process of applying for jobs, let our resume builder and resume examples help!

About the Author

Career Advice Expert

Debra Wheatman Career Advice Expert

"Debra Wheatman is a certified professional resume writer and career coach, and the president of Careers Done Write, a leader in professional resume and career services. Debra is a globally recognized expert in the field of career planning and management, with more than 18 years of experience in corporate human resources. She has formed partnerships with more than 10,000 job seekers, advising people from diverse backgrounds in connection with career advancement, and can package executive level skills and accomplishments in a compelling and creative way to generate interest on behalf of decision makers at leading corporations. Debra has been featured on Fox Business News and CNN, and has been quoted in such publications as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Forbes.com. "

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