Interview Question: Are You a Good Leader or a Follower? Or Both?

It has often been said that for someone to become an effective leader, they must first have been a good follower. You first must learn to follow orders from those in authority. By going through this experience, you can acquire some wisdom and perspective, which will serve you in becoming a better leader, once you achieve that position.

You may find yourself in an interview situation where your potential employer is trying to determine whether you are more of a follower or someone who leads. Which one do you think you are? If you feel you have the qualities of both, how do you think you rate as a follower and/or as a leader?

This type of question may seem odd, but there is a good reason for asking about this. A good answer would be not labeling yourself as only one or the other. Most employers are looking for candidates that can assume both roles, regardless of the particulars of the job they’re applying for, whether an entry-level admin job or a position in management.

You may be asked to rate yourself as both a follower and as a leader. The interviewer wants to know how well you think you can handle either role. They want a good indication that you would be effective in assuming either or both roles.

My advice for answering this question is:

Show confidence in being both.

Explain that you consider yourself both a follower and a leader. Convey that you can follow, obeying rules and taking direction, as well as lead and guide others on the team to reach a specific goal.

Be authentic.

By all means do not take a lofty position. Be real and do not brag or otherwise try to impress. Answer using simple language; yet try to make an impact. Highlight your strengths and abilities in a manner that seems realistic.

Lean towards the type of position you’re applying for.

If you’re a candidate for an entry-level admin position, gear your answers toward being a follower. If you are applying for a position in management, you will need to convey that you can lead.

Be flexible and adaptable.

You must be willing to adapt and be flexible. Be ready to take a management position should it be offered, along with the responsibilities of supervising others and being their leader. When asked to follow instructions, do what you’re told, learn new skills and complete any tasks assigned to you. 

Provide examples.

In the end, the best way you can rate yourself is to mention concrete examples of when you were a follower and when you became a leader. If you are interviewing for your very first job, discuss examples from college. Otherwise, mention examples from past jobs.

The best types of employees are the ones who can step into any role, whether follower or leader. This is what the interviewer is trying to find. Convey that you are willing to assume any role they give you. Be honest when rating yourself by being authentic and keeping it simple. The best answers you can provide will have specific supporting information and examples.