Leadership is a highly sought quality in the employment market. Most young people cannot think creatively anymore. Relying on Google, or on their smartphone, to provide an instant answer to each and every question, they have a tendency to bring the same attitude to the workplace–always waiting for someone else to tell them what to do, not taking any initiative, unable to decide on their own.

And what about you? Are you are leader, or do you prefer to follow the crowds, not really thinking about the consequences of your actions, not really questioning the directions they are giving to you?

Companies want to hire leaders. Because only leaders can move the team, department, or even the entire company forward, taking them to the next level. If you aren’t a leader, and can humbly admit it, you should at least try to convince them that you want to become one in the future.

But just like with most interview questions, it’s not as a simple as saying that you are a leader, or a follower who aspires to lead the others in the future. You should always elaborate on your answer. You can either share with the hiring managers some situation that illustrates your leadership, or you can provide more details, to make your answer stand out.

Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to this tricky question. Do not forget to check also my notes below the answers, as they will help you to pick the most suitable one for your situation and interview.

 

7 sample answers to “Are you a leader or a follower?” interview question

  1. I would definitely characterize myself as a leader. I like to take initiative, attempt new things, and suggest innovations. And I also love to lead by an example. Some situations from my last job illustrate this perfectly. For example, I was the first person who started to come to work at 7am. I wanted to have more time to work on the projects, and also an ability to sometimes leave the office earlier in the afternoon. Most people thought I was crazy. But when they saw my productivity–which was excellent, and also sometimes watched me leaving the office at 3:30pm, some of them followed my example and also started to come to to work at 7 am.
  2. To be honest, I have been mostly a follower, up to this point of my life. I’ve tried to learn from more experienced people, I observed the way in which they worked and led the teams. However, I would like to become a leader, an ideally from now on, because I feel that I already gathered enough information and experienced enough things to formulate my own opinions and attitudes, and to be able to give something to people who follow my leadership.
  3. I cannot exactly say why, but people have always followed my example. Maybe because I am so tall and a big guy overall, or because I somehow try to excel in everything I do. That’s my attitude to life–you either give your 100% to the activity, or you do not do it at all. Maybe this attitude inspires people around me, and that’s why they have a tendency to follow, and to ask me for an advice when they experience some problems. At least that’s my impression, but in order to understand what really attracts people to my leadership, you’d have to ask them.
  4. 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.
  5. I remember a good example from my last job in a call center, that demonstrates my leadership abilities. At the end of 2019 we weren’t doing great. Sales were down, some employees left the company suddenly, and the mood in the workplace deteriorated.
    But I decided to do something with the situation from the position of a call center manager. I talked to each employee personally, trying to encourage them to get over the difficult period—which simply belongs to every business, and every life story. I also devised some new sales strategies for making cold calls, and I started calling prospects myself, so the employees saw that I wasn’t hiding in my office, and wasn’t afraid to put my new strategies to test. Eventually we got over the difficult period, and the call center is still going strong—though I do not work there anymore. If nothing else, this situation illustrates, at least for me, that I am a leader, and remain one in difficult times.
  6. I’d love to be a leader, but so far I didn’t have many opportunities to lead people in my life. I mean, I’ve just graduated from the college, never had a job before, never played on a sports team. I have my own head, and can decide on my own, without waiting for someone to always tell me what to do. And I am not afraid to accept responsibility for my actions and results. But as long as we talk about a position in a team, whether one is a leader or a follower, I haven’t really had a chance yet to demonstrate my leadership in such circumstances.
  7. I try to be the leader–the leader of values. In all roles I have in life–role of a father, husband, corporate employee, I try to promote integrity, commitment, and respect. Because I have the feeling that these qualities are missing, that many workplaces are full of pointless gossips and conflicts, that often colleagues compete together, instead of cooperating. And the same is true in families, classrooms, etc. Maybe I sound a bit negative, but you can be sure that my observations just drive me forward to try my best, to lead by an example, and to promote the right values in our society…

 

Humility can take you a long way in the job interviews

Everyone can boast about their leadership skills, especially in a job interview, when they talk to people they have never seen before. The real strength, however, is in an ability to admit your weaknesses.

People who stay humble, who do not consider their subordinates inferior, or outright stupid, managers who are receptive to feedback from their subordinates (or followers), and who never cease to innovate themselves, are the true leaders of companies and teams.

Do not be afraid to admit that you have never had a chance to lead someone (sample answer no. 6), or that you need to keep learning and following the more experienced people, to be able to become a great leader yourself (answer no. 4), or that you aren’t a leader, but want to become one (sample answer no. 2).

Leading by example is much better than leading by an iron fist

If you’ve been through several jobs in your life, you have for sure experienced different types of leadership. And perhaps you also had a despotic leader, a manager who considered themselves the smartest person in the world, and did not care about the feedback of their employees.

They led by directions, and sat in their comfy office while you and the other subordinates sweated in the workplace. But this is not a real leadership. Sooner or later, it will result in poor performance, and high employee turnover.

Therefor, if you decide to talk about a situation which demonstrates your leadership, you should narrate a situation when you led by an example. A situation when you firstly did something yourself, and just then expected the same thing from your employees–be it hard work, loyalty, friendly attitude to their colleagues, etc. See sample answers no. 1 and no 5. as an illustration of this attitude.

 

Philosophical answer can help you stand out

At the end of the day, job interview is a sales talk. Hiring managers are prospects listening to one sales pitch after another, from different candidates who try to get the job with the company.

And they can easily get bored, especially when they hear the same answer from each and every applicant. Try to stand out with your answer. Share a bit of personal philosophy with them. Sample answer no. 7 is a great illustration of this interviewing strategy.

Instead of talking about leadership of people, or leadership in teams, job candidate talks about leadership of values, and how they try to promote it across different roles they have in life. Such an unorthodox answer will resonate in the minds of the interviewers, once they are done with the last job candidate. And that should be your goal: they should remember you (in good means, of course), and not someone else, once the interviews are done and over, and they are deciding about the winner….

Ready to answer this one? Check also 7 sample answers to other tricky interview questions:

Matthew Chulaw
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