There are many kinds of questions that one has to prepare for during an interview. The interview questions are designed to test an applicant’s aptitude in the field, but they are also required to answer specific behavioral questions.
One of the most common questions is: Are you a leader or a follower? The inquiry aims to test the candidate’s leadership qualities and help the employer determine whether the candidate has what it takes to make it big.
Answering this question can be tricky for anyone. After all, no one knows whether or not they are a leader unless they have taken on some leadership role. However, every candidate has to follow a superior in the initial stages of their career.
This is what candidates are used to unless they have received a promotion and have had to manage a team of one’s own.
The idea here is not to take the question at face value itself. It is not about the physical act of leading only. Instead, one must have the mindset to become a leader and take on challenging roles.
This will help them tackle difficult situations and can also help them solve many managerial issues later.
Why Do Employers Ask Whether Candidate is a Leader or a Follower At the Interview?
The main reason employers ask whether the candidate is a leader, or a follower is to understand whether the candidate has a more active or passive mindset. There is nothing wrong with being a follower.
It takes a lot of insight to follow instructions and complete whichever task they have been assigned.
It is, in fact, quite essential to be a good follower in the initial days of one’s career. At this learning stage, it is necessary to learn the various aspects of work from one’s supervisor or mentor, and not doing so can cause many workplace issues, often leading to errors in work.
However, once a candidate has applied for a mid-level or higher-level position, it is essential to gain some leadership skills.
At this point, the candidate will be expected to train their juniors and make critical team decisions. For someone applying for the role of a project manager or similar other roles, it can be pretty tricky to manage if they do not have the mindset of a leader. It is one thing to know one’s job and excel at the technical aspects.
However, being a leader requires more and has much to do with one’s personality and leadership abilities. Hence, employers try to understand whether or not the candidate will be able to lead by asking this question.
What Does it Take to be a Good Leader?
Being a leader is difficult. One needs to teach certain qualities if one does not possess them already. Here are the specific characteristics of a good leader. One can determine if one has leadership qualities by judging if one possesses these qualities.
1. Possessing Integrity
It is crucial to possess integrity as a leader. Integrity is a significant leadership trait because it shows that the employee is loyal to the ethics and core values of the company and will be prepared to go out of the way to uphold them. This can help them make hard decisions by keeping personal emotions aside.
Honesty and integrity are crucial to protect the company’s interests and not give in to temptations. A leader needs to teach this value to the juniors as well.
2. Delegating Tasks
A good leader does not monopolize. Instead, they try to delegate tasks to suitable candidates. This requires an innate understanding of each team member’s potential. A leader should know who can do a particular task best and then delegate the tasks accordingly. This ensures that the team runs smoothly and everyone gets to perform to the best of their abilities.
3. Communication Skills
A leader must be able to communicate appropriately. And that does not simply involve speaking but also listening. The best leaders can communicate their points crisply and transparently and invite healthy conversations. This can help the organization run smoothly, and it largely eliminates errors arising from communication gaps.
This is a valuable quality when coaching juniors and putting their doubts to rest. Whether making a presentation, dealing with a client, or mentoring a new candidate, a good leader must have excellent communication skills to communicate their ideas.
4. Having Self-Awareness
A self-aware leader has much to contribute to the success of the business. Self-awareness can help one understand one’s strong points or negative traits and work on them accordingly.
It can help them remain humble and professional, which is the key to managing everything efficiently when communicating across various departments and with different people throughout the day. The more self-aware one is, the greater the chances of doing well in a leadership role as the person become free of illusions about oneself.
5. Being Grateful
It is essential to be grateful as a leader. It is important to show gratitude and appreciation to the team members for their hard work. Being appreciated by a leader can boost the morale of many employees and help them perform better.
Being a good leader means spotting what one is good at, helping bring out the best in others, and being humble and professional.
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6. Being a Good Learner
Being a good learner is essential to being a good leader. One cannot be a good leader if one constantly thinks one knows everything. Being a leader means being able to evolve with time.
The more one learns, the better they are able to teach others and lead from the front, then inculcate the same values in the juniors. This will also pave the way for the juniors to perform better. This can be fostered by having a zeal to learn and constant practice.
7. Influencing Others and Empathy
A good leader should be able to influence others positively. They must teach them how to work, cooperate logically in an environment, and empathize with others. Leaders should be firm and yet able to put themselves in the shoes of others to look at matters from another perspective.
This increases understanding within a team and positively influences the juniors who learn to do the same. Being able to empathize is a mark of one’s emotional intelligence, and it can help build a more inclusive workplace. Everyone loves to work under a boss who shows empathy.
8. Show Courage
There can be lots of difficult situations that might arise while conducting business, and a good leader should be able to make tough choices and make solid and unbiased decisions. It takes a lot of courage to do that, mainly when it depends on this decision.
A leader can take on any challenge and face it with courage instead of running away from them or holding someone else accountable. This prevents unnecessary conflicts in the workplace and builds an atmosphere of trust and safety as everyone knows they are under a capable leader.
9. Garnering Respect
A good and efficient leader can garner respect from their employees. Everyone looks up to them, and a culture of care permeates throughout the organization. It is not just about the leader, but an air of mutual love and harmony permeates the organization, keeping unhealthy competition and conflicts at bay. Respecting others also invites respect, and a good leader sets an example. It is all about treating people right.
Sample Answers to Are You Leader or a Follower Interview Question
Here are some sample answers to the question. You can customize the responses depending on the role you have applied for and the seniority of the position.
“I definitely think of myself as a leader. I like to take the initiative and try to attempt new things. I have a zeal for experimentation, and I am okay if the outcome is not always as desired. I hold myself accountable, learn from the process and then try all over again. I am very particular about my productivity and ensure that I take good care of my physical and mental health. I believe in leading by example, and I hope these good practices will influence juniors as well.”
“I think I have mostly been a follower throughout much of my career. However, now that I am about to start the next phase of my career, I would definitely like to take on a leadership role. I am working on building my leadership skills. I pay close attention to my mentors and superiors, and I am working on my confidence, communication skills, and aptitude so that I can lead from the front someday.”
“I am a good leader, as I have always liked to lead from the front. I have been a class representative in school and captain of my team in the debate organization I was a part of. Leadership comes naturally to me. However, I can also be a follower when needed. I am keen on learning, and whenever I get an opportunity to learn from someone, I delve into the process headlong, keeping my leadership abilities aside. At that point, I believe a mentor is everything, and I take the opportunity to learn from them. Later, I will try to apply the knowledge when the time comes for me to lead again.”
Whether you are a leader or a follower, interview question requires a great deal of self-awareness. It is one thing to prepare an appropriate answer for it, but quite a different something to act on it.
Hence, whatever you reply, ensure that it will match your actions once employed. Or else, your employer will assume that you have simply prepared an efficient but are far from being a good leader.
This can put your abilities in question. So take some time to evaluate yourself and come up with an answer that best reflects your personality. Being honest and truthful goes a long way and will only highlight your ability as a good leader.