Are you a leader or a follower isn’t an easy question to answer. Yes, everyone is going to have one that they associate with themselves more, but in different environments, with different people, and at different stages of life, the answer is likely to change. A leader is not better than a follower, and a follower is not better than a leader. You can’t have one without the other, and both bring challenges and rewards.
In order to succeed, we must be both good leaders and good followers. Being able to approach a situation from a different perspective is a clear sign of a great leader, as you are thinking outside of the box and bringing new ideas to the table. On the other hand, responding to what people need from you is a sign of a great follower, as you are showing you can listen well and respect those who may know better. Identifying if you are a leader or a follower in certain situations is all about being self-aware and knowing your strengths and weaknesses.
The dictionary defines leader as ‘a person who leads or commands a group, organisation, or a country.’ It defines follower as ‘a person who supports and admires a particular person or set of ideas.’ By looking at these definitions, it’s clear that you can’t be a leader without first being a follower. We can take this back to birth and say that everyone is a follower to some extent, because they learn from the behaviours of their parents and other influential people in their lives. However, coming back to present day, being a leader is all about inspiring others and taking the lead with innovative ideas. It’s difficult to come up with brand new ideas without being inspired yourself by someone else in the past. Therefore, past follower may equal future leader.
Aristotle once said, ‘He who cannot be a good follower, cannot be a good leader’. When you start a new career, you normally have to start at the bottom and work yourself up the ladder. Therefore, you have to learn from the people who know better than you in order to one day be at their level. This doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and some people find it difficult to take orders (which is not a bad thing), but even those people will have learned their life lessons from someone and used them to improve their own lives.
Finally, are leaders and followers determined by genetics, or are they learned behaviours? It is normally said that first born children are leaders, which makes sense if it is learned behaviour. Recent studies suggest that leadership skills are 30% genetic and 70% learned. This shows that leaders and followers are made, not born. First born children with siblings learn to lead their younger family members from a young age, using skills they are likely to keep for a long time. Being a first born only child makes you more likely to be a leader, as you become independent from a young age, learning to entertain yourself and be on your own.
By Pia Louisa