Do you instinctively know how to get a task completed or do you have to wait for directions? Do you follow rules and finish the role assigned to you or do you like to take charge and show others how to do well as well? Do you like to perform a specific task towards accomplishing a larger goal or do you like to be in control of a situation? Do you prefer being told what to do or do you like to be responsible for a number of things? Are you a leader or a follower?
In any given situation, it is essential to have both leaders and followers to meet the task at hand. Without leaders, a team cannot function and have direction and vision. Without followers, there will be nobody to execute the decisions or actually get the task done. Leaders and followers are like night and day: they have different roles and different characteristics but neither can exist without the other. For any organization or industry to prosper, there has to be a leader at the helm, guiding the team and there have to be followers who form the backbone of the ship.
So which are you, a leader or a follower? Are you satisfied with your current role or do you wish to change? Do you want to leave behind the burden of leadership and become a follower? Do you want to set yourself apart from the crowd and wear the leader badge? Let’s take a look at some essential differences that distinguish leaders from followers.
Scope Of Responsibility
To begin with, a follower is only responsible for getting his own task done. A follower has a limited, structured goal to achieve and his only responsibility is to make sure that the same is accomplished. A follower is one unit in the entire organization, accountable for a particular goal. A leader, however, is responsible for the organization at large, and not just one specific task. A leader is usually involved with managing other people, each of whom has to meet a goal. A leader is responsible for all the other team members, their individual goals as well as the larger goals. A leader has to maximize others’ potential and strength to enhance the organization.
Do You Need Others’ Approval?
Leaders do not need anybody’s stamp of approval, followers cannot do without the same. A leader is characteristically comfortable in his own skin, and proud of himself. A leader is markedly confident, self-assured and has strong faith in himself. A follower needs somebody to tell them what to do, how to do it and whether or not they are doing it right. A leader might not always know what the best course of action is, but he is confident about taking chances and seeing it through.
Being Inspired v/s Inspiring Others
A leader must be able to inspire the respect and confidence of other people. A leader has to be able to motivate other people to take action and do things a specific way to get goals accomplished. While a follower is only concerned with getting a task completed, a leader is responsible for making sure that it is done, and done the right way. For this, a leader has to have a motivating and inspirational personality. A good leader is one who is able to make people do things he or she wants done, without having to force them.
Being The First v/s Being The Rest
A leader makes the first move, a follower…follows. A leader decides what has to be done, no matter how new or unpredictable or difficult a situation might be. It is often said that the leader is the one who makes sure that the show goes on, giving cues to the others, setting the stage and directing each scene. The followers turn to the leader for direction, for advice on which role to play when and how to function in a situation. A leader is marked by the decision, as well as the willingness, to jump headfirst into every situation and take charge.
Waiting For Change v/s Changing Things
In the leadership v/s followers paradigm, one of the most interesting, and oft-quoted phrases is that, ‘”while followers ask ‘why don’t they do something about it?”, leaders say “here’s something I can do”’. This little nugget sums up the difference between leaders and followers beautifully. Leaders are always excited about taking control of a situation and they are typically the ones who have new ideas, offer solutions and come up with effective courses of action each time. Followers on the other hand use the leader’s solutions to affect the change, wait for directives and participate in the unfolding events.
Make Plans v/s Make Things Happen
Possibly the biggest difference between leaders and followers can be understood in terms of action v/s planning. Followers are people who usually wait around for things to happen, wait for someone to suggest a change or force a change, plan to do something but don’t really accomplish it without a catalyst forcing them and so on. Leaders, however, don’t just plan and wish for things to happen but actually put their ideas in motion and act on them. Leaders are characterized by their resolve to act on their ideas.
Choose To Lead, Or Follow
Whether you’re happier being a leader or a follower, remember, it has to be out of your own choice. If someone thrusts the responsibility of leadership on you, you’re probably going to buckle under the pressure. Similarly, if you are limited to taking orders and following rigid structures when what you really want to do is share ideas and offer unique solutions and your own vision and insight, you are probably not going to be content being just another team leader for long. It is important to gauge your own personality and assess your performance style before you commit to being a leader, or a follower.
Patrick Alain is the founder of the business communication warehouse LeaderPhrase.com, which is one of the top business, communication, and Leadership strategy source worldwide. Patrick Alain is internationally known for his contribution on some of the best-selling video games around the world.