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Top 5 differences between being a leader and being a follower

Are you a leader or a follower?

In any workplace, the relationships between team members are the key to business success. Most organise themselves with a management structure involving leadership by those higher up the career ladder. If you are aspiring to career progression, developing your leadership qualities may be a fundamental skill that distinguishes you for promotion. While many are content to remain part of the team, those who are natural leaders will be keen to shoulder more responsibility, take control of the project, and come up with creative solutions for success. If you are hoping to take your career to the next level, it is worth considering the characteristics that define a leader from a follower, and whether you can cultivate them in yourself. At CareerWise, we are experts in all things career-related. Here is our guide to the differences between leaders and followers.

Top 5 differences between being a leader and being a follower


  • Leaders are willing to step up and take control of a project or task. They enjoy a challenge and embrace change as they know it will benefit them in the long term.
  • Followers have to be forced to drive a project by their boss. They rarely, if ever, volunteer to take on a project. This is the case even if the positive aspects outway the negative. They are happy to go through life maintaining the “status quo”.


  • Leaders show ingenuity, once they have a general grasp for a project they can strategically plan the best way to achieve the final objective.
  • Followers want direction, they need step by step instruction. They require constant assurance and approval, often as a means to covering themselves should something go wrong.

No. 3

  • Leaders are pro-active, and are not content with simply waiting for the next step.  They despise inaction and are driven crazy by lack of progress. They accept responsibility, and are motivated by conquering obstacles in their way.
  • Followers are re-active, content with inactivity, as long as nobody is on their backs about it. Obstacles throw them off course and they look to leaders to re-build their confidence and set them back on the right track.


  • Leaders drive projects and people to the finish line. They are like freight trains, unstoppable forces that will plough through any obstacle that gets in their way. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they plough through people that get in their way. A good leader, will push teamwork rather than individual achievements. They compliment members of the group under their care in order to motivate team members and get them to buy into their plan.
  • Followers are dragged across the finish line, some kicking and screaming. Some, however, may have found an inner strength that may include them participating in the leadership role next time round. Or they may have at least learned enough to keep them from being part of the carnage left behind in the future.


  • Leaders are not paralyzed by fear, they thrive on it. They tackle it head on and show it who’s boss.
  • Followers stop when things get even a little rough. They again look for re-assurance and can let fear affect their decision making process. Often the fear is without any real justification, but maybe for some an excuse to walk away from a challenge.


So what makes a great leader?

A great leader is organised, disciplined, focused and determined. However, I believe the best leaders are those who have a combination of these skills plus certain characteristics: they must also be calm, humble, respectful and compassionate. They can see the big picture rather than seeing things on a small scale. They take the time to listen to their team’s concerns. By taking on board the struggles of their team as well as their own, they both motivate and command loyalty from their teams.

Good leaders don’t bully others and are willing to combine all of the ideas of those in their care, to achieve the overall objective.

Leaders work hard to ensure that those around them are satisfied and cared for. They are unselfish and are willing to put others interests ahead of their own. A leader is a person who is constantly evolving and embraces meaningful input from others. They push teamwork rather than individual achievements in order to achieve the overall target.


How to transition from being a follower to being a leader

Next time you are presented with a challenge at work, take a moment to consider. Why are you shying away from it? If you are keen to progress, you need to demonstrate that you are committed, creative, and up for a challenge. To become a leader, you need to take a dedicated approach to your work, taking control of your projects and being the person who drives them over the finish line. If you don’t feel that you are being presented with enough to challenge you, don’t be afraid to request further tasks. Make it clear that you are a leader, and before you know it, you will find yourself promoted to a leadership position.

Are you looking to hire senior leaders  in Ireland? Contact CareerWise today for our Executive Search services. Our friendly team of recruitment experts pride themselves on connecting the best talent with the best opportunities, every time.




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