Are you a LEADER or a FOLLOWER?

in Leadership Rules. 13 Comments

Leaders are initiators. Followers are responders.

Leaders are willing to step up and take on the task of driving a project.

Followers have to be forced to drive a project by their boss. They wait on someone to give them direction.

Leaders are intuitive, and once they have a general direction for a project, don’t have to be told what to do every step of the way.

Followers want direction on a constant basis, so they make sure approval has been given and therefore cover their tracks if something goes wrong.

Leaders push for action, and are not content with simply sitting still.

Followers are content with the project sitting idle, as long as it’s not their responsibility or not their fault.

Leaders drive to the finish line.

Followers are pulled across the finish line.

Leaders don’t let fear or a strong sense of anxiety paralyze them. They attack fear. Head on. And are willing to lean heavily into the rough waters and push through.

Followers stop when things get rough. Rough waters tend to bring about dissension and cynicism among followers.

Leaders are innovators. They try new things. They are willing to fail, but fail trying.

Followers simply want to maintain the status quo. And very rarely are they willing to risk or try anything new.

Leaders embrace change. They invite change in their own lives and in the context of their leadership because they know change many times is the way we grow and improve.

Followers despise change, and do everything possible to resist it.

Leaders accept responsibility, and are motivated by more things on their plate and under their leadership, vs. less.

Followers avoid responsibility, and would much rather that someone else is “responsible” instead of them.

Leaders despise inaction. It drives leaders crazy to not make progress.

Followers move toward the areas of least resistance, and are comfortable with little or no progress.

Make sure you have a team of leaders who initiate at their core. It’s much easier to slow down a racehorse by having to pull back on the reins vs. having to spur and kick and get out the whip in order to move forward.

Are you a leader or a follower? An initiator or responder? 


  1. Margaret says:

    True! we should never underestimate the power of initiation. I might also add to your list: Leaders do what needs to be done even if they don’t feel like it. Good list!

  2. Scott says:

    You have great descriptions of leaders. I especially like the initiation part, too!

    But, frankly, I don’t want any followers like you describe here. Followers should be willing, not need to be pulled. They should embrace change, though they may not initiate it. But they certainly shouldn’t despise it. Otherwise they are not following.

    • Mike Smith says:

      I’m with you Scott. The truth is, by necessity, there will always be more followers than leaders, and in most cases we ourselves will follow more than we lead. Following is not subordinate to leading – just different. Matter of fact, no competent leader has not firstbeen a responsible follower. I would go so far as to say that in the training leaders, we should first teach following. Good followers are, reciprocally, leaders because the initial leader soon fades out of sight, and followers follow followers. Your comments were needed Scott, and I FOLLOW you!

  3. Matt says:

    I understand the distinction that you are making, but I feel like the two terms shouldn’t be forced to compete with one another.

    Fundamentally, every leader is following someone or something else – no matter how much he or she takes initiative, innovates, or pushes for action. It could be a boss, a “higher power”, or the desire for wealth, power and prestige; every leader is following something.

    In fact, I would go so far as to say that the scariest leaders are those who don’t think they have to follow anyone or, worse, who have never followed anyone but themselves.

    On the other hand, the leader who has learned the value of submission (to both God and to men) is more fully capable of leading those who are both willing and unwilling to follow.

    For example, I find it difficult to now call myself a “follower” of Jesus if I take your words to be true about leadership and followership. Instead, I find it much more helpful to say that following empowers my ability to lead well. It signifies that, as a leader, I recognize my rightful place in the order of things. While I strive to take action, innovate, and initiate, it will always be guided by someone or something bigger than I am.

    I am a leader because I am also a follower.

    • bradlomenick says:

      good thoughts Matt. I should clarify that this is more about those who “Initiate” vs those who only “Respond.” You are right- all of us are followers as well as leaders. But if you are a leader, then you tend to be more of a initiator at your core instead of someone who simply responds.

  4. Daniel Decker says:

    Good word Brad. Thanks.

  5. Ste Murphy says:

    You have stereotyped followers in a very negative light!
    In fact leaders should also be followers! So with your definition this would cancel out a leader’s qualification.

    The truth is we all exhibit both traits at varying ways, at certain times depending on the context.

    Plus. Before people become leaders they follow – we are all on a journey, and we all follow other people who inspire us especially
    Jesus! I believe your definitions to be incorrect!

    In the Name of the one whom we all follow!

    • bradlomenick says:

      see my response to Matt above. I mentioned that this is more about initiators and responders. I’m not outlining what a great follower should be- these are not the qualities of a great follower. Great leaders do have to be great followers at different times.

  6. Jason says:

    Great article Brad.

    I found your article via Google when researching for my own article called “follow the leader”.

    I’m involved in sales and I believe we have three sales styles within our industry. We have “passive” sales people (followers), “consultative” sales people (leaders) and “aggressive” sales people (not sure of the acronym yet!).

    Our “consultative” sales people have leadership qualities given their ability to create and articulate compelling stories that capture attention and move people to act.

    Thank you for your thoughts and commentary.


  7. maan81 says:

    The article shows the advantages to be a leader.

    I would like to know what would happen if everyone – theoritically – would be a leader…. there would be no followers. Who would the multiple leaders lead when there would be noone requred to be leaded ?

  8. I agree with the concept that in order to be a good leader one must be a good follower. Every good leader, before they became one was once a follower. Peter became a loyal follower of Jesus before he became a great leader of the Christians after the death of Jesus. He was not a perfect follower too, in fact he committed many mistakes,and yet he became the successor of the greatest example of a great leader.

    My point the qualities of an ideal leader must first and foremost be that “he must be a good follower”. Your post perhaps describes what a “bad follower ” is. Nonetheless, I agree with your description of what a good leader is.

  9. Holly says:

    I am a natural follower and always have been, however I also find myself in a position of leader as an adult. As a child I sometimes resented that others took the lead. Now that I have children I feel sad when other children lead them in play. They meet resistance if they want to lead and therefore give up.

    I think many leaders leave a wake of misery in their path, sometimes unwittingly. To be a good leader takes more than just an innate feeling of superiority. Many a natural born leader may find themselves unfulfilled when they find their followers have gone elsewhere. I have seen great men become alcoholics and women become depressives where they showed natural leadership as children.

    Success in life is about believing in yourself and I want to be a good example to my children in this respect. Therefore I try to take leadership roles like organizing events and activities for school and family time, and being a good but firm leader to my children and staff.

  10. Morgan Borg says:

    I think the description is too narrow sighted of leaders
    and followers. As a group develop there are many people
    who can become leaders for themselves. Leadership style
    must change over time to meet the need from followers.
    Military leadership will work in the beginning of a group
    process but fail to make people empowered.

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