Careers

How to answer the job interview question, 'Are you a leader or a follower?'

Photo Illustration/Bryce Churchill
Photo Illustration/Bryce Churchill

Being aware of the role you play within a company is crucial to your success. Regardless of your position, there may be times when you're called to lead a project or asked to fall back and assist someone else.

Therefore, when a hiring manager asks, "Are you a leader or a follower?" it's best to demonstrate that you can meet the demands of either role.

"While companies are almost always looking for candidates with leadership skills, it is also important to show that you know when to back down and respect another person's leadership," Nicole Wood of the coaching company Ama La Vida tells Glassdoor, as part of the site's 50 Most Common Interview Questions series.

"Cite specific examples which demonstrate that you are a strong leader...then, mention that you also recognize that at times you will need to take a supporting role for other people's initiatives," adds Wood.

For instance, if you were asked to lead a presentation at your last job, speak about how you rallied your team around completing the necessary tasks for the presentation to be done. Then follow up by mentioning a time when you offered support to a director or coordinator for a conference, team luncheon or new company program.

Proving that you know how to assist and follow others is key to showing employers how you operate in a team environment. In fact, self-made millionaire Marcus Lemonis says showing your commitment to helping the team succeed is the No. 1 trait that makes a great employee.

"If you give of yourself to help somebody else succeed," says Lemonis, "there will be a moment where it comes back to you."

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