I Can Do That Too!: The Overlapping Attributes Between Follower And Leader

Leadership Lesson: Leaders and followers, through the behaviors and attributes they demonstrate to others, have more in common than one would believe at first glance.

Leaders and followers have so much more in common than we might think. Most of the time, the only difference between one and the other may be an official leadership name tag, plate, or title.

But regardless of whether or not that official designation has been achieved, if broken down, one can see how many qualities and traits leaders and followers both utilize in their work.

People need to think about channeling and refining their leadership skills as soon and as early as they can in their life and career. This should be the case for anyone, no matter where they are when they decide to do so, and no matter at what age they become cognizant of that ability for themselves.

General leadership concepts, strategy, and ideas are similar across generations and ages; it is the specific language in each person’s current environment that has to be customized and tackled. The customization is due to the fact that the language, needs, and responsibilities are obviously different across the various environments and different stages – for instance, from that of a student to one for a young, entry-level professional, all the way up through mid-level management and on to the senior- or executive-level professional.

Across all of these, again, leadership lessons have the same foundation, but the specifics of the work and how to contribute to the mission vary.

So, what are some of the general points of commonality?

For the purposes of what I want to demonstrate here, the items below go for both the leader and the follower. Each point is ideally what each should do. It goes for both.

Supporting Others With Your Unique Skills

We can’t get the best out of others unless we are supporting their needs with what we can offer them. Granted, we won’t be able to offer them everything they need, but we can provide as much as we can through our specialized experience and abilities. We should take the extra step and go the extra mile to help each other.

With It: We support those around us, making sure they have everything they need to provide their best, unique abilities to the mission.

Without It: The mission fails as people’s best is not drawn out of them and brought to the forefront of the work.

Listening To The Ideas Of Others

We can’t get the best out of people without paying attention to what they have to say, keeping our ears open for details, in order to help clarify, articulate, and parse out the best value from what people share.

With It: We’re truly paying attention to what those around us are saying – and not saying. We are making sure we’re reading people correctly, both through their words and/or body language.

Without It: We’re not hearing the best ideas and/or warnings to help build and/or save our mission, respectively. We’re leaving value on the table if we don’t pay careful attention to what those around us are saying and doing.

Related: Your Leadership Wake: As A Leader, How Do You Acknowledge Others?

Understanding Where You Fall Short

We can’t deliver the best without assessing and reassessing who we are and what we can deliver. This plays out through an honesty and humility that lets us see what it is we have within us and all its faults, gaps, and weaknesses.

With It: We improve in the areas where we need work. Only by doing that can we provide the best results for our mission and team. If we don’t correct where we’re lacking, we’re not putting our best value forward.

Without It: We’re just lying to ourselves and selling ourselves short. We’re forfeiting our potential to achieve the best we can, for both ourselves and others.

Open To Learning About The World Around Them

We can’t move our group into the future if we’re not willing to open our eyes and learn about the environments around us. Whether we’re in an educational or a professional institution or workplace, curiosity is what helps us move forward by allowing us to see new possibilities and paths for evolution and improvement.

With It: We open our minds to new ideas, people, strategies, processes, etc. We don’t dismiss anything without giving it a decent attempt of consideration and understanding. Even if it means prioritizing in terms of timing and when it can be considered, we should always acknowledge and consider all relevant ideas.

Without It: You remain in the vicious cycle of the here and now. You stay in what is, rather than learning and putting into effect what could be.


These are just some ways in which being a leader and a follower are similar. All of these are steps anyone can take at any point in their life and/or career.

Granted, as a leader in a traditional titled role, these steps may carry more clout, weight, and consequence, but it doesn’t take away from the value a follower can provide by practicing those same approaches.

If you had read that list above, without knowing what this exercise is all about, you wouldn’t know if they were the traits of a leader or a follower being covered. Both roles tap into these most important traits of leadership, to one degree or another.

Anyone is capable of these at any time. If they forgo the opportunities and chances to live these, they’re letting others down but most of all themselves.

Where do you stand in each of these? How will you adjust your approach going forward?

Whether it’s leaders or followers, these leadership traits and abilities exist in everyone, no matter where they stand on the hierarchy.

These groups look more alike than might be believed.

We all just have to be open to it.



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