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Definition of Leadership: Are you a Leader or a Follower?

Definition of Leadership - Are You A Leader Or Follower

Definition of Leadership: Are you a Leader or a Follower?

Before we start let me be clear on the definition of a leader.

Well then again ….. maybe I can’t be clear.

I can’t be clear because leadership is an art not a science.

It’s not easy to pin down leadership characteristics. Regrettably, there is no magic formula you can follow to turn yourself into the beloved leader who knows how to push all the right buttons.

And to make matters complicated, in today’s matrix environments it isn’t always easy to tell who the leaders are and who are the followers.

Gone are the days when a Supervisor sat in his office and overlooked the floor of busy workers who followed set rules and obeyed orders. That old distinction between a leader and a follower no longer exists.


Without those clean marks of distinction it can be rough to distinguish where your responsibilities start and where another’s stop. And when leadership responsibilities are not clear, you may wonder is it your job to lead or does the responsibility belong to someone else?

Sometimes there is no straight-forward answer.

It could be the person leading a team or running a corporation. It could be a Project Manager or Head of a Department. In these situations, it’s easy to tell who is the leader. The title defines the status. But more often than not these people will jump in to assist in some way or another or they bring in others to help with big decisions or challenges.

Then what about when those who are leading a specific part of a project? Sometimes identifying a leader is easy. They lead, direct and interact with others and rely on them to help get the job done.

Who’s the leader now? Is it the Manager driving the project, the Project Manager who is leading the team or the specialist running her end of the show?

Consciously or unconsciously different people are in charge at different times and places. For one reason or another they have the responsibility to lead.


Today’s’ world is dynamic where challenges are too complex for just one person to handle. The Superman of leadership does not exist. Instead we are faced with the dichotomy of Superman and Clark Kent. On one hand we are saving the world and on the other we are heads down in our work.

In reality, we are both leaders and followers.


This flexible definition of leadership that changes from one minute to the next may not be crystal clear.

But one thing is clear when we are looking for the definition of a leader and that is we all have a boss.

Whether it is a supervisor, a manager, or a customer. Whether it is shareholders, a Board of Directors or the person who signs your timesheet, we all answer to someone.

And at one time or another we have all been the leader where we lead and direct the outcome of our tasks.

Leadership qualities are fluid.  One minute you’re the driver, the next minute you are the passenger.

It’s complex.

Or as Mongomery Burns says when he tries to scoop homer’s brain to turn him into a robot, Dammit Smithers, this is brain surgery, not rocket science.

What qualities do you wish to see in a leader? What don’t you like?

Lisa Wedmann

Author: Lisa Wedmann

Lisa is a driven, strategic communications and marketing professional who thrives on the demands of working in a high profile, fast-paced organization. She is an energetic team leader with excellent communication and interpersonal skills. Meeting and exceeding an organizations expectations is part of Lisa’s track record. Lisa possesses the ability to envision strategic direction and to develop and implement plans to promote brands.

Comments ( 4 )

  • Don O'Neill

    Leadership involves leading, following, and getting out of the way. Real leaders know when to do what.

    • Lisa Wedmann

      Agree. I also think real leaders choose their battles wisely. As you say, sometimes you just get out of the way and let things go.

  • An excellent article. If it is true that the average office worker gets interrupted once very thee minutes, then it is clear that we all actually have the same challenge of having to managing ourselves more than anyone else. When people talk of Behavioural Competencies they are generally talking about how people interact and get the most out of eachother or a situation. Setting and re-setting clear guidelines has always typically been the responsiblity of a manager, but with “middle management” develpment being as poor as it has ever been in this country, we must use this understanding and make it available to everyone. If someone in a junior position is not given clear guidelines, he or she should be encouraged and trained to know how to request the information needed. Without this skill these individuals tend to drift on a wave of poor assumptions, wasting time and money. The result sadly is that they will under perform and almost certainly take the majority of the blame for their manager’s lack of direction. Cream does not alway rise to the surface, we need to make it happen!

  • Petra

    Agree with the author. In our old saying, if one do not know how to be a good follower, he will not know how to be a good leader. Our world need mutual support. A good follower can learn much from his leader while the leader can get strong support from the good follower. And in some cases, the position of leader and follower can be exchanged ,just like the husband and wife.Therefore, we need to play different roles in management according to the envieonment.

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