The Difference Between a Leader and a Follower

I would recommend Joel’s coaching to anyone who is in a rut in their job, who is looking for something more or needs some direction in their life. Joel is an outstanding coach.

Cecilia Willer, Partner Business Manager


What happens when the star employee steps up the ladder to a leadership role? How does he/she handle this leap? Does his previous role prepare him to be a good boss? How does moving from important (star employee) to becoming more powerful (leader) effect the person and his/her work?

How do you step out of the lime light of being the top talent to moving into a “mover/shaker’s” role directly impacting the direction of the company?  In order to get a better understanding of this process, let’s begin by taking a closer look at the distinct differences between a Follower and a leader. This article will help make that leap to the leader.
First, as a whiz kid you help your superiors look better, but as the leader your role is different. It’s about helping the whiz kids become better through maximizing resources, time, and support. As a leader, you are responsible for the staff and all their distinct personalities. You become more of a manager of people versus the whiz kid who is only responsible for doing his or her job.
As they move up the corporate food chain, leaders are forced to deal with more politics, while as a whiz kid you focus much more on your own world and your own daily tasks. In other words, whiz kids can just shine without effort while as a leader you are expected and get paid to shine regardless of recognition. Actually, you must shine or you aren’t fulfilling your role as a leader. So in order to help you take your first bold step, here are some tips to help you identify what separates a great leader from his (or her) followers:

  1. Great leaders lead by example with an overriding guiding vision or purpose. They possess an unquenchable passion for successfully implementing the vision of the company at the expense of others disapproval or those individuals who fail to see the bigger picture. They don’t waste time worrying about day to day responsibilities or problems, but, instead focus on where the organization needs to go.
  2. Great leaders know how to be themselves and are proud of who they are. They are comfortable with who they are and what they need to say, and they say it with confidence.
  3. Great leaders have the ability to inspire confidence in others. They have outstanding communication skills and can clearly and concisely communicate their message to motivate those around them to greater heights of achievement. People do more for leaders they respect then they would normally do for others.
  4. Great leaders are never self-serving. Unlike the whiz kid, they aren’t focused on proving themselves but are focused unconditionally (and not selfishly) on what is best for the organization. Their interest is expressing themselves to improve the company.
  5. Great leaders rarely question themselves. But instead, they listen to their inner voice and trust it completely. It is their most trusted confidant and they will allow it to be their guide with each step they taken, even as they move in directions that others haven’t gone before. To be a great leader you must believe in this voice with complete devotion and trust that it will always be their to guide you.
  6. Great leaders know when to take advice. They value support from others and bring others into their circle who can provide the counsel they need. They realize how large their tasks are and bring in the necessary resources and people to generate the support which is vital for success. Coaches, mentors and other respected leaders are a part of their support team.
  7. Great leaders possess the foresight to move ahead, even in the most questionable times. They take risks and realize the importance of moving forward daring themselves and others into new dimensions and directions. They realize this is apart of their responsibility and not something they can turn their backs away from. Once they realize the vision, they rise up to the occasion and take the necessary risks needed for implementation.
  8. Great leaders love what they do and communicate their passion to others. They exude a passionate energy that rubs off on the others around them. They have a light, effortless and clear persona that comes forward because they are so one with their work. Others feel this and want to be apart of this shadow of a vision that the leader is bringing forward.
  9. Great leaders learn to lead by following. They trust those who are in authority above them and are loyal to them. They are inspired by the message and shadow that is coming forward and may even notice themselves liking them and wanting to be more like them.
  10. Great leaders never quit. They embrace and overcome any obstacles, personal or otherwise, that stand in their way. Thus, they need to do the necessary work on themselves to not allow anything that is holding them back or habits they do which are limiting from being the best leader as possible. They can then readily apply that knowledge of overcoming to obstacles that others within the organization must overcome and help them to see ways around them.

Leaders inspire others not to focus on the obstacles, but on the end result of achieving the goal they are striving for, even if it seems insurmountable.