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Going where the wind blows: Are you an effective leader or follower?

Updated on August 13, 2013

By Michelle Liew

Mahatma Gandhi

“I'm a leader, not a follower. Unless it's a dark place. Then you're going first.” - Unknown

This quote definitely tickled when I read it. It reflects the exact nature of the concept of leadership and followership. And it can be described thus.

Many of us have deep desires within us to become leaders with others following our words to the letter. The notion evokes a sense of power and esteem that can be incredibly hard to resist.

There are also many who prefer to follow another person’s lead, letting it take them where they are supposed to go.

A more than moderate number are straddling the fence and can be either leaders or followers as determined by the situation.

What are the good qualities of leaders? What makes a good follower? What is the difference between them? We are all different individuals who have different styles of either leadership, followership or both.

We embrace leadership or followership, being either the wind or leaves that are blown by it. The good qualities of both enable the holistic, efficient functioning of a group or organization.

Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi | Source

What makes a good leader?

The answers to this question may vary because everyone brings different opinions of what makes a good leader to the table. As such any of the terms here are not meant to be definitive or exhaustive. There are some things, though, that many would agree are essential characteristics of a good leader.

Leaders are initiators.

Leaders are the ones who would get a project or for that matter, anything started. The set things in motion and determine the flow of events.

Leaders are drivers.

Leaders provide the driving force to get things done. It is not impossible to imagine that without anyone doing so, life would come to a standstill!

If an organization were to have no one driving things forward, projects would not come to fruition. Needless to say, it would crumble.

Leaders are fear free.

They do not let fear or a setback paralyze their desire to put their ideas into motion. Good examples are Aung Sang Syu Ki and Mahatma Gandhi, dynamic political influences in their respective countries despite nasty political confrontations, arrests and for Ghandi, ultimately death.

Leaders innovate.

Leaders dare to innovate. They try new things and are not afraid when these meet with some sort of failure. They know that it only means a little re-routing!

Leaders embrace change

Leaders know that change is our only constant. They are willing to adapt, depending on the surrounding circumstances and usually do it swiftly,when necessary.

A good example is when I was co-organizing a concert with several other teachers. One of them was a gentleman who picked up the pace very quickly when it was found that the costumes of several choir members were missing. A quick organizer, he immediately adapted and got a few rented costumes delivered.

Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi | Source

Leaders take responsibility.

Leaders are willing to assume responsibility when situations go awry. They bear the consequences of their actions and are not ones to try to waive themselves of responsibility when the crunch comes.

They are clear.

Good leaders are clear about desired results, know what they want to achieve and how to get it.They are also clear in communicating intentions to others.

Everyone dislikes a leader who does not make it a point to tell his followers what his intentions are, then assigns blame when these are not followed to the letter.

Leaders are humble.

The quiet driving force of Mahatma Ghandi and the gentle, inspiring humility of Mother Theresa made them unquestionable sources of inspiration. The absence of narcissism in their leadership style drew them admiration, respect and made them hallmarks of what leaders are meant to be.

Leaders are good followers themselves.

Good leaders are themselves excellent followers. Willing to forgo ego, they are focused only on outcomes and are willing to assist accordingly in order to help someone else achieve them.

Mother Theresa
Mother Theresa | Source

6 leadership styles

Interestingly, there are different ways in which a leader sets the tone for things to come. Different styles would be agreeable with different people. Like them or not, their styles have their effectiveness depending on the situation.

The Pace Setter

The pace setting leader utilizes modelling and excellence. He wants good results and expects

others to adopt his methods. He is the wind who expects the leaves to follow the direction in which he blows, in his way.

While good for followers who need examples but who are themselves already skilled, this style of leadership can quench innovation.

The Authoritative Leader

The authoritative leader leads others towards a common vision but leads leaves the means to the individual to achieve it. He is the wind who does not expect leaves to lift in the exact manner which he blows.

This style of leadership does not really work when the leader in question is leading a group of people who are experts in their own right and have very different opinions about how things should be done. The result of his leadership in such a situation would, unsurprisingly, be friction and lack of cohesion.

A Principal in a school I taught in embraced this style of leadership. He wanted the school to become a niche in a certain area of education. Many teachers felt that it cramped their style, especially when the niche area was not one they were comfortable with.

The Motivator

The motivating leader works with praise and encouragement. He has a feel good approach that

makes his followers feel at ease. The wind who blows soothingly, leaves can be a tad too comfortable in the midst of his draft.

This style of leadership can sometimes give a false impression of a person’s deficiencies and cause him to fall to mediocrity, not wanting to break out of the comfort zone.

The Coach

The coach is a leader who tries to develop the personal strengths of others. He tries to get people out of their comfort zones, innovate and change for the better. He is the wind who always gives the leaves a slight push when he blows.

He may not work well as a leader with followers who are resistant to change.

The Coercive Leader

The leader who employs coercion expects others to follow his lead unquestioningly. This is a style most effective in times of emergency because it helps to assure people who are in need of direction. When he blows, his force is compelling and leaves have no choice but to go with the draft,

However, it should be avoided at other times because it alienates and fails to motivate. Leaders like Hitler, of course, come to mind.

The Democrat

The Democrat is a leader who depends heavily on participation. He seeks the opinions of others in order to get them to buy into his leadership in a particular situation. He is not the most effective leader for those who need guidance and are uninformed to give opinions. He is the wind who asks the leaves, “How do you wish to be blown?”

I used to teach in a school whose Principal used to work with his staff in this manner. The result of her leadership was individuals all trying to establish projects that were not thought through thoroughly.


What makes a good follower?

Followers make up a vast majority of us. A good follower has certain traits that make him effective and allow him or her to work well with others.They are the leaves that drift smoothly when the wind blows. So what enables him to do so?

A good follower has good interpersonal skills.

A good follower is outgoing and gets along well both with his leader and other members of the group. He or she truly enjoys the company of others and working with them.

A good follower is responsible.

A good follower has a sense of responsibility. He knows that things have to be done in order for necessary outcomes to be achieved.

A good follower is a team player.

A follower puts the interests of the team first and is willing to work towards achieving the aims of the group. The same humility inherent in a good leader is also present in a good follower; his maxim is Others before Self.

A Follower is patient.

Good followers are patient with other members of the group, including the leader, where there are problems achieving desired goals. He or she allows everyone the time to adjust and reinvent when necessary, and is willing to make necessary changes himself.

A good follower is perceptive.

A good follower knows the needs of others before he is even asked and does what is necessary to fulfill these needs. He is observant and sensitive.

A good follower is trustworthy.

Good followers are trustworthy individuals on whom the leader and the rest of the group can depend to accomplish tasks.

A good follower challenges when necessary.

A good follower has a voice. He is definitely not one to submit when necessary. Where are problems with the group’s or leader’s vision, a good follower is willing to ask questions to make necessary changes.

Followers form the majority.
Followers form the majority. | Source

Different follower styles

Just as there are many leadership styles, followers adopt different styles when it comes to taking direction. Some are undoubtedly less apt than others.

The Contributor

The follower who is a Contributor focuses on doing a job well, but does not make the effort to really form good relationships with anyone in authority. He is the leave who will be blown with a little resistance.

While this is good for achieving outcomes, problems arise with working together with the leader and with the rest of the group which in itself contradicts with achieving the goals desired.

The Politician

Focusing solely on interpersonal relationships, the Politician is not one who is extremely popular with the group, though he may be with leaders. Not focusing on his ability to get things done, the Politician is the leaf who searches avidly for the wind’s draft and depends on his interpersonal skills to cover his deficiencies. This can be quite damaging for group outcomes.

The Subordinate

The Subordinate is the stereotypical leaf who “goes where the wind blows.” He does what he is told and seldom takes the initiative to form relationships with the leader or the rest of the group.

A complete lack of questioning is not good when directions given are inappropriate or even dangerous for any desired outcomes.

The Partner

The ideal follower, the Partner works together well with the leader and the rest of the group to achieve the group’s aims. He questions when necessary and is the leaf that is blown by the wind’s draft when it is appropriate, making necessary contributions to the group.He provides a balance when things are askew by asking the necessary questions. Partner Followers are often Leaders-in-Waiting.

Which leadership style do you relate to best?

See results

Why Leaders and Followers should be Partners

An ideal situation is when Leaders and Followers become partners for the good of all. Good Leaders will take Followers’ needs and opinions into consideration and know how to hone them to achieve the aims of the group. Good followers would work in tandem with the leaders to

work toward common goals. When the wind and leaves move in the same direction, in accord, they arrive at the desired destination with good results.

What kind of follower are you?

See results

A Terza Rima Poem

A Terza Rima is a poem made of stanzas of (three lines) that follow a specific rhyming pattern. The last syllable of the second line of the first stanza will be rhymed with the first and third lines of the second stanza. What follows is this sequence:

A-B-A (1st stanza), B-C-B (2nd stanza), C-D-C (third stanza).

You can make as many tercets in the poem as you deem fit!

Do enjoy this little Terza Rima on the topic of the attributes of leaders and followers.


The wind and the leaves

As the wind must blow,

Its leading gust must guide,

That lifted leaves may know.

For leaves to lift, they must not hide

When the wind deals His gust

Not blindly abide

The wind blows,rootedness must,

For In its guiding squall,

Leaves place comforted trust

The gust recedes, force takes fall

The leaves pick up the pace

Band for good of all

Both in tandem, wind and leaves ace,

Both take better form,

When each knows his place.


Leaders and Followers should work in agreed tandem to achieve an agreed vision. Only then can the leaves and the wind move to and arrive at desired destinations.

I would like to thank those who answered the question “What are the differences between followers and leaders?” Do pay these writers a visit!

Original Work

Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin

All Rights Reserved


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    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      7 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand


      This is an awesome hub about leaders and followers. I thought President Kennedy was a very good leader because he was an excellent motivator. Sadly, in the school where I am working now, there are some teachers who are neither leaders or followers. It seems that their only mission is to get away with whatever they can by not following orders and forcing a confrontation with management. The problem is that management here in Thailand does not want to handle a confrontation with its followers. This is really disheartening to the teachers who are good followers. Voted up and sharing. Also sharing on Facebook, Pinning, and Tweeting.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Kas. I think all religions (save those that propagate the less positive) are for the good. Thanks for sharing!

    • Kasman profile image


      7 years ago from Bartlett, Tennessee

      Awesome Awesome Awesome hub Michelle! It brought me back to one of my all time favorite leaders.....George Washington. A godly man who was unanimously elected as General of the Continental Army, unanimously elected as presider over the Constitutional Convention, unanimously elected as First President of the United States. He was one of the most humble, yet powerful and authoratative leaders of his time. He even relinqueshed his power willingly when the people wanted him to be a king. The book "The real George Washington" really opened my eyes to how powerful leadership can change the world. Jesus Christ is my ultimate example honestly. Most humble man of all time, yet even Ghandi deferred to him and said..."I like the Christ, but not the christians." It shows what happens when we as believers do not follow Jesus well and show people the love he wants us to.

      Great hub, I'm voting up and sharing across the board!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Michelle, from Michelle! Yes, we're leaders or followers depending on whether we're called to lead in a situation. Thanks for sharing! Sometimes it's hard to know when to be one.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Most of us end up being followers in most situations...because there can be only a few leaders in that situation. Thanks for sharing, Vinaya!

    • profile image

      Michelle Widmann 

      7 years ago

      This hub was a really interesting read - very well put together, formatted nicely, informative and refreshing. I enjoyed trying to place myself among the different types of leaders and followers. I like to believe a person can have the ability to be both a leader and a follower in different situations, and should try to decipher when to step up, or step back.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      7 years ago from Nepal


      I believe innate desire of human beings is to be a leader, however, most of us ends being a follower. When I think about myself, I find myself straddling between being a leader and a follower. I'm a leader to my younger brother and sister, and I'm my parents' follower. LOL

      I wish you peace, prosperity, and happiness on your Birthday.

      Happy Birthday.

    • janetwrites profile image

      Janet Giessl 

      7 years ago from Georgia country

      I made a mistake in my first comment. I wanted to say that I'm rather a follower than a leader as I'm not strong enough to be a leader.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Lurana!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Very interesting! I really like how you discussed different qualities and types of leaders and followers. Lovely poem too! :-) Lurana

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, quietwriter!

    • quietwriter profile image

      Siobhan De 

      7 years ago

      Very informative! I loved it.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Audrey.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      7 years ago from California

      Such a comprehensive hub Michelle--you should be proud!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Sometimes we take initiative when we have to, Jo! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Janet. We are both, depending on the situation. Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Kathi. All the best in your new position! Thanks for sharing.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore


    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Who. That, he certainly was. Sagacious too. Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      The Coercive Leader is my greatest Leadership worry too, Travmaj. As is the Authoritarian. Both tend to verge on "It's my way or the highway" and I have come across both recently. The best is balance....I think the partnership provides that.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Takes a lot of courage, Vellur, and willingness to accept that people won't like you all the time. Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      That's cool, Hatter! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Mary. That certainly makes you a leader. Thanks for sharing.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      7 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Michelle, another excellent article, I tend to lead by default; I'm the one sitting on the fence, however if the leader should falter, I'll reluctantly take the lead.

      Awesome; as always. :)

    • janetwrites profile image

      Janet Giessl 

      7 years ago from Georgia country

      Very interesting hub. I think I'm a follower as I'm very strong to be a leader. But I admire leaders like Gandhi and Mother Theresa.

    • Fossillady profile image


      7 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      Well done, extremely useful, will bookmark this for future reference. I am about to enter a leadership position with my summer beach job and found this very interesting. I like how you used the wind and leaf metaphor which made the message all the more clear! Thank you for sharing Michelle, Kathi

    • whonunuwho profile image


      7 years ago from United States

      Your fine message of what makes a good leader is well received by the great examples of humanity, you have shown. whonu

    • whonunuwho profile image


      7 years ago from United States

      Thank you for sharing this nice tribute to a wonderful man. One who came from humble beginnings to the heights of greatness. Few have spoken with such strength in times of need to shore up his nation and lead the way. well done.whonu

    • travmaj profile image


      7 years ago from australia

      This hub is impressive, interesting, informative, and well documented. I do admire your presentation, organised and accesible.

      You certainly chose some wonderful leaders - Mother Theresa, Gandhi, Aung San Suu Kyi,etc, all admirable.

      Makes me realise I am a follower - plodding on, going with the flow, ah well, that's just me.

      The only worry I would have with leadership is the The Coercive Leader - some cults are most persuasive and detrimental to followers.

      Excellent poem to blend this altogether - Voting of course...

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      7 years ago from Dubai

      Great hub on leadership. It takes a lot of courage to be a leader. Valuable and informative hub. Voted up. Great poem, enjoyed reading.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Before my dream job, I was in charge of a department of high performers. With the masons, i was able to motivate.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      7 years ago from Florida

      You never cease to amaze me! Every article you write is well researched and well written.

      I think I'm more of leader because I have always taken the lead in getting anything done and motivating other to do whatever is necessary to get a job done properly.

      Voted UP and shared.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Yes, it's definitely possible. We are leaders or followers depending very much on the situation. I'm one of these too. I'd rather a leader nor a follower be.....and lead myself! Thanks for sharing, Leslie!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      That's true. The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people! Thanks for sharing, James!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Livingsta.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Hi CrisSP. Yes, we are all leaders or followers depending on the situation...what I wanted to ask, I guess, was what we are better at doing! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Pinto, thanks for sharing. It's really the workings of human psychology! Thanks for sharing.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Must be the charisma in you, Bill! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Kidscrafts! They are all true sources of inspiration for us. Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Mary! I'm glad you've enjoyed both pieces.....trying my best to do both kinds of genres justice! Thanks so much for the support!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks Janine. I think it's good to be either depending on the situation. Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Eddy.

    • ImKarn23 profile image

      Karen Silverman 

      7 years ago

      WOW Michelle - this is QUITE the hub you have here - awesome information, research and knowledge!

      Having said that - is it possible to be neither a leader NOR a follower?

      after knowing myself for over 50 years - and experiencing BOTH - i prefer to just go my own way and do my own thing..

      i'm not very social - i've found - and truly - am good at neither! I sold insurance for 15 years and when they put me in management - i quickly excused myself from it..

      i worked best on my own..

      Well done - up and sharing on..

    • James-wolve profile image

      Tijani Achamlal 

      7 years ago from Morocco

      Very informative and well-documented. In the past a leader was a boss. Today s leaders must be partners with their people... they no longer can lead solely based on positional power.As Woodrew Wilson says: The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people.

      Voted up

    • livingsta profile image


      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Very interesting and useful hub Michelle. Thank you for sharing this with us. Voted up , useful, interesting and sharing!

    • CrisSp profile image


      7 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Although I shy away at times, I'm always aware of my leadership abilities. However, I could also vouch that I am a good follower. In my line of duty as a FA, it is a must to have a great and effective leadership skills thus, I am a leader who knows how to follow a chain of command and thus, I am a follower.

      I hope I did not confuse you with that. :)

      What a fine hub Michelle. One that would make your readers think..."are you an effective leader or a follower?"

      Up and sharing.

    • pinto2011 profile image


      7 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Hi kidscrafts you have greatly defined a subject hidden inside everyone but seldom we stop to understand it. You also craft-fully defined the human genius.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Excellent work here, Michelle.

      I am actually a leader but I have no idea how I became one. LOL I have always preferred staying in the background without any fanfare....but I always end up leading and motivating a group. I'll have to think about this...great food for thought this morning.

    • kidscrafts profile image


      7 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      I love the way you develop every subject, Michelle. It's interesting and your ideas are always well organized!

      Aung Sang Syu Ki and Mahatma Gandhi are great examples of political leaders. Mother Theresa is still a great source of inspiration with everything she accomplished in her lifetime while staying humble all the way!

      Great poem as well Michelle!

      For sure, voted up very interesting and awesome!

      Have a great week!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      7 years ago from New York

      You know, you really are amazing. You jump from one subject or genre to another with the grace and style of a gazelle, doing all beautifully. This is a great piece and to add to its greatness you end with a specialized poem. I just finished reading your ghost story and now this totally different hub and yet, both are outstanding!

      Voted up, useful, awesome, interesting and shared with my readers.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 

      7 years ago from New York, New York

      My mother always told me to be a leader not a follower, so to this day I still try my best to be more of leader then a follower. Wonderful article and seriously love how you always meld your beautiful poetry into your Hubs, too. Hve, of course, voted and shared, too!!

    • Eiddwen profile image


      7 years ago from Wales

      A wonderful read and thank you for sharing Michelle.



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