Going Deeper: Good, Better, Best Series - Leader vs. Follower

Community Manager
Community Manager

Leader vs Follower - USAA Member Community


In this Going Deeper: Good, Better, Best series, we are featuring a set of articles designed to help you dig a little deeper into your interview answers. Check out the first, second and third articles in this series.


Let’s take a deeper look into the very important interview question that reveals how versatile you can be when working with others.


How well do you work well with others in a leader or follower role?


Companies look for Leaders, no doubt. Keep in mind most Leaders don’t simply walk in off the street and land into a leadership role. Sometimes they do, but not always. The hiring manager wants someone who can take charge, but also carry out orders, so to speak. They want someone who can recognize the accomplishments of others within the group.


They also want you and those who report to you constantly raising the bar of excellence. They don’t want someone who settles for the status quo bringing others to a lower level of performance, they want the opposite.


I just want to remind you this is an area that could potentially trip up a Veteran. Why? Because Military service means you have plenty of experience taking charge. You know the drill. The Military culture demands this type of behavior – snap to attention, bark out orders, and so forth.


In civilian work circles however, you absolutely need to tone it down a bit. What worked in uniform probably won’t work exactly the same way in a job interview, much less the job if you happen to make it that far. You need to present examples of your ability to lead and follow in such a way that you don’t scare the company into thinking you’re about to replace their leader/follower system into a military-centric leader/follower system. (Seriously, if you’re not getting past initial interviews or somehow find yourself constantly getting rejection letters, this might be an area to review and reflect on a bit.)


Remember Basic Training or Boot Camp? You had many opportunities to lead and follow, right? First you’re Squad Leader and then you’re a Follower. Next, you’re Platoon Leader and then you’re not, etc. As you’re now recalling the names of people who made for strong or weak leaders or followers, I want you to pinpoint the behaviors you personally made in order to become a good leader or good follower. Can you explain this in an easy-to-understand manner? Can you explain this so that you use words that resonate with the company during the interview?


Leadership and Followership in the military is not exactly the same in civilian work circles. You need to adjust not only how you explain this, but how you carry out your definition of what this all means once you get hired.


Do you know how to accurately compare and contrast your military leadership roles into something that resonates with the Interviewer? Do you come across as a “know-it-all” or “been there/done that” so much so that you’re a big turnoff to the Interviewer? Do the leadership and followership roles you had in the military truly fit the job/career you’re applying for? Are you deceiving yourself into thinking that you’ve got it all figured out due to your past experience or do you know without a doubt that you can articulate the specifics on how you can do this job?


Spend some quality time crafting possible answers to this question and role playing them out with a friend or loved one. Paying close attention to your response for this type of question will be important in your first interview and throughout your career!


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