Are You a Leader, a Follower, or a Loner?

I’ve been thinking lately about how different people go through life. Now, there are technically as many different lifestyles as there are people who have ever lived on this planet, since nobody’s life is exactly the same as anyone else’s.  But there are certain commonalities amongst groups of people who share the same geographic region, time period, or personality traits.

It’s that last aspect I’ve been considering.  I’m an amateur psychologist of sorts (an OFFICIAL amateur psychologist; I have a Psych minor and everything), and considering how people think is one of my hobbies.  I had a mini revelation lately (and make no claims of originality; I’m sure someone has had these thoughts before), that people fall into three basic types when it comes to their work styles: leaders, followers, and for lack of a better, semi-alliterative term, loners.  Let’s take a closer look at each of them:


Personality Traits: Confident, self assured, able to take control of a situation.  Tend to be good with big-picture tasks, focusing on everything that needs to be done and creating plans to finish the tasks required.  Ideally, they enjoy helping those who work under them and guiding the processes involved in fulfilling the needed tasks.  (There are, as I’m sure you are aware, plenty of ‘leaders’ who simply enjoy bossing other people around, but I’m trying to focus on the positive personality traits they possess.)

Ideal Job If You Are a Leader: Something where you are in control, giving directions to others.  There are a range of leadership positions in most companies today, all of which have varying degrees of leadership and involved.  Depending on how much responsibility you can tolerate and how much freedom you want, you might be fine with a lower level supervisory job, or you might need to become the head of a major company before you’re satisfied.

How to Get There: There are plenty of ways to get a leadership position.  Traditionally, the approach was to start at the bottom rung of a company or other organization and slowly work your way up the corporate ladder until you reached a position with an appropriate level of responsibility.  Nowadays, you’d like be best served with a MBA or other education specifically to help you get a boost up to a position of power and responsibility.

If you’re looking to be the head honcho, going the entrepreneur route and starting your own business is probably the best route; although it will take a while to grow it to the level of a Fortune 500 company (if it gets there at all), it’ll probably be more enjoyable for you to build the company up, rather than working for someone else in the hopes that you reach the top someday.


Personality Traits: Ah, followers, perhaps the most diverse (and definitely the largest) group of people in this particular division.  Generally distinguished from leaders by their lack of desire to, well, lead, and from loners by their desire to be in a corporation or other group larger than themselves.  Given the range of tasks they take on, it’s hard to pin down the traits of the typical follower.

Ideal Job If You Are a Follower: Given the number of people who follow someone else’s leadership in some aspect of their job, it’s hard to pin down particular jobs.  Since the most defining aspect of a follower is having someone else making the higher level decisions, any job where you can come in, get an assignment, work on it (doing work you enjoy, of course), turn in your results, and go home would fit; given the sheer range of such jobs that exist, it’s hard to get too much more specific.

How to Get There: In modern society, unless your ideal job involves fast food, you’ll likely need an Associate’s degree or higher to reach your goals.  Find an area where you have some talent and interest in working, get a good education, and find a company or other organization where you can put your skills to work and you should end up somewhere you enjoy.

(If I can put in a plug for my own area of education, there’s always a need for intelligent, hardworking people in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematical fields (aka the STEM fields); while it’s no guarantee of employment (and certainly not a promise that you’ll enjoy the work), it does offer plenty of opportunity.)


Personality Traits: Loners tend to be loners; that much should be obvious.  In general, they prefer to do work that neither requires them to take orders, nor to direct other people.  While it make sound a bit anti-social (and certainly, people who are genuinely antisocial will tend towards being loners), remember that we’re talking work preferences, not personality; it’s possible to a ‘lone wolf’ worker while still having lots of friend and family you spend time with when your work is done.

Ideal Job If You Are a Loner: Just about any job where you can be your own boss.  Given the modern trend toward increasing use of technology, a large number of such positions can be found via the Internet, from blogger to internet marketer.  You might also consider starting your own business in the real world; there are any number of positions that can be done by individuals without the need for a boss, company or coworkers.

How to Get There: The advantage of trying to get job working by (and for) yourself is there are essentially no formal qualifications.  The disadvantage is that, for many people, it is difficult to get started, breaking out of the mold of follower (or sometimes, leader) to go it alone.  More than a few diabolical figures take advantage of that difficulty and try to bilk would-be loners.  (I subscribe to more than a few mailing lists directed toward people who want to work from home, out of curiousity; I recently had to clear it out and delete more than two thousand emails I had gotten in the course of about two months.)

If you do want to make a living for yourself on your own, it’s important to be careful about what you opt to do and who you choose to trust.  As a decent rule of thumb, I would be wary about spending any money to get help or advice.  There are plenty of free resources online for most legitimate opportunities, frequently provided by people who have already succeeded in such attempts (and want to share their experiences for the joy of sharing).  If you’re expected to shell out cash before even learning how you’re expected to make money, then run, don’t walk, in the opposite direction (or close the window, if you are online.

Combinations and Conclusions

Now, as with any such division of people, not every one is going to fall neatly and cleanly into just one of these categories; many, if not most, people will fall into more than one grouping.  Some leaders have loner tendencies, some followers also desire some responsibilities of leadership, and some loners want someone else to lead them now and then (I fall into that last category).  And of course, there’s some people who have traits of all three groups.

There’s nothing wrong with any of this; again, this whole list (and my thoughts on the subject) was just an attempt to think out loud, trying to organize and clarify my thoughts.  Hopefully, you found it entertaining (and a little helpful) yourself.

What category (or categories) do you fall into?  Any suggestions for your fellow leaders, followers, or loners on how to get what they want out of life?

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