Are you a leader or a follower?

IT became apparent to me during the early stages of my life that I didn’t quite “fit the mould” that many of my other friends found it so easy to shape into.

Whilst they were making future plans, applying to universities and creating a similar path to each other, I simply took a step back and said “No”! This consequently made me a bit of an outsider. Or did it?

I had very strong ideas about my future. I did not want to study to become a doctor, a vet or have a career which required a university degree, so rather than spend three years of my life studying something just for the sake of it, and starting my career in debt, I didn’t follow the pack.

I remember someone saying to me: “If you don’t go to university you will never do well in life.” This is where I had to apply my slogan of “water off a duck’s back”.

So whilst waving goodbye to my friends as they scattered across the country, I looked closer to home and landed a sales job at a publishing company.

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Having never worked in sales before, the dreaded thought of cold calling and hitting targets seemed very daunting. The plus side was that I was given my own magazine to work on, which became my baby and my own personal challenge.

One thing that I learnt very quickly about sales was to listen, not to talk. I have always had this belief that if you are yourself, people you will give you their respect and support. Let’s face it, there is nothing worse than an over-zealous sales person.

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Within a few months my magazine had moved into profit. I didn’t learn sales; it’s something that I lived and breathed everyday.

After six months in this job, a management role became available, and I acquired the position. At 18 years old I was leading my own department and I felt more comfortable managing than being managed, despite my age.

Stereotypically a person who can manage or guide others is known as a leader; they are a good motivator and go above and beyond to get the job done. A follower is an individual who accepts being led even though their skills may be equal to that of a leader.

I will always remember my dad, my mentor and role model, taking me to see a certain inspirational speaker at a seminar in Florida. I was privileged to meet him personally and was asked if I was an Eagle or a Duck? Now, despite my last name, I would have to say I am an Eagle.

A Duck is someone who sits at the duck pond with all of the other ducks “quacking and complaining”, and an Eagle is someone who will fly high, soaring above the crowds until the job is done. This always stuck in my mind.

One thing that some leaders don’t realise is that “leadership” is a process not a position. It is not part of the hierarchy system of a workplace. As I worked my way up the career ladder and entered different industries as a follower I found there were some leaders who hadn’t cottoned on to this, and probably still haven’t to this day.

They say that most great leaders began in the capacity of followers. Being able to follow can make you an effective leader. This allows you to understand how hard it can be as a follower if your leader does not act towards you in the correct manner.

Being a leader requires integrity, responsibility, understanding and respect towards your followers, it is a gift you have been given to help others, and one not to take advantage of. For me becoming an outsider and finding my own way in life led me down a successful path.

So, are you are leader or a follower?

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