What Makes A Leader?

Nicole Calder
November 4, 2021

Leadership can be lonely, so let’s walk through what can make or break a leader.

A happy woman giving a speech at a podium

When is someone a leader

Is a leader a leader if no one follows them? If we look at the traditional definition of a leader, it is their purpose to do just that, to lead. But what if someone doesn’t have anyone that follows them? Does that mean they’re not a leader?


When you think of a leader, what image comes to mind? CEOs? Captains? Revolutionaries? The conventional idea of a leader is someone who possesses some inherent quality to lead – someone strong, someone vocal, someone assertive. But what if I told you leading has nothing to do with any of that. What if I told you the most valuable form of leadership is actually to follow, to be the first follower? Would you then consider yourself a leader?


Leadership can be lonely. But it’s only lonely because most leaders are lacking the real leaders, the unsung heroes of teams and organisations – the individuals who aren’t afraid to follow the leader.


When we think of leading in this way, what it does is it makes leading accessible to all. No longer is it necessary to possess the traditional, inherent qualities of a leader; instead all someone needs to lead is to support someone making a stand. To say, “I agree.” This form of leadership is no longer vertical because there is no hierarchy. It operates under the assumption that we are all equal, equal in our ability to influence, equal in our ability to lead. It’s a horizontal form of leadership and it takes the power from a few and gives the power to all.  


The leading collective

Have you ever spoken up in a group setting, voicing the opinion of many, only to be met with silence from your peers? This often occurs out of fear. People are afraid that by speaking up, or by supporting something they agree with, they will be reprimanded for doing so. This can be one of the reasons why change can take so long to occur – because it’s often one individual voicing the concerns of many. And there’s only so much one person can do. But when that one person has support? That’s where the power is. The power is in numbers. The power is in the pack, not the wolf.


The only way we are going to see more of what we want in this world is if we all individually and collectively stand up for what we believe to be right. Rather than being passive, we need to be active in the things we want to change. Silent support is as good as no support, because no one knows about it. So if someone has an idea or says something which you agree with, show them. Be active. Make a stand. Because until one person stands next to that individual, that individual will go through their life believing they are all alone. Believing they aren’t a leader. Believing they aren’t making a difference or having an influence. And potentially believing there is something innately wrong with them.


How can leaders change

If we want change to happen, we have to be the change. We have to be courageous. We have to choose to stand for something or we risk falling for anything. Being a leader means making a difference where you are with what you have. You don’t have to be the voice of change, but you can be a voice purely by choosing to follow. And that, I believe, is the most underrated and important form of leadership. Being a leader by being a first follower. So what do you say, who are you choosing to follow?


Nicole Calder

Nicole Calder has a background in psychology and a keen interest in understanding human behaviour. She currently runs mentoring programs for teams and groups of individuals, supporting them to have difficult conversations and communicating effectively.


For more information, visit Nicole's website or go check out her Instagram.

Woman smiling in an office

Let's do this.

Discover why 7,000+ teams worldwide drive results with Teamgage.

Logos for seek, DXC, Renault and NEC.