Despite being newer to your career, you can still consider yourself a leader. You may not have held a significant leadership role; however, the interviewer is referring to your character and nature as a leader vs. practical experience. Robin Sharma says 'Leadership is not about a title or designation. It's about impact, influence, and inspiration. Impact involves getting results; influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work.'
With that said, keep in mind that it is not a negative thing to be a follower. You may not be the person to take charge of a situation or command a room, and that is okay! A good follower is good at following directions and working hard to accomplish tasks. Rodger Adair says, 'A follower shares in an influence relationship among leaders and other followers with their intent to support leaders who reflect their mutual purposes.' A follower is an incredibly vital role to play.
Both have great qualities. Depending on the role, it may be more critical for you to instigate solving problems and creating innovative solutions, or it may be more important to get the work done. Share some of your strengths to show you have qualities in both categories.
"My role as a leader or follower depends on the situation. I am good at listening and following directions, but I am also great with people and working as a team to solve problems. I would say I have qualities of both, and I know I would rise to the occasion if given a leadership opportunity."
"I prefer to be a leader when it comes to my projects at work. I am a take-charge type of personality; however, I am easy to coach and mentor as well."
"I can be either a follower or leader. I am fluid based on what is appropriate for the situation. I want to be a successful manager which means taking note of the words of my team but being a strong enough lead that I can implement the required steps to get to the end goal."
"I will say that I am both a leader and a follower, taking my stance as it's appropriate in each situation. My leadership skills and skills as a follower both utilize my great abilities as a listener, problem-solver, and innate supporter of others."
"At this point in my career, being just out of high school, I would say that I follow the lead more often than I take the lead. I am a sponge and ready to learn from those more experienced than I. With that said, I can be a leader when the time is right."
"Growing up, I was always the captain of my sports teams, leader of the debate club, and in University - a tutor to struggling students. I naturally take on a leadership role, but I do know when to take a step back and learn from others."
"As a teacher, I will most certainly be a leader. I need to take the lead in the classroom and show my authority in ways that are kind yet express to my students that I am the alpha. With that said, I can be a follower in situations involving my personal life. For instance, I volunteer in my spare time which requires me to take direction from others."
"It depends on the situation. I am good at listening and following directions, but I am also great with people and working as a team to solve problems. I would say I have qualities of both, and I know I would rise to the occasion if given a leadership opportunity."
"In my current school, I am the president of the social committee. I love that I have the opportunity to encourage student engagement while being a positive influence on the culture at my university. I am a natural leader because I start with leading by example. As a leader, I make myself available to others who need mentor-ship, a bit of assistance in adjusting to university life, or just a listening ear when they've had a tough day. I am confident in my leadership abilities when it comes to my career as an optometrist."
"I see myself as a leader. Not only have I managed a team of learning leaders in two prior roles, but also I believe that leadership does not always equate to management. I am sure to lead at all times by providing the best model of enthusiasm and work ethic. I am open to new ideas and love to tackle a new project which, to me, embodies leadership."
"I consider myself a leader because I am someone who likes to help others. While I understand the importance of listening to others during the job, I am a strong person who wants the best product to come out possible and assuming the role of a leader in the audio engineering department will help that happen."