When do I follow? When do I lead?

In my previous post on followership, I talked through how it came onto my radar & ideas for being a good follower.

I also discussed how the term is more nuanced than I first gave it credit for. As I dug deeper into the topic, I started honing in on those areas of my life where I was a follower or actually some form of leader & how I felt about each of those relationships.

This post outlines how I used various models to help me understand where on the scale between followership & leadership I was for various aspects of my life.


I used ideas from the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition (this is a nice Dreyfus model summary sheet), Broken Comb people model & a bastardisation of AshWinter’s wheels for modelling & presenting my thoughts about where on a scale I sit between follower & leader.

Having an awareness of where I currently resided on the
followership-leadership continuum helped me understand what is giving me energy, what is taking it away & some ideas of direction of travel for the future.

Followership-leadership continuum focus areas 

I started with high-level areas:



  • Software development (primarily testing) – hands on
  • Software development – coaching, helping others
  • Community building
  • Politicking (definition)

I’d like to reiterate at this point, I’m not Pigeon-holing myself here. I’m putting myself on a continuum between point A (follower) & point B (leader). Points A & B may move & so might my position between those points depending on all manner of variables. This is where I’m at right now.

Ash Winter’s wheel representation

So after some soul searching & taking some critical feedback, the following diagrams show where I determined my current position on the Dreyfus scale visualised as a wheel (with varying degrees within each level):

For my convenience, I’ve only used 3 of levels; Novice,Competent, Proficient. I took this approach as a lesson learned from a previous attempt where I went sub-atomic trying to establish my levels for very granular aspects of my testing experience. It was a grim experience.

In order to map my levels of skill acquisition to the
followership-leadership continuum, I overlayed a couple of onion skins (I decided the position of the overlay after I had placed my markers):

Remember – there’s no cliff edge as you move out from follower to leader. I simply need to spend longer learning about radial gradients in Powerpoint 😊

The results surprised me – My expectations of where I sat on the continuum don’t match up with what I’m seeing in the wheel, albeit a rudimentary overlay. I saw myself as more of a follower in several of those areas.

(by the way, if you’re wondering how I can be follower in personal wellbeing, it’s because I don’t take ownership of it. E.g I let the situation determine how much I exercise when, rather than me taking ownership of when I exercise.)

Brittany Hunter’s Broken Comb Representation

I came across the idea of “Broken CombPeople” way back in 2013. It’s akin to the T-Shaped people idea, only with more verticals 😊

Here’s the same (well, similar) data displayed as a broken comb (excuse my artistic skills):

What’s next?

This has been an interesting first foray into exploring where I reside on the leadership-followership continuum.

I think my next steps may be digging deeper into some of the high-level areas I’ve covered in this post.

I may also start exploring my follower traits for these areas using RobertKelley’s model of followership behaviour:

Rober Kelley’s model for followership behaviour

I’ve also ordered Ira Chaleff’s “The Courageous Follower” which I’ll be writing up my thoughts as I progress through it (more info on courageousfollower.net).

Thanks for reading,