For me, it is completely dependent on the circumstances. If the task at hand is one that I’m familiar with, I’d prefer to lead, because I know what needs to be done and how to do it. If it is a task I am not so familiar with, or if I’m working with a group of people who like to schedule lots of meetings to talk about the things that need to be done (instead of actually doing those things), then I suppose I fall in the “follower” category, except I’d prefer to call it the “legwork” category. I am not interested in holding meetings to talk. If something is actually going to be accomplished in a meeting, that is fine, but meetings for their own sake are not my style. I’d rather everyone else sit and chat and get out of the way, while I get the work done.
Admittedly, I’m not very good at being a “collaborator.” I can work fine in a team, but prefer that responsibilities are clearly deliniated, and responsibility is very clearly allocated. When I had group or team projects at school, I frequently chose to work with the kids that I knew would not contribute at all. I got a talking-to by the teachers a couple of times, because I’d do all the work and others would coast based on my efforts. To me, I so dreaded the uncertainty of unclear division of labor and having to wonder whether the others would actually do what they said they’d do, that I would rather pick a group where I had to do all the work myself because at least the division of labor would be certain. That is neither the most effective nor the most mature way to work on a “team,” but I think it serves well to illustrate how important clear deliniation of responsibilities are to me.
I love that at my work, the structure of most assignments is 1 partner/1 associate. While we work together on developing ideas and strategy, the tasks themselves are fairly clearly distributed. I don’t think the leader/follower/collaborator paradigm works well to describe the dynamic. I suppose technically the partner is the “leader” and the associate the “follower,” but associates are encouraged to speak up, share their thoughts, and challenge things they find problematic, so it’s not a true leader/follower dynamic. It’s also not quite a “collaborator” paradigm, because each person has specific tasks that they complete independently. The structure of this working format fits my personality well. I love that I know what my tasks are and what is expected of me. I especially love that, at times when I have uncertainty about the parameters of what I’m supposed to be doing, I work with people who are completely open to me being frank and saying “I need more guidance, I’m not sure what you are asking me to do.”