You have spent a fair amount of time developing your chops, getting comfortable moving around the fretboard, honing your ear for exciting and explosive lead lines. Now, you are a lead guitarist and you want to let loose. When the spotlight is on and it’s time to solo, have at it. Show ‘em what you got, play that funky music.
When you are accompanying a singer or another instrumentalist, use those fretboard skills and that well-honed ear to be a ‘follow guitarist’. Let the other person lead the way. A lot of times it will be useful to think about what you are playing not even as following but as tailing. You want to be as unobtrusive as possible. The listener will know that the whole is a little fuller, a little more complete, but they may not know why.
Just like the snap of a twig or the rustle of a branch lets you know there is something else around, power and drama reside in the unseen and the unobtrusive. They enhance the scene, add suspense, color and context. It makes it all a little richer. When you finally pop out of the bushes, so to speak, just as the song reaches its most dramatic point or when the guitar has to lead the song forward the contrast between the subtle and the obvious makes both more effective.