Truly effective leaders should be able to describe how they will behave as leaders. Why? Team members like to know what to expect. A good interviewer will come prepared with his/her understanding of what the current team needs to perform and what kind of leader can effectively usher them there.
Your leadership style, as communicated in an interview, should acknowledge the flexibility and adaptability required of all leaders, but also come clean with your own tried-and-true style. As Karen Hood, HR Director of Virgin Atlantic says, “I’m looking for what their preferred or natural style is. What’s the style that you tend to feel comfortable with and you tend to use most of the time, under most circumstances?”
Sometimes people mistakenly answer this question as if the interviewers themselves had asked: Will I like you? In this case, we advise you stay authentic to yourself, trust your experiences and celebrate your unique leadership style. If the HR Manager thinks they need a hard-nosed authoritarian and you are more emotionally driven, the fit might not be there – for either side.
The best answers will be concise (3 words that describe your leadership style) and illustrative (that time you made a tough decision, that time you had to get your team on board with X). Here are some examples:
Avoid These Answers When Describing Your Leadership Style :
I guess I’m just a natural leader (AKA I don’t know)
If you don’t know your leadership style, you have work to do. There are a number of insightful tools(Myers-Briggs, DiSC, StrengthsFinder) and even career coaching programs (we have one you canread about here) that can help you make sense of what leadership means to you. In essence, it’s all about knowing who you are, how you relate to people and what influence you can bring. It’s also about demonstrating resiliency, empathy and other emotionally intelligent behaviours – all great indicators of high-performing managers/leaders (and a happy team).
A long and winding rant about that person who really frustrates you
While concrete examples are good, re-hashing an interpersonal battle is not a great sign that you’re able to manage difficult situations or stressors, especially if the emphasis is on you. Even if the outcome is a positive one, you’ll likely get flagged for drama. As WSJ writes in their Guide to Management: “Leadership is less about your needs, and more about the needs of the people and the organization you are leading.”
Examples of #StandApart Answers on Leadership Style:
The Talent Spotter
“I treat my staff as adults and I trust them to make good decisions. I try to provide people with as much information as possible about what’s happening in the business. This empowers them to shine (and sometimes reveal weaknesses) under both guidance and context by giving them a wide latitude for decision making. My goal is that between the time a person starts working with me and when they finish, I want them to feel their career has progressed.”
– Ashleah Wilson, VP Marketing, Chimp
The Culture Shaper
“I travel the ROAD – Responsibility, Ownership, Accountability and Dependability. It’s something I came up with early in my career and I have let it guide me through thick and thin. When I introduce ROAD to my team, I say ‘I’ve got these cheesy acronyms, but they mean something to me and I hope they’ll mean something to you.’ Whether they see it through the same lens or need to adapt the idea to their own style, the ROAD acts as a common guiding principle to help us deliver as a team.”
–Shafiq Jamal, Senior Vice President & Managing Director, Weber Shandwick
That Time You Had to Fire Someone
“I don’t mind people making mistakes, but I want them to learn from their mistakes, and, what I won’t tolerate are people who put their own ego or their desire for self-aggrandizement ahead of the team. When I see evidence of people who are not acting on the basis of ‘how are we getting our mission accomplished,’ then I’ll give them a couple of warnings, and if it’s chronic, they won’t be part of my organization.”
– President Obama, impactinterview.com
One more thing: your leadership style is not static. Effective leaders know they must continually reinvent themselves – for each company, role, staff member and even corporate milestone. If you can demonstrate an evolving leadership style that has progressed teams and contributed to the bottom-line of a company – you’re gold.