By Joe Stein
This question will obviously be asked more in a position of supervision or management. The idea of what is someone’s style has grown more important in the last 20 years as people begin to make the connection between a certain style and the productivity of a group. These questions and those related to it should be the primary focus of any managerial related interview.
Let’s examine the question, “How Would You Describe Your Leadership Style?” and determine what you should consider doing or avoiding when presented with this inquiry.
Why Is It Asked?
· Understanding Your Style – A goal for the Interviewer is to gain a sense for your leadership style during the course of the conversation. The Cover Letter/Resume and Phone Screening provided a knowledge check for the company and the in-person Interview will allow the Hiring Manager to gain a better sense of your style with others.
· Determine Fit For Team – Each team has different personalities and needs. The group may also tend to react well to a different style. Or, perhaps the team is not performing and the organization desires to hire someone who has a different personality than their previous leader. Whatever the situation, the Hiring Manager probably has an idea of what type of leader would be best for the group he or she will lead.
· Determine For Culture – An Interviewer in the discussion would like to ensure that you would fit well with the culture of the organization and the preferred leadership style.
How Should It Be Answered?
· Be Compelling – During the course of the interviews, the Hiring Manager will hear numerous examples of activity by the Job Seekers in a supervisory role. Standout to the Interviewer by painting a picture where obstacles and challenges were presented and you were able to lead your team to success. Describe specifically how the team responded to your leadership efforts.
· Share Your Development Successes – Beyond just conveying your successful projects or assignments, share how you have developed others. Express the satisfaction you receive when others are successful using your guidance.
· Describe Yourself – We all know that it is often difficult to talk about ourselves so personally. An individual must be very self-aware in order to do this well. Convey to the Interviewer who you are as a person and what you believe in. Try to gain a personal connection with the Interviewer where they will identify themselves with you.
· Determine Needs of Organization – I don’t suggest trying to convey that you are someone different than who you really are. There is usually, however, a type of style or personality that the organization would like to hire for a leadership position. Do your research regarding the culture of the organization and ask preliminary questions regarding the team you would be inheriting. This will help you shape your answers in a way that will convey your style positively to the Interviewer.
What Not To Do:
· Be Inflexible – If you are a “one trick pony” and have only one way to work with others, then you will most likely limit yourself in your job search. The concept of situational leadership is that different individuals need different levels and styles of leadership based on where they are in their career and the type of assignment presented. You will want to convey that you have the ability to quickly assess the needs of every individual on your team and, while being fair, you will customize an approach towards each person.
· Be Unaware of Reputation – It would be in your best interest to have one of your former direct reports as a reference. A savvy Job Seeker will be aware of how his or her former team feels and will have a reference already ready to be shared.
· Don’t Come Across Too Soft – It is very tempting to only share the soft side of your leadership. A prospective employer would like to see that you are a well-rounded leader. You will most likely be asked how you overcame a difficult associate or what was the toughest decision you ever had to make. Anticipate the questions and be prepared to directly express the tough decisions you have made, how they were made for the good of the organization, and that they worked out well.
The “How Would You Describe Your Leadership Style?” question is very important, especially for a person who will have direct reports. The question is, however, relevant for many others who lead project teams or just work closely with others. Ace this question and it just may give you the edge you need against your competition.
As always, best of luck in your job search.