If you’re job searching, the interviewer is likely to ask about your leadership style.
I’m going to walk you through exactly how to give an impressive answer to the interview question: “What is your leadership style?” so you can get hired.
And I’ll cover a few “traps” and mistakes you want to avoid to get the job offer.
Let’s get started…
If they’re asking you this question in an interview, it means they care about your leadership ability and are likely using it as a factor in deciding who to hire.
This doesn’t have to be direct leadership. You don’t need to have managed or supervised people in a past job.
And you might even hear this question for a position that isn’t going to require any direct leadership.
But maybe in a few years, they plan on promoting you. Maybe they want someone who can lead by example and mentor newer people in a year, etc.
For whatever reason… the interviewer wants to know how you lead and more importantly- how comfortable you are doing it (that’s the real reason they’re asking here!)
So you need to show them you’re confident when leading and that you’ve done it before!
Let’s get into some do’s and don’ts now, so you can give a great answer.
Pick your most impressive leadership experiences as you think back and try to come up with an answer for this. It might be on a sports team, in a class project, or in previous jobs.
But whatever you do, don’t answer this interview question by saying, “I’m not really a leader”, or “I’m not sure, I’ve never really led people in the past”.
Find SOMETHING, no matter what. (If you want to get hired, that is).
There’s no single “right” or “wrong” answer to this interview question… but the hiring manager wants to know you have a system that works for YOU. When they ask, “what’s your leadership style”, they want to hear that you’ve figured out something that consistently works when you’re put in a position to lead.
And you need to sound somewhat reasonable and easy to get along with. Sound likable. Don’t make yourself sound like a dictator or somebody who leads by bossing everyone around. It’s ineffective and definitely won’t get you hired.
After you answer the basic question and describe your general style of leadership, I recommend you ask the hiring manager if they want you to go into more detail.
You can say, “do you want me to give an example of a time I’ve done this?”
They’ll probably say “yes”, and if they do, you can tell them a specific story.
(It’s always best to ask though, rather than diving into a super long answer when they might be looking for a quick response. This is a strategy I recommend frequently because it prevents you from annoying the interviewer or giving answers that are too long).
If they do want a story, talk about how you used your leadership ability to make a past project a success. What was the final result? Did you help your company make money or save money? Did you win an award in school? etc. Talk about real, measurable results.
Now that you know the 3 steps to answer, “what is your leadership style,” I’m going to give you a few word-for-word examples and phrases you can use to describe your style of leading.
These will all make you sound great to an interviewer.
Remember what I mentioned above though – you’re going to need to share stories and examples when they ask this interview question. So don’t lie. Pick something that really fits you!
Ask people who know you! Ask your parents, friends, other family, classmates, etc. People you’ve been on sports teams with, on class projects with, or worked with.
Ask them how they’d describe your leadership, and try to notice a few themes that multiple people repeat. That’s what you can take and use.
If you follow the steps above, you should be able to give a great answer when they ask about your leadership style or leadership experiences in any interview.
Be ready to get specific, and don’t give vague responses like “I’m a hard worker, so it’s always a success when I lead a project”. That’s meaningless. That tells them absolutely nothing.
They want real details, results, and specific facts.
They want to really see if you’ve developed a style that works for you, and they want to see that you can describe it clearly. So practice your answer at home before going into the interview.
Before we wrap up, I’m going to leave you with a couple of word-for-word example answers for describing your style of leadership in an interview.
“I would describe my leadership style as direct, and leading by example. I enjoy delegating tasks and taking the lead on projects, but I also like to stay involved and inspire my team by showing that I’m working hands-on to help them, too. For example, in my last job, we had an emergency situation where a client’s website went down. I quickly delegated tasks to my team of 4, but then got on the phone with the client myself to find out more information for my team and give the client temporary steps they could take to make the issue less costly while we came up with a permanent solution. When my team saw me working hard to fix this, it made them realize the importance of the issue and work hard as well.”
“I think my strengths as a leader are effective delegation and communication. So my leadership style takes advantage of those strengths. I always try to delegate tasks to whoever is best-equipped to perform well in the task, and I try to communicate clearly about what needs to be done, and why. This eliminates back-and-forth, mistakes, and the need to re-do tasks. Taking more time to communicate effectively at the beginning of the project, and delegating properly, both end up saving time as a project advances.”
If you follow the advice above and make your answer sound like these examples, you’ll impress the interviewer and quickly move past the interview question!
As a final step, make sure you practice your answer. You want to sound sure of yourself and confident when they ask, “what is your leadership style?” This isn’t a question you want to hesitate on or draw a blank, so use the steps above and practice until you feel ready.
Biron Clark is a former executive recruiter who has worked individually with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions.
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