Candidates that apply for managerial roles can expect this type of interview question. It’s a great question to find out more about someone’s ability to lead and how comfortable he or she is doing it. You don’t necessarily need to have managed or supervised colleagues in a previous job to answer this question.
“Well, I believe that my default leadership style, if I have one, leans towards a coaching leadership style. I enjoy the ‘Consider this’ approach and unlock talents’ potential. However, I believe that different situations require a different management style. Do you mind me giving an example?
During my most recent employment, I was able to adopt a laissez-faire leadership style. I had an outstanding group of skilled and self-motivated colleagues that I could trust. I surely did monitor team performance and occasionally provide feedback, but I knew that micro-management or a democratic approach would only lower their productivity and happiness.
When I was a [Job title] at [Company XYZ] however, there was little margin for error which required me to opt for a more authoritative leadership style. I had to limit input from stakeholders and clearly define rules and processes to keep my team out of harm’s way. I was considered bossy and cold in some situations, but overall I was able to breed goodwill.”
Interview Question Tips
- Don’t say, “I’ve never led people in the past“, “I don’t know my leadership style” or “I’m not a born leader“. There are many leadership styles of which some you surely can use in your answer.
- Don’t say you have an authoritarian, autocratic or military leadership style without explainable reasons. Candidates that mention only this leadership style will lead interviewers to doubt.
- Don’t limit your answer to only a participative leadership style. Although this management style has many advantages, it inhibits swift-decision making and increases the likelihood of conflict.
- Do share a real-life situation or story that helps the interviewer identify your leadership style. Ask beforehand: “Do you want me to provide an actual example of a moment I’ve done this?”
- Do remember that leadership is not a one-size-fits-all skill. You can explain your default leadership style and how you apply different leadership strategies as the situation demands.