How to Describe Your Leadership Style to Make Interviewers Say Yes

How to Describe Your Leadership Style to Make Interviewers Say Yes

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You’re in an interview and someone asks you to describe your leadership style. It’s a key moment as you know they’re asking about executive fit and leadership for their organization. You need to nail the description to express the right message and accurately capture your personal style.

Here are a few ways to frame your answer properly.

Do Your Homework

You never want to answer a question in an interview for the first time. Do your homework before the interview, anticipate the questions, and practice your answers. If it’s a management position, you know they’ll ask about your leadership skills so let’s be prepared.

Assess the skills needed for the job

Make a list of the top skills that are needed for the position. The job description will help you categorize the necessary skills. Talking to others at the company or in similar jobs can also help.

Think of scenarios when you’ve applied those skills

It’s not enough to use the right buzzwords. You need to have real-life examples to demonstrate how you used the skills they’re looking for during your career. Develop a couple of scenarios where you demonstrated leadership to successfully accomplish a task. Finish by explaining how you would use the same skill in the new position.

Answer Using the STAR Method

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result and can help you remember the things you should include in your answer.

  1. Situation
    Describe a situation you had to deal with that required leadership on your part.
  2. Task
    Explain your role in resolving the situation
  3. Action
    Describe the steps you took and how you specifically addressed the situation
  4. Result
    Talk about the positive outcome

You may also want to mention what you learned during the process and how it helped you in other situations. A key tenet in leadership is the ability to grow and apply lessons you’ve learned.

Here’s an example of how this might work. Let’s say the role you’re discussing requires problem-solving, active listening, and managing performance.

Situation:  One of my team members was struggling to meet deadlines and it put a bigger burden on other employees to pick up the slack.

Task: I sat down to discuss the situation and probed for reasons that were causing the problem. During the meeting, I learned that they had difficulty using the new software platform we’d launched last month.

Action: We got him additional training.

Result: His performance improved measurably. Overall team productive improved as well.

Many times, candidates forget the last step and it’s the most important. In a leadership role, the steps are only worth talking about if the lead to tangible results.

Here’s another example.

Situation:  One of my Account Executives was failing to hit their sales targets.

Task: In our meeting, we reviewed the account list and sales activity. I realized they while they were great at prospecting, they were not taking the time to qualify sales leads. As a result, she was spending too much time chasing unqualified prospects.

Action: Together, we created a checklist for qualifying prospects and she agreed to complete the list before investing additional time into any one prospect.

Result: Within a month, she was hitting her sales targets. She also had more confidence because she was closing more deals, and went on to become one of our top reps.

Handling Odd Questions

Of course, you may also get an oddball question that you wouldn’t think of in advance. If you’re interviewing for a management position at Google, for example, they might ask you to estimate how many piano tuners work in Chicago.

describe leadership styleYou can’t prepare for every question, but you can prepare for how you’d answer it. In these situations, it’s not so much what your answer is but how you get there that’s important. Interviewers will gauge how you react to the question and the steps you take to arrive at the answer.  It may seem silly but in business, you’ll often face questions for which you don’t know the answer and have to use problem-solving skills to come up with the right answer.

Wondering now how many piano tuners do work in the Windy City and how to arrive at the answer? Check out this solution.

Model the role.

Studies show that first impressions are made within the first seven seconds of meeting with someone. This impression may be the lens through which they judge anything else you say or do. You may think that’s unfair, but it’s reality. Researchers at Princeton University did experiments showing that people made snap judgments about people’s appearance, likeability, trustworthiness, competence, and aggressiveness in less than a second.

So, it’s important to start strong.

You do this by modeling the job you want. It has to do with dressing professionally, acting in a manner consistent with the expected behavior, and the way you carry yourself. Speak confidently. Look them in the eye. Have a solid handshake. Don’t slouch. These subtle signals all send a message about your confidence and preparation.

The same research showed that additional exposure to someone rarely changed their first impression.

Common Management Interview Questions

To get you started, here are some of the more common questions you might get. Have a ready answer to demonstrate how you played a leadership role.

  • What is your management philosophy?
  • How do you deal with a problem employee?
  • How do you motivate team members?
  • If you believed your boss was wrong, what would you do?
  • Have you ever made a decision that turned out poorly?

You might be able to answer any of these questions without using the STAR method but resist the temptation just to talk management theory. Almost everybody knows the right words to say in an interview. When you can tie your answer into specific situations and how your leadership led to positive results, it demonstrates your expertise.

Preparing for an upcoming interview? Schedule a free consultation to get matched with a Career Coach!

Paul Dughi
About the Author
Paul Dughi

Paul Dughi has been in executive management positions in the media industry for the past 25 years. At age 55, he earned his MBA in Business Administration while working full-time as President of a multi-station TV group. He is the author of two books on Marketing and Management.

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