There are many jobs where leadership skills are a part of the job description. Business managers, plant supervisors, sales reps, project managers, and healthcare departmental supervisors are just a few. But, it can be an interview for any type of job where you may be asked to describe your leadership style in 3 words.
But, why would an interviewer ask about leadership style when you are looking to be hired for a non-supervisory position? The answer is easy! Employers often ask about any leadership skills you may have gained from past jobs because there will be room to move up within the company.
The first step into leadership for a factory worker may be the promotion to line supervisor. In an engineering or construction firm, a tradesman might become construction project leader. In retail, a salesperson can become shift supervisor, while restaurants (especially fast food establishments) regularly pull their managerial staff from the ranks. In business, even without a degree, office managers are often promoted from employees who have been with the company for some time and know the ins and outs of how the office is run.
Why are candidates asked to describe leadership style?
Of course, if the job title you are interviewing for is one that involves supervising people or managing clients or customers, then your leadership style is an important interview question. In addition to judging how well you answer this question, the company may also want to know if your leadership style fits within their culture and their way of motivating and overseeing their employees.
Sometimes you may be in an interview for a non-leadership type role, but the company knows they are looking to develop leaders in this department. So, in addition to hiring the best candidate to do the job at hand, they also want to hire someone who may eventually move up into a supervisory position.
If you’re asked to describe your leadership style in three words without having ever been in a lead role, then pull your answer from times when you may have done the following:
- Jobs where you have been asked to train new or existing employees
- Any time you have encouraged team members with good results
- Positions in which you had to make sure others followed company policies
- Challenges that you have solved and shared for the benefit of the company
As you see from these examples, you can find times when you performed in a lead role.
There would be different answers to this question. Some may choose to answer “lead by example”, some may answer “visionary, collaborative, authentic”. For me, if asked, I would describe my leadership style as: communicator, executor, and motivator.
- I communicate
- I motivate
- I execute
A leader should be a good communicator.
One of the best ways that managers get results is from good, two-way communications with subordinates and higher-level executives. If asked, what is your leadership style?” (interview answer) then you should highlight the times when you were able to effectively communicate corporate goals to your employees – and get results.
Everyone can communicate, but not everyone is an effective communicator. An effective communicator conveys their message clearly and is receptive to the input of others. So, communication is a two-way proposition.
The role of most leadership type jobs is to get things done with the manpower and assets provided by corporate. The best way to motivate people to be productive is to be a strong communicator that speaks in a direct and clear manner that is easily understood. Being a good communicator is not just a leadership style, but it is a leadership skill.
When explaining your leadership style in terms of being a good communicator, pull from times in your career where you have aligned business expectations with your team’s goals. Also, include times when you’ve inspired your employees to act, to be more productive, or to be more committed to corporate vision. Close by stating what results you saw or how the company benefitted.
Motivating leaders benefit the company.
A valuable leadership style is the style of manager that motivates employees for the benefit of the company. But, team leaders must be motivated to see that their workers have what they need to do their best job! Most workers may believe that coming to work for eight hours every day and performing their basic duties is enough. But, engaged workers are motivated workers that benefit the company.
One way to explain in an interview how your leadership style got more results is to describe how you motivated your team. Pull from these 5 examples of how leadership can motivate workers, and apply them to your personal experience:
- Explain a time when you recognized someone’s good work and let them know how much they were appreciated
- Describe how you may have created a work culture where management and workers were engaged and enthusiastic.
- Was there a critical time at your workplace where you motivated your team to go above and beyond to complete a job?
- Share a work experience where you encouraged feedback (which motivates people), and it paid off for the company.
- If you’ve ever motivated workers to take a team-minded attitude, instead of a self-minded way of working – share that!
These different examples can help to answer the question, what is your leadership style?” (interview answer). Other words that are similar and describe how you motivate and move employees include – passion, excitement, enthusiasm, and drive.
A leader should be able to ‘execute’
The definition of execute is: to carry out a plan or put into effect a course of action. And this is what management is expected to do. Be careful that you don’t over-emphasize being a resulted-oriented leader over being a relationship-building leader. There must be a balance and consideration for a person’s work/life quality along with your departmental/corporate goals.
Results-oriented management is definitely a leadership style. To describe yourself as a supervisor who can execute well, consider the 5 following situations that could apply:
- A time when you increase the efficiency of job processes
- Times when you met deadlines and stayed within budget
- Anytime you stayed on course despite challenges like economic downturns
- A time when, despite staffing shortages, your team was able to get things done
- Anytime you have come up with a plan, followed through, and succeeded
The thing about saying you describe yourself as a results-orientated leader is that this answer is straightforward and to the benefit of the company. After all, companies are in business to succeed, and it takes success-minded workers to get there. Results-orientated managers not only plan well, but they implement them well too.
To describe how you got results, avoid looking like a manager that drives their employees hard. Instead, use words like delegate, assign, and allocate. Describe how you got results by communicating well and motivating your workforce.
What not to say when asked about your leadership style during an interview
When asked “what is your leadership style?” (interview answer)”, there are some things you should not say. Even if the job is not a supervisory role, you should be ready to answer this question. But, avoid super long stories and unnecessary embellishments. Even before the interview, you should have thought about those times when you were in a leadership role, either by job title or by job tasks.
Also, avoid looking like your leadership style is self-serving. Some managers do push employees simply to make themselves look better by filling more quotas, closing more deals, selling more thingamajigs, or making more widgets. Always be mindful of company goals instead of personal goals when interviewing.
Likewise, you want to strike the right balance between a supervisor that is hands-off and one that is a micromanager. Either of these two extremes are not the best leadership styles. A hands-off leader can seem lazy or unmotivated, while a micromanager tends to create a stressful work environment.
And finally, a supervisor that is inflexible is one that says, “it’s my way, or the highway”. Show that even though you have your own leadership style, you are certainly flexible and willing to approach a different situation differently. Any leader who is not willing to take feedback or consider change, is a leader that is self-serving.
So there are many ways to answer the question, describe your leadership style in 3 words. But, if you can relate how you have communicated well, motivated workers, and executed to the benefit of the company, then you are showing how you perform one-on-one, within a team, and with a company.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is there a right or wrong way to describe your leadership style in three words?
A: Obviously, there is no right or wrong way to describe your leadership style in three words. It’s important to choose words that accurately reflect your style and strengths.
Q: How can you use LinkedIn to showcase your leadership style?
A: You can use LinkedIn to showcase your leadership style by highlighting your past experiences, sharing articles and resources related to leadership, and connecting with other leaders in your industry.
Q: What qualities make a good leader?
A: Besides being a good communicator, executor and motivator, a good leader should have a tremendous passion for the work, delegate tasks effectively, and demonstrate strength in collaboration.
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