Job Interview Question & Answer: What Kind of Leader Are You?
Proving Leadership Capabilities in an Interview
When applying for either entry-level jobs or roles leading to more permanent positions, employment seekers may run into questions about leadership styles. Most companies want to see how employees respond to instances in which leadership qualities prove necessary, even in positions unrelated to management. Most employers wish to see how individuals respond to questions about leadership in order to qualify each interviewee from a potential standpoint. Answers should reflect any instance of proven leadership, whether in a previous job or in instances proving adequate substitutes. Proof of leadership may come from school projects, planning personal events, and volunteer experiences.
Styles of Leadership
Though the definitive names may vary, most styles of leadership fall under the following: authoritarian, participative, delegative, transactional, and transformational. Authoritarian leaders keep close control and tell subordinates what to do without much input from others, while participative theory encourages discussion and debate when making final decisions. Delegative remains exactly as expected, with leaders assigning tasks and providing direction and support. Transactional and transformational leadership styles motivate through either punishment and reward or inspiring passion and commitment. In essence, human resource personnel seek an applicant aware of the style or combination of styles befitting the individual. Candidates should expressly think of situations or examples of times in which individual leadership styles proved effective. Use specific examples and remain concise, honest, and open when responding.
Being a Leader Versus a Manager
In the end, most employers look for much more than a person who proves adept at managing a group of people. Leadership encompasses a skillset highly valued by companies, especially in terms of both personal and industry growth. Leadership skills highly sought after may include setting positive examples, representing an employer with dignity, planning and evaluating, understanding the needs of the whole versus the individual, and an innate ability to work within a group. Try to avoid answering questions of leadership open-endedly, such as “I suppose I’m just a natural leader” or by answering with a diatribe against a manager or leader using a style proven ineffective. One may demonstrate to the interviewer uncertainty in the face of the question or reveal grudges against authority and reduce likelihood of working in a managerial role.