Different situations call for different leadership styles. According to Forbes’ George Bradt, “Some leaders are more commercially focused, driving customer impact and revenue growth. Others are better suited to enhancing operational rigor and accountability. Still others build foundations, strengthening capabilities and enablers like people, infrastructure, systems & processes, balance sheets & cash flows, potentially through mergers and acquisitions.” This means to be impactful, you should understand your leadership style, which, in turn, defines your strengths and interests.
What’s more, it’s important to be able to connect this leadership self-assessment with the position you’re aiming to acquire. For instance, Bradt describes the former and incoming AB InBev’s different leadership styles. The outgoing CEO Carlos Brito built AB InBev by merging and acquiring enterprises to become the world’s largest brewing company. Now that he is stepping down, the company doesn’t need another “master builder.” Instead, the incoming CEO Michel Doukeris brings a leadership in “brands, consumers, and innovation” to usher in AB In Bev’s next phase.
This is why it’s important to identify your leadership style and know how to answer the question, “What kind of leader are you?” Here are our tips.
Defining Your Leadership Style
There are several different types of leadership. Here are some of the major types and qualities that typify each style:
A coaching leader encourages their team members to improve themselves by identifying their own strengths and goals.
- Guide rather than manage
- Ask questions
- Encourage team members to self-direct their development
This leadership style involves creating rewards and punishments for team members depending on their performance. Transactional leaders don’t always make major changes in an organization.
- Create goals for employees.
- Increase productivity.
- Develop an unambiguous chain of command.
This type of leader establishes themselves as the most knowledgeable person at the company. At the same time, they may sacrifice engagement with teams for the sake of efficiency.
- Implement plans with few mistakes.
- Reduce decision-making time and emphasize chain of command.
- Offer few opportunities for employee creativity and insight.
Perhaps the opposite of transactional or authoritarian leaders, a laissez-faire leader offers the least amount of oversight of any leadership style. This means that employees can take control of themselves, but if taken to the extreme, can be perceived as uninvolved.
- Encourage self-motivation and self-reliance.
- Minimally monitor performance and offer feedback.
- Create tools for employee self-regulation.
Participative leaders want to engage employees and garner their insights on the decision-making process.
- Create teams of decision makers before reaching consensus.
- Motivate employees to share their ideas.
- Develop strong teams.
Describing Your Leadership Style in an Interview
Once you have identified your leadership style, you need to be able to talk about it in a job interview.
The first step is doing your homework. Different types of leaders are necessary for different stages in a company’s progress. What challenges is the company undergoing? What type of leadership did they have before? What skills are they requesting in the job description?
After you understand what the company is looking for in a leader, the next step is creating STAR stories that prepare you to offer specific examples of your leadership style in action.
STAR stands for:
Situation – what did you do in a scenario?
Task – what did you need to do to improve the situation?
Action – what precisely did you do?
Result – what was the outcome of your action?
Paul Dughi for Ivy Exec shares an example of how to construct a STAR story:
“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 that 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.”
Becoming the Leader You Want or Need to Be
It’s always best to develop a leadership style that feels authentic and engaging to you. Use your interests, personality, and goals to not only identify your style but also to develop yourself as a specific type of leader. However, leaders are always learning and growing. So, if you want to develop yourself as a certain type of leader, remember the two rules of thumb. First, practice makes perfect. Second, “adopt, adapt, repeat.”
At the same time, you may need to adapt your leadership style somewhat to meet your team’s needs.
“Take stock of what feels good and what feels off for your own personality and your business. You may need to adapt your actual efforts to match your team’s needs. For example, perhaps you’ve chosen to apply a more laissez-faire approach, but if you find that your team seems worried or is asking for even more direction from you it may be a sign that they need more preparation before you can dive full into the style.”
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