You’re interviewing for a leadership role, and you know that the question “what’s your management style?” is coming.
Beyond this one very specific window of opportunity, though, you’re wondering how else to position yourself as the style of leader you are, be it democratic or consultative, in the interview.
You’ll have plenty of chances to, you’re sure. You just need to know where to look for them (or how to create them).
Of course, you can always just come out and say directly what kind of leader you are. Seeding evidence of it throughout the interview, though, will only make your case that much stronger.
To that end, we polled experts about better ways to demonstrate five popular management styles during an interview.
Demonstrating a transformational management style in an interview
To effectively position yourself as a transformational leader, Deni Ivanov, Digital Marketing Director at Royal Cleaning, recommends using the STAR method to “provide structure and more credence to your explanation of your management style.”
“First, define transformational leadership,” he said. “Then, apply the STAR method in your response by outlining the situations (S), or the context of your story; the tasks (T) you performed to demonstrate your leadership responsibility; the specific actions (A) you performed as a transformational leader; and the results (R) you achieved through your leadership.”
To tie it all together, Ivanov used the following example:
“I consider myself a transformational leader since I am the type of leader who prefers to motivate instead of merely commanding my team what to do. In my previous work as a Business Development Lead, I shared my vision of expanding our client reach through digital channels. I allowed my team to share and experiment with their ideas.
Through our combined efforts, we eventually launched a mobile booking app for the services we offer successfully. I also created and implemented a rewards program with the team to improve aspects of our project and exceeded our initial app booking projections by 150% in our first year.”
Demonstrating a democratic management style in an interview
The key to demonstrating democratic, also known as participative, management styles in interviews is to take small opportunities to highlight the value and contributions of those who’ve reported to you.
You can also speak a little more generally about the value of a lateral leadership style, according to Isla Sibanda, a cybersecurity entrepreneur.
“To demonstrate your democratic side in an interview, you have to highlight the value of the ideas that your employees have,” Sibanda said. “Discuss extensively how you think that team members should have an equal and strong voice when it comes to forming critical decisions and how this encouragement can produce better outputs for projects.
Conduct research into the benefits of providing your team members with internal motivation and giving special importance to their opinions, and prove your support for this management style with data.”
Additionally, Eva Chung, SEO Specialist at Advantis Global, says that when she interviews people with a democratic management style, what she’s really looking for is “someone who shows flexibility in almost every situation.”
“Uncovering creative solutions by connecting people in innovative ways demonstrates adaptability, knowledge of the business, and collaborative working styles,” she said.
“Indicating that you cannot always be a democratic leader but will use authoritative attributes when necessary to push the team in the right direction would also demonstrate that you are a strong advocate for your team’s overall success.”
Demonstrating a consultative management style in an interview
Arthur Worsley, Founder of The Art of Living, defined consultative management as “a style of interacting with colleagues and clients where you work collaboratively and listen carefully to understand their needs, then give advice and guidance on the correct course of action.”
To highlight it in an interview, they advise the following:
1. Emphasize teamwork.
“Don’t be afraid to talk about times when you worked with a team or advised someone else on a project and they were successful as a result,” Worsley said.
2. Ask good questions.
“Asking good questions shows that you are interested in understanding the context behind the problem,” he said.
“Make sure you ask intelligent follow-up questions based on the answers you receive. Your questions should also show how well you understand the company’s business model.”
You could also highlight your approach to team building, including the way you balance a relationship-building mindset with the need to give feedback, Kyle Risley, CEO of Lift Vault, advised.
“Consultative managers should really talk about how they excel at conflict resolution and how they’ve helped employees grow and develop,” he said.
“Specifically, highlighting your great team-building exercises and the secret to connecting to hard-to reach employees should be priorities in your interview.”
Demonstrating a collaborative management style in an interview
Collaborative managers, Risley said, have some of the same benefits as consultative managers, except they “tend to work more closely with employees, offering their insights and expertise as they work with team members.”
They’re very much “lead-from-the-front style managers,” he added.
To demonstrate a collaborative management style in an interview, it’s all about highlighting your willingness to roll up your sleeves and work alongside your team.
“Show how you brought a team together with your participation in an event,” he said.
“For example, call center managers can talk about how they took the phones during high-volume situations and worked with team members to de-escalate clients. They can also talk about how they use their own labor as a motivation tactic and really bring attention to their own view of management.”
As Hector Gutierrez, CEO of JOI, put it, it’s about emphasizing the work you’ve done more so than the work you’ve overseen.
“If you are a collaborative leader, give examples of team projects you’ve managed in the past,” Gutierrez said.
“Since the collaborative style is a hands-on approach, capitalize on your experience doing the work rather than simply overseeing it. Take your knowledge of the company culture you’re applying to join and explain how you plan to collaborate with the team to execute the company’s vision.”
Demonstrating a laissez-faire management style in an interview
If your leadership style is “to hire brilliant people and stay out of their way — own it!” Mary Fox, CEO of Marlow, said.
“In an interview, you can demonstrate this by providing your process for hiring excellent team members, communicating the vision and goals, ensuring they have what they need to succeed, and then letting them take front and center,” she said.
“When your team members are highly capable and motivated, letting them do what they do best will free you up for other responsibilities.
Be prepared to communicate how you set direction, how you keep communication channels open, and how you spot problems before they spiral and take swift actions to mitigate these problems.”
Particularly for companies with fully remote or hybrid teams, this style of management may be all the better to emphasize, Josh Wright, CEO of CellPhoneDeal, said.
“This management style is excellent in my opinion, especially when it comes to remote work,” he said.
“It creates employees who are not overly dependent on a manager to get jobs done or solve problems, meaning that the workplace can continue to be efficient even when the manager isn’t always around to provide help or advice.
So, demonstrate the importance of letting employees try to figure something out for themselves before going ahead and trying to guide them or tell them what to do.”
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