“Leadership is action not position.” – Donald H McGannon
Whilst effective leadership is defined by a persons actions, the truth is it’s hard to be seen as a leader if your job description or position does not obviously state a a leadership role. If you’re applying for a job that specifies a need for leadership skills, and you don’t have leadership experience, expect that you’ll be asked a question to prove it.
Behavioral Interview Question: Describe a time when you took on an informal leadership role within a group. Why did you take on this role? What did you do?
If you applied for a job outside of your experience, like one that involves a significant leadership/management role, you should already have an answer for this question prepared. Questions testing your leadership are almost a complete guarantee.
The good news here is that if you were invited to the interview, they know that you don’t exactly have this experience. So your job is to show them, based on your job history, a time that you had to take on a leadership role in an unofficial capacity. These include situations such as:
- Taking a leadership role in a team with no leader.
- Leading some type of event.
- Organizing a group of people experiencing unrest that needed guidance.
An example might be becoming the de-facto leader of a team that volunteered for something, or becoming the leader of a work group that was put together to work on a project:
“This is an interesting question because I do not consider taking on a leadership role unless I see a real need for it.
However, I can remember a specific time when I was placed on an exploratory committee for a grant for the development of a telemedicine center. We were all employees from departments across campus, put together to each provide input. With little direction from our superiors, I found myself as the default leader right away. I came to the meeting organized, polled the other employees for their inputs, came up with our calendar, and made sure that each individual knew their role. There was no specific reason for me to take on this role – it was simply what needed to be done.”
This type of experience happens often to natural leaders, but sometimes you have to look back and find when that story occurred. If you have many stories to choose from, find either the most recent or the most relevant for the role.