If you are applying for a management role or any role where people report in to you it is a fairly safe assumption that you will be asked about your Leadership Style. This can be a tough question to answer, especially if you don’t know a lot about the company culture and the way they like to work. The truth is there is no ‘absolutely right’ way to lead. The best leaders display a core set of leadership skills as well as a high degree of emotional intelligence and are able to adapt their leadership style to suit the needs of the company they work for and the development needs of their team.
Before you can develop an answer to this question you need to understand the 6 main leadership styles and identify which ones align best with your own behaviour. There are many articles written about leadership style and even more people offering leadership coaching but a widely accepted view on leadership styles comes from Daniel Goleman.
In addition to his work on emotional intelligence Goleman also wrote Leadership That Gets Results, a landmark 2000 Harvard Business Review study. Goleman spent 3 years studying more than 3,000 executives to try and understand which leadership styles existed and what effect they had on a business and its profitability. He came up with 6 leadership styles.
The 6 Leadership Styles are:
The Coercive Leader
This is a top down leadership style that demands immediate compliance. Sadly it is the least effective in most situations except during a crisis, such as a company takeover or restructure. During a crisis this style can help guide people into the making the necessary changes to their work style. The downside is that this style offers the least amount of flexibility and discourages initiative so it should only be used occasionally and with extreme caution. During a job interview you should:
* Only mention you used this style temporarily during a company crisis such as a takeover attempt
* You used this approach to deal with a problem employee with whom all else has failed
* You recognised it was needed for a particular situation only
The Pacesetting Leader
Much like the coercive style above the pacesetting style needs to be used carefully and sparingly. The style sounds good at first, with leaders who use it expecting as much from their team as they do from themselves. They can be quite obsessive about doing things better or maybe faster, and they expect that same commitment from her team. While that sounds like it would improve the results of any business the downside is that employees often feel overwhelmed and morale drops. During a job interview you should:
* Only mention you used this approach on occasion with a team that was already motivated and skilled
* Only used this approach on a particular project which needed quick results
* Recognised that at times this approach was necessary to achieve tough targets but that it is not your everyday approach
The Authoritative Leader
The authoritative leader guides his team toward a common vision and focuses on end goals, leaving the means up to each individual. This approach works really well when a team needs a new vision or the circumstances of a situation have changed.The authoritative leader is a visionary, he motivates people by making it clear to them how their work fits into the larger organisational vision. The authoritative leader clearly defines objectives and feedback and gives people the freedom to innovate, experiment, and take calculated risks. During a job interview you should:
* Highlight that you use this leadership style often to ensure the overall vision is clear
* Talk about how you set clear goals but still give individuals the freedom to make decisions and show initiative
* Mention you used this approached at any time the business required a new vision
* Highlight that you use this approach to make sure your staff understand how their work fits into the overall business vision
The Affiliative Leader
This leadership style revolves more around the people than the goals and tasks. The focus is to create a happy and harmonious environment which makes staff loyal and hard working. It creates great communication because happy, harmonious people share ideas and build strong trust. This approach fosters a strong sense of belonging, but should not be used exclusively, because a sole reliance on praise and nurturing can foster mediocre performance and a lack of direction. During a job interview you should:
* Reference this approach when you need to show that you built team harmony, increased morale, improved communication, or repaired broken trust
* Show that you use this style of leadership to communicate a clear vision and build team trust
* Mention this leadership style when you answer questions about team building and motivation
The Coaching Leader
Coaching leaders help employees identify their unique strengths and weaknesses and tie them to their personal and career aspirations. This style is actually used the least because it is quite time consuming but it does have benefits for those who use it. Coaching leaders are very good at delegating tasks. They can give their team interesting and varied tasks even if it means it will take a while to see results. It’s not about speed of completion for these managers. The coaching style works for team members who are willing to take on feedback and make some changes. It doesn’t work very well at all if them members are any, defiant or for whatever reason unwilling to take on feedback and make changes int her behaviour. During a job interview you should:
* Mention this style in relation to the development of staff who report to you.
* Focus on the fact that this style of leadership encourages communication and initiative from staff
* Use this style of leadership to answer questions about how you communicate with your team
The Democratic Leader
This type of leader builds consensus through participation. Democratic leadership spends time getting people’s ideas and buy-in therefore building trust, respect, and commitment. This style of leadership allows team members to have input into important decisions like goals, objectives and the way they should manage their work. The result is that they have more ownership over their work and take more responsibility overall. It is not the best choice in an emergency situation, when time is critical or when teammates are not informed enough to offer sufficient guidance to the leader. During a job interview you should:
* Reference how you used this leadership style to generate fresh ideas for executing your vision
* Use this style to highlight your team building skills
* Remember to show that you cannot always be the democratic leader and than when needed you can apply an authoritarian style to get things moving
The key to answering the leadership style question is to show you can use all these leadership styles as they are required in the workplace. The business environment is continually changing, and good leaders respond with it using the appropriate leadership approach at the right time and in the right measure.