Inside: Learn how to describe your leadership style for interviews with this guide from a career coach.
Every time I get off a career coaching call I think “Dang, we need to be talking about THIS more.”
Today’s *THIS* is leadership style and all the different ways you can be a leader. As a career coach for women, the question around how to describe your leadership style comes up a lot.
It comes up because of our preconceived notions around leadership and a bit of impostor syndrome that sneaks in because of societal expectations.
Let’s dive into this with a story.
A Professional Walks into a Practice Interview…
A fabulous coaching client with rich experience, we’ll call her Sandy, struggled during our practice interview when asked about her leadership style. She stumbled a bit and then explained that she thought her answer had to be something authoritarian, traditionally “masculine,” or loud to get across that she is in fact a leader.
That wasn’t her style though. Not even close.
Instead, after Sandy shared some stories about herself as a leader, I found that this woman is the type of leader team members go to with personal and professional concerns. She listens deeply which allows people to bring their full selves to work. She pulls from her experience as a mother to be an empathetic leader who truly values her people and helps them grow.
Can I Describe My Interview Style Like *That* In an Interview?
When I replayed that back to her she was ALL smiles. “Yes, that is me! But is that okay to say in an interview?”
Oh my goodness, yes! 110% yes! For a few reasons.
First, it is authentic to her. Authentic leadership will win the day any day. If you make something up about your leadership style to try to fit in another mode, eventually that will come back to bite you. Unless you are a Meryl Streep level actress, you can’t keep up the show for that long. Just be genuine to who you really are.
Second, different types of leadership work for different teams, industries, and companies. One team might desperately need an enthusiastic cheerleader style leader to get them pumped up. Another team might be itching for an empathetic leader who will listen to them and make them feel like a person instead of a number.
If you hide your leadership style under a bushel, you may miss out on an opportunity to rock your leadership style for a company that needs YOU.
How to Describe Your Leadership Style
Okay, so how ELSE can you describe your leadership style if Sandy’s style isn’t exactly you and power tie authoritarian boss isn’t exactly you either?
I’m so glad you asked!
Researchers say there are seven different types of leadership styles, but I think we can expand on this further. Tap into your natural leadership style, the style you’ve built from your professional experience and parenting experience with these suggestions:
A collaborative leader wants input. They ask questions, seek out different opinions, and make decisions based on consensus. A collaborative leader isn’t a push over though – they can still make the tough decisions when there isn’t a clear answer. They just know they have the information from the team, and ideally their buy in, before they say “yay” or “nay.’
Example from parenthood: Asking your kids what move they want to watch on Friday night and then calmly referring the argument to come to a decision.
Being a direct leader doesn’t mean that you are authoritarian and shaking your fist at people. Instead, it means that you are efficient and want to make sure your team succeeds by providing clear feedback. Companies with direct cultures love a direct leader, and some companies feeling stagnant might need an infusion of this leadership style to give it a kickstart.
Example from parenthood: Telling your kids that if they want to make the soccer team then they need to practice more, plain and simple.
Similar to Sandy’s empathetic leadership style, a People First leader does exactly that. Puts people above all else. If you look a problem and think “Okay, how is this business problem impacting our team?” then this might be how you describe your leadership style. People first leaders can create great company culture that retain employees for the long haul.
Example from parenthood: The family is moving to a different state. Your first move is talking to each kid about how this makes them feel so they feel heard and you can make it easier for them.
Ah, the visionary leader! The idea person! The dreamer! If you can imagine a different future and then effectively communicate that vision to a group so they can execute, then ta-da! You’re a visionary leader.
Example from parenthood: Who needs Pinterest! You have the craft already in your brain. Let’s go!
Every friend group has the one person who sets the pace when you’re walking. Perhaps they have long strides and can’t help it (guilty as charged) or they just have an energy that others want to match. If you are good at setting the pace for your team on projects, then you could describe your leadership style as pace-setting. Then be prepared to share some stories about how you do that!
Example from parenthood: Okay family, it’s cleaning day in this house. Follow my example, we’re getting stuff done!
Not everyone is a great coaching leader or manager, but maybe you are! Do you lead by asking questions and helping your team come up with their own solutions and embrace their individual skills? Then you, my friend, are a coaching leader!
Example from parenthood: Your child is trying to put together a LEGO creation and is stuck. Instead of showing them how, you ask how they have figured out a tough part in the past.
Show me the numbers! If you like to problem-solve with data and make good decisions based on hard facts, then you might be an analytical leader. Teams with big idea people might need someone exactly like you to lay out the facts.
Example from parenthood: Vacation time and mom has her spreadsheet out! You’re planning out the snacks, the budget, the travel time, more snacks. You have it figured out.
There is More than One Way to Lead
Key takeaway here: There is no ONE way to be a leader and it certainly doesn’t have to be a power tie, my way or the highway style.
You can be a leader in so many different ways and you can and should describe your leadership style in an interview in a way that feels right to you and gives yourself the credit you deserve.
So take your own leadership style and embrace it. Share it. Shout it from the rooftops. Or write it quietly in an email if that’s more you.
Most of all, own it. The world needs leaders just like YOU.
Want to talk more about your style, your job search, and your career? Schedule a free 15-minute career coaching consultation call.