21 Answers to ‘What is Your Leadership Style’ Interview Question

Answering a job interview question regarding your leadership style can give recruiters an insight into your personality and how you fit within the existing leadership team.

Typically, the seven leadership styles are autocratic, authoritative, pacesetting, democratic, coaching, affiliative, and laissez-faire. But often, job seekers may not precisely fit into one category, so it can be beneficial to talk about how you use attributes of multiple styles for good leadership.

5 Tips for Your Answer

Providing well-rounded and thorough sample answers can show the hiring manager that you know your leadership style and can be a strong leader in the workplace.

  • Include positive examples from your past employment, school, volunteer activities, or other situations
  • Be flexible in your answer and how you use a combination of styles to fit the situation
  • Have a method in mind as your primary leading method, but not your only way of leading a team
  • Show how observant you are in finding a compelling style that fits various groups and projects
  • Learn about the various leadership styles so you can prepare the ideal answer for your next interview

5 Mistakes to Avoid

When applying for a management or leadership position, correctly answering common interview questions can bring you forward in the hiring process. You want to avoid these mistakes:

  • Telling recruiters that you have never led a team or managed anyone before
  • Coming across as inflexible or rigid
  • Appearing that you feel superior to anyone below you and will not show respect for the team members
  • Talking negatively about past teams who did not work well under your direction
  • Forgetting to include positive examples of your past leadership role

How to Answer: STAR Interview Response Technique

The STAR method for answering behavioral-based leadership questions gives recruiters the most information possible in a concise and practical response. This technique includes four elements: the situation, the task, the action, and the result.

S: Situation – Here, you will provide a specific example of a situation that will help show your leadership style. Remember to use who, what, when, where, and how elements in your answer for conciseness.

T: Task – You want to include the task you were responsible for or the goal you were working toward. Here, you can highlight any obstacles that came up in the process.

A: Action – This part of the answer will show the interviewer exactly what you did in the situation. You want to include how you overcame any challenges, what steps you took in the process, and how you moved toward the end goal.

R: Result – The result section of your answer is the outcome of the situation. How did you contribute to this result, and did you learn anything different because of this result? You want to include how you specifically helped to provide a positive outcome with concise details.

For the best answers to past work experiences, use the STAR technique when answering behavioral interview questions such as your leadership style. This method provides the best informational response possible to showcase your leadership skills and communication ability.

Best Example Answers for Your Leadership Style

A. Leading by Example

1. Example Answer:
I believe leading by example is the most effective way to produce successful results. For instance, working at one of my previous jobs, I was the project manager and the first one on my team to jump in and tackle the scheduling calendar. Once this step was complete, other team members and I found it easy to stay on track with our assigned tasks.

I made sure to include realistic deadlines for all aspects of our project, and it made it easy to check in with everyone to see where they were during completion. As a result, we not only finished the project on time, but we completed it before the tight deadline.

Key Takeaways: Your leadership experience in this possible answer gives a recruiter insight into how you are a hands-on leader. You take the initiative to do work and expect subordinates to follow your lead and act responsibly with their tasks.

2. Example Answer:
In my last position as a floor manager, I found leading by example is the best way to achieve results. Before my team began the workday, we would sit down and discuss the many necessary jobs for the day. I would be the first one to accept a task, while the other team members would quickly follow suit and volunteer for other open jobs.

When a leader shows the initiative to involve themselves in the tasks, subordinates are more willing to participate and complete their jobs successfully. My team was always ready to accept jobs, and I was there to help them if they had challenges during the day.

Key Takeaways: This example of a time includes details of taking the first step in projects to help your team members succeed, so a hiring manager sees your personality and leadership potential. You do not feel other team members are beneath you, and you are there to help them succeed and get the job done.

3. Example Answer:
When I lead by example, my team is more engaged and receptive to me as a leader. One of the more recent difficult situations in my first job was when the head office made overtime mandatory for all production staff.

Although I was technically office staff and oversaw the production floor, I chose to stay late on the days that my team was working extra hours. Not only did it show solidarity for my team members, but I also kept up to date on my reporting because of the additional production.

Key Takeaways: This answer can show how you include yourself as part of a team, even if you are a leader. Many subordinates will respect their management when they also take responsibility and do their part each day.

4. Example Answer:
My leadership style has always focused on leading by example. One position I remember clearly was an advertising contract with a pet food company. As an animal lover myself, I was excited and interested in maintaining open communication with the client throughout the process.

I would take back what I learned from my weekly client meetings to my team to create the best advertisement possible to generate new sales. Our client was thrilled with how well our team worked together, and we secured a future contract with them for another similar project.

Key Takeaways: Showing passion for your work can be infectious for team members. When you provide an example of a time where you were excited about a project and engaged your team members for success, recruiters can see how you motivate and inspire others.

B. Effective Delegation

1. Example Answer:
I find that my leadership style includes effective delegation with the team members. For example, when I worked at the city office as an office manager, I got to know the staff well enough to make proper choices for tasks.

One example that I remember is when we had to coordinate a yearly budget reconciliation with multiple departments. I chose which staff member would provide the annual departmental report to the management team for our internal audit. I could easily compile all department information within the allotted time by selecting the best person for these jobs, so I had it ready for our auditors.

Key Takeaways: When you use specific examples like this one, you display how effective your type of leadership is when completing a task. It also showcases your intuition on finding the best person for group tasks and delegating work accordingly.

2. Example Answer:
As a leader in my last job, I realized that effective leaders use delegation as a critical tool for time management. For example, when I had to orchestrate a team of different people for our condominium association, I needed to choose the right individuals for each task.

By assigning my neighbor, the banker, as our treasurer, she had the background knowledge for all our financial statements. It took her less time to complete this task than it would for anyone else on the condo board without the training and experience she had. All the board members trusted her judgment when it came to tough decisions on the budget.

Key Takeaways: If you have no previous work experience, you can include real-life examples to show your style of leadership. This response gives recruiters an idea of how you choose and delegate tasks to fit an individual and make it easier for the team to be more effective.

3. Example Answer:
When I worked as a shift supervisor at a local restaurant, I led a team of employees while reporting to the department manager. One time, my manager asked me to have all the tables and chairs cleaned and inspected for any structural problems like loose screws or other issues. Of course, we had to complete this task as soon as possible and without disrupting business in any way.

I had to devise a schedule of doing this quickly and effectively by delegating our busboy to inspect each table and chair as he cleaned dishes off. If there were any problems, he would report them to me to have them repaired or replaced. Another staff member would then sanitize all the tables and chairs that were satisfactory. In the end, we successfully completed this task in only a few short days.

Key Takeaways: This answer details how you came up with a leadership plan, implemented delegation, and took responsibility for the task at hand.

4. Example Answer:
While working as an office manager, I gathered many reports and presented them monthly to the board of directors. I could not have done this effectively if I had not delegated the weekly financial runs to my assistant.

By delegating smaller tasks that make up the larger jobs for completion, I was able to have everything finalized before my monthly presentations every time.

Key Takeaways: This example shows recruiters how you delegate responsibility to other team members as part of the bigger picture.

C. Using More than One Leadership Style

1. Example Answer:
I would say that I do not fit into one leadership style myself. In the past, using elements from several methods has brought me increased success in the workplace. For example, I led a team of designers who were working on a project for an important client.

Many of the team members were senior designers who had years of experience, and I did not have to stand over them to ensure they were doing their tasks. However, two individuals were new to the company, so I had to adapt and provide them with extra support and guidance as we worked through the project. In the end, everyone on the team completed their tasks successfully and on time according to their specifications.

Key Takeaways: Here, you are adaptable to multiple leadership styles necessary for team success. This example enables them to see how your management style is modified when a team consists of individuals who need various levels of support and leadership.

2. Example Answer:
I am hesitant to put myself into one leadership style box since I use many elements of several methods for effective leadership. For example, in my first management role at the plant, I would have to make significant business decisions for the production team each week based on our previous month’s sales.

The responsibility of adjusting production fell solely on my shoulders, but I did consult the floor staff on new ideas of how to help make their tasks easier. Many of their suggestions included changing suppliers and adjusting break times to help increase production, which is still in use today.

Key Takeaways: When you include multiple leadership methods in your answer, the hiring manager can see how adaptable you are to a dynamic environment. It also exemplifies you taking responsibility for your task and considering some elements that team members found relevant to the production.

3. Example Answer:
I find that using more than one leadership style is beneficial in many situations. For example, I remember when I had to use a more authoritative approach to some new employees who were not familiar with company processes or procedures.

Once these individuals became comfortable with their tasks, I switched to a more democratic approach and began to solicit their input on the next steps for our project. I believe this transition of methods helped these team members gain their confidence and trust me as their leader.

Key Takeaways: Using a response where you switch leadership qualities shows a hiring manager how you adapt and are flexible. Being dynamic in a management position can be vital for success.

D. Effective Communicator

1. Example Answer:
In my years of leading teams, I have found that effective communication is the most critical aspect of my leadership style. For example, when I was overseeing a team of agents from multiple district offices, I found that staff often overlooked duties and tasks, or that the tasks were not understood, when instructions had been delivered in a memo or email format.

I made sure to call and check in with each member of the district to ensure they were clear on the instructions and had everything they needed to complete their tasks. This small step ensured that we stayed on track and kept all our head office reporting on time.

Key Takeaways: This answer shows that you are thorough in your communication skills and want to ensure that everyone understands the requirements and tasks assigned to them. You took the extra step to make that personal connection and offered help if they needed it.

2. Example Answer:
My leadership style has always incorporated effective communication so all staff members know the expectations and can come to me at any time. For example, when I was overseeing a large team of executives at my last job, two staff members were clashing on where the responsibility fell for a department that served many areas of the office.

With an impromptu meeting and some constructive feedback, all three of us came up with a respectful and viable solution. This result would serve the department and the entire office when it came to decision-making without further confusion.

Key Takeaways: When you include a situation like this, your use of effective communication and conflict resolution in the workplace is apparent. This scenario brought together opposing team members, and you helped everyone find a viable solution to the problem.

3. Example Answer:
I know that a team will not work well with a leader who does not listen or communicate effectively. Unfortunately, in my last role, I was in a position where the previous team lead never acknowledged his staff’s needs.

Once I resumed the role of team leader, I brought everyone together to ask what they would need to do their jobs successfully. I was surprised that many employees did not have the proper tools and resources available to complete their tasks on time. However, once I implemented some minor changes, my new team was so successful that we got the sales award for the next quarter.

Key Takeaways: This scenario shows a prospective employer that you are an effective listener for your team and want them to access the resources and tools needed for their success.

4. Example Answer:
I believe that effective communication is the best approach to effective team leadership. Previously, I worked as a team leader for an organization with a good manager, but there was not enough communication to reach our weekly goals.

As the team leader, I took the initiative to meet with the department manager and open communication between departments. This move enabled my team to access the necessary resources to be more successful and reach their weekly targets.

Key Takeaways: In this great leadership interview story, you outline how effective communication as a leader brought more success to your team and helped them achieve their goals.

5. Example Answer:
Working as a shift supervisor for a local manufacturing plant gave me several ways to build my communication skills with team members. One situation involved an employee who was consistently late for his shift, and other staff workers began to complain.

I approached the employee with concerns about the tardiness and discovered that there was a valid reason for his continuous lateness. After discussing the available options, we found that adjusting his work hours to accommodate his home and work-life gave him the time he needed each morning to drop his kids off at school and be more productive at work once he arrived.

Key Takeaways: In this example, proper and effective communication helped to resolve a problem. Instead of using disciplinary action, you communicated with the employee to solve both of your situations.

E. Innovative and Creative

1. Example Answer:
As a manager of a boutique downtown last year, we had a drop in sales when a competitor moved in across the street. I quickly rallied all our team members to develop new and creative ways to gain attention from clients and draw customers into the store.

By thinking outside the box, I drew up a list of several great ideas that I gave to the owner of the company. He put me in charge of implementing two of these items, and I successfully increased our monthly sales once again.

Key Takeaways: By including these details in your response, you show that you can think outside the box and find new ways to help a team succeed. Dynamic leadership abilities are beneficial in changing markets.

2. Example Answer:
At my last job position, I was responsible for helping to increase productivity. However, after spending some time with my team members, I found that team morale was low and made small changes to help create a better working environment.

Bringing birthday cakes in for staff celebrations, organizing a staff potluck, and even beginning a social club for off-duty activities soon got the employees excited about coming to work again. These minor changes all had a considerable impact on increasing productivity overall.

Key Takeaways: This situation shows you can find alternative ways to increase productivity and boost morale that may not be conventional. Moreover, you exemplify how workers perform better for their organization without financial bonuses or threats of downsizing.

3. Example Answer:
I like to think I am an innovative leader. For example, I was in a position where I led a team of data entry employees for a financial client. After working there for several weeks, I realized there was a lot of wasted time during several procedural steps.

After compiling a list of alternative methods for procedures, I approached the management team with my findings. They asked me to implement one task with my team and report back with any results. Within six months, I revitalized the department procedures, saving the company time and money.

Key Takeaways: When you include scenarios that depict your leadership and exploring new, innovative ways for cost-effectiveness, recruiters can see you are flexible and creative in the workplace.

F. Aligning Your Leadership Style According to the Company Culture

1. Example Answer:
After exploring your organization’s corporate mission statement, I noticed that my leadership style aligns with how your company operates. In my current job, I make use of a more laid-back approach with my team. At the same time, a position at your organization will give me ample opportunities to explore a more democratic style and get feedback from everyone involved.

Key Takeaways: This well-crafted response shows recruiters that you know the difference between various leadership styles and how you can be a good fit for their organization. In addition, mentioning your research of the company shows initiative and how you are genuinely interested in joining their team.

2. Example Answer:
I have experience with both sides when it comes to leadership in the workplace. At my entry-level job, I had an autocratic team leader who worked effectively for only a small group of individuals.

After talking to an acquaintance who works here, their experience with your company’s democratic leadership team is a positive one that I would enjoy being part of. An energetic and positive work environment helps everyone in the workplace and makes leading a group easier.

Key Takeaways: This scenario describes your past experiences and how you want to grow in your career path. If you have a common acquaintance, be sure to mention how this employee enjoys the organization’s leadership, and that it is one you would like to join.

Conclusion

If you have a big interview coming up, the STAR method is a terrific way to give great examples of past experiences that highlight your various leadership styles. Again, preparation is vital in the interview process. Showing how you can be adaptable and dynamic in the workplace during behavioral interviews can give you an edge over some of the best candidates competing for the same management role.

Author Biography
Keith Miller has over 25 years of experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.

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