If they’re asking you this question in an interview, it means they care about your leadership ability and are likely using it as a factor in deciding who to hire.
This doesn’t have to be direct leadership. You don’t need to have managed or supervised people in a past job.
And you might even hear this question for a position that isn’t going to require any direct leadership.
But maybe in a few years they plan on promoting you. Maybe they want someone who can lead by example and mentor newer people in a year, etc.
For whatever reason… the interviewer wants to know how you lead and more importantly- how comfortable you are doing it (that’s the real reason they’re asking here!)
So you need to show them you’re confident when leading and that you’ve done it before!
Let’s get into some do’s and don’ts now, so you can give a great answer.
1. Don’t say you’ve never led anyone
Pick your most impressive leadership experiences as you think back and try to come up with an answer for this. It might be on a sports team, in a class project, or previous jobs.
But whatever you do, don’t answer this interview question by saying, “I’m not really a leader”, or “I’m not sure, I’ve never really led people in the past”.
2. Sound like you have a method or system that works for you
There’s no single “right” or “wrong” answer to this interview question… but the hiring manager wants to know you have a system that works for YOU. When they ask, “what’s your leadership style”, they want to hear that you’ve figured out something that consistently works when you’re put in a position to lead.
And you need to sound somewhat reasonable and easy to get along with. Sound likable. Don’t make yourself sound like a dictator or somebody who leads by bossing everyone around. It’s ineffective and definitely won’t get you hired.
3. Share specific examples if possible
After you answer the basic question and describe your general style of leadership, I recommend you ask the hiring manager if they want you to go into more detail.
You can say, “do you want me to give an example of a time I’ve done this?”
They’ll probably say “yes”, and if they do, you can tell them a specific story.
(It’s always best to ask though, rather than diving into a super long answer when they might be looking for a quick response. This is a strategy I recommend a lot in my Job Interview Answer Guide, because it prevents you from annoying the interviewer or giving answers that are too long).
If they do want a story, talk about how you used your leadership ability to make a past project a success. What was the final result? Did you help your company make money or save money? Did you win an award in school? etc. Talk about real, measurable results.
Options & Examples for How to Describe Your Leadership Style
Now that you know the 3 steps to answer, “what is your leadership style,” I’m going to give you a few word-for-word examples and phrases you can use to describe your style of leading.
These will all make you sound great to an interviewer.
Remember what I mentioned above though – you’re going to need to share stories and examples when they ask this interview question. So don’t lie. Pick something that really fits you!
Common leadership styles:
- Lead by example: “I like to lead by example. I lead from the front by taking action, demonstrating what needs to be done, and keeping my team organized to make sure we’re all on the same page and contributing equally.”
- Lead by facilitating communication: “Communication is one of my greatest strengths. I lead by facilitating open communication, and trying to bring out the best in every team member”.
- Lead by delegating and making others better: “I’m great at delegating and finding the strengths of other team members. I try to give each person a chance to do what they’re best at and create a team effort that delivers a result that’s greater than the sum of its parts”
If you’re having trouble coming up with your leadership style, here’s a trick:
Ask people who know you! Ask your parents, friends, other family, classmates, etc. People you’ve been on sports teams with, on class projects with, or worked with.
Ask them how they’d describe your leadership, and try to notice a few themes that multiple people repeat. That’s what you can take and use.
If you follow the steps above, you should be able to give a great answer when they ask about your leadership style or leadership experiences in any interview.
Be ready to get specific, and don’t give vague responses like “I’m a hard worker, so it’s always a success when I lead a project”. That’s meaningless. That tells them absolutely nothing.
They want real details, results, and specific facts.
They want to really see if you’ve developed a style that works for you, and they want to see that you can describe it clearly. So practice your answer at home before going into the interview.