Explain The Formative Experiences That Shaped Your Leadership Style | JobSearchTV.com

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To answer this question, you need to understand the different styles of leadership that firms consider. Here , I offer those styles and make suggestions to you. 

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This is 1 of those tough interview questions that falls into the behavioral interview realm. To answer this question, I want you to understand the model that a lot of firms work with when they evaluate where you fit into the spectrum. It falls into the realm of 6 possible options. Let me just walk you through them so you understand as you answer the question; you'll see how things are guiding you.

I am going to start with the old pecking order, starting with the oldest one first which is “the commanding leadership style.” That is the basic “my way or the highway approach.” Often, it is not real successful but you if you're stepping into a situation where a firm is in crisis, this is an ideal approach to take. After all, you need to stabilize the wound and hold it to a baseline and build from there. You are going to do damn well what I tell you to do.

Pacesetting. You set a set a standard for an organization. You roll up your sleeves. So, every time you see a job description that involves a hands on this or that, they're looking for pacesetters.

Then, there's the attributive style. This style looks for harmony first and then outcomes. Certain organizations like this culture. They want to make sure that everyone is on board with a decision before they move forward.

Democratic. The group solves the problem and you take a step back and you almost abdicate you leadership. You pause for a second and seek consensus. Consensus tends not to work all that well, but the idea in this model of leadership is that you try to get everyone on board, even if you have to sacrifice some edges to accomplish it.

Then, there is the coaching style. You help people find their own answers. You're not directing them in any way but you're asking questions that are designed to help you to elicit responses from them that allow them to take action.

Then, there's the authoritative style, which is the visionary for an organization who tries to inspire and won’t tell you how to get there. Statistically, authoritatives and coaches as a leadership style tend to be most effective.

So, as you answer this question, you want to think in terms of what you understand about the position, the organization, its culture and its need at this particular point in order to understand how you tell a story that demonstrates your style of leadership.

For example, if you are trying to create an authoritative culture or want to be the authoritative leader, you talk about creating a vision for an organization, a group, a team, a division and how you did that in the past. You talk about how you took disparate elements and just walked around the organization and create a vision for the firm, for the group, for the division, whichever business unit and, from there, inspired people to be greater than themselves. Coupling this with the coaching model, you start to ask people how they might want to get there, the actions that they might want to take, what are you trying to achieve here because you may set a vision but there are benchmarks along the way for achievement and you're trying to elicit those kind of responses as a coach might. Never directing them but inspiring them so that they exceed their own perceived limits and, from there, work together to achieve the results.

Like I said, there's a place for a commanding individual because some organizations are in crisis. But, assuming that you're stepping into one that isn't in crisis, approaching this from the authoritative style and from the coaching style together would go a long way toward demonstrating excellence in answering this question.


Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a career and leadership coach who worked as a recruiter for what more than 40 years. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1100 episodes, “Job Search Radio,” “and his newest show, “No BS Coaching Advice” and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

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Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

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