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Career Development Tips

What Is Your Leadership Style?

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

Last Updated Jun 29, 2021

Guide Overview

What does leadership style mean?Common leadership styles to motivate employeesHow to answer the question ‘What is your leadership style? in an interviewHow to choose the right leadership style

Guide Overview

Understanding the different types of leadership styles

Anyone applying for a managerial position will get the question "What is your leadership style?" from an employer. Knowing the answer to this question in advance will help you answer it confidently at the actual interview. We will highlight the common leadership styles and the appropriate reply when your interviewer asks you this question.

What does leadership style mean?

Your leadership style refers to the method you adopt to guide, monitor, and motivate your team. Some leaders use more than one leadership style. You should know how to use various leadership styles to suit your goals at a certain time.

Common leadership styles to motivate employees

Here are some popular leadership styles managers use to motivate their employees:

Autocratic leadership style

Having an autocratic leadership style means that you make decisions with little or no input from your team members. An autocratic leader acts solely on their own ideas and never listens to the opinions of their team members. They also issue orders and expect their members to obey without asking questions. Usually, successful leaders avoid this style of leadership.

That said, there are some situations where this leadership style may be helpful. For example, if all your team members are inexperienced in an area that needs urgent decision-making. In such a case, you can make a decision without asking for their opinion.

Democratic leadership style

A democratic leader never makes significant decisions without seeking the opinions of their co-workers. They also always reveal information to their team members about company decisions that affect them. If you constantly ask every team member, “What do you think?” during team projects, you are probably a democratic leader.

The democratic style of leadership has several benefits. Some of them are:

  • It encourages team members to be creative and invest in personal development. When you are always willing to hear what your co-workers have to say, they will strive to deliver valuable opinions.
  • It fosters cooperation and trust among team members.
  • It helps team members build their confidence.

Laissez-faire leadership style

The laissez-faire style is the extreme opposite of the autocratic style. A laissez-faire leader lets team members do what they want without supervision. Of course, this leadership style provides opportunities for workers to learn and develop their skills. However, laissez-faire leaders risk appearing indifferent about their work.

The only time you should use this leadership style is when you have highly experienced and responsible team members who have a history of excellent performance. Otherwise, avoid the laissez-faire style.

Pacesetter leadership style

The pacesetter leader sets the standard for hard work and excellence, and motivates team members to meet or surpass the benchmark. Employees who work under this type of leader may end up competing to impress their leader. Using this leadership style will only suit you if your team is filled with people who have as much energy as you do.

While the pacesetter style may be effective in pushing members to improve their work, it can promote competition and lead to enmity between members. In addition, members may feel stressed because of the pressure to beat arbitrary standards. If you are a habitual pacesetter, you can organize weekend retreats to help your co-workers relieve stress.

Coaching leadership style

A leader who uses the coaching style invests most of their time in developing employees’ talent. They complete team projects by delegating constituent tasks and providing some direction to their team members. This style of leadership helps workers discover their potential with a bit of help from their leaders.

Authoritative leadership style

Authoritative leaders advise their team members on what to do while giving detailed explanations. They should not be confused with autocratic leaders. Unlike autocratic leaders, the followers of authoritative leaders listen to them because they believe in them and agree with their opinion. In contrast, people who work under autocratic leaders listen because they have no other choice.

When their employees are confused, authoritative leaders remind their co-workers of the company’s vision and nudge them on the right path. Of all the leadership types, the workers under this leader are least likely to make mistakes.

Affiliative leadership style

The easiest way to think of this leadership style is the phrase ‘People come first.’ This leader considers the emotional needs of their team members before making any decisions. They always strive to bring their coworkers together, rather than pulling them apart.

Affiliative leaders avoid favoritism. Instead, they ensure that every member of the team enjoys similar benefits, depending on their experience levels. This leadership style promotes harmony and avoids conflicts among team members.

Procedural leadership style

A procedural leader does things by the book. They prefer to stick to methods that are tested and trusted, rather than trying out new ways. They are detail-oriented, as they often choose to analyze the problem in a situation before taking action. Creative team members may find it challenging to work under procedural leaders because they are resistant to change.

One merit of the procedural leadership style is that it helps employees cultivate discipline by sticking to rules. However, working under this kind of leader may feel monotonous. If you think you are a procedural leader, practice using different methods to execute tasks for a change.

How to answer the question ‘What is your leadership style? in an interview

Now that you know what leadership styles you use, let’s discuss the appropriate answers to give when your prospective employer asks you to describe your leadership style.

Here are a few tips that will help you give a suitable reply to the question:

Don’t say you have never been a leader

Even if you have never been a traditional leader, you must have managed a project at least once in your career. If you’ve ever led a class project or a group task at your previous job, then you were a leader. Think about how you managed the situation and use that to discuss your leadership style.

Whatever you do, don’t say that you have never led or managed people. State that there is a method that works for you. When employers ask you about your leadership style, what they really want to know is whether you are observant. So, determine your leadership style(s) beforehand and share the style as a method that always works for you.

Give examples

After describing your leadership style, you should be able to provide real-life examples where you actively led a group and produced results. However, you may skip this step if the employer is looking for a quick answer. If your employer prefers a long answer, remember to describe the results of the project. Did you help your company increase profit? Did your lecturer award your team an excellent grade because of the project? Make sure your results are measurable.

Sample answers for leadership style questions

Here are some sample answers for questions about leadership styles:

Example: I would describe my leadership style as affiliative. I always consider how a decision will affect my team members before taking them. Since we have to work together, I want to ensure that we have a good working relationship. In my previous role, I was in charge of scheduling shifts. I noted that a few of our employees were single mothers, so I made sure they only had night shifts.

Example: I believe that my leadership style is procedural. As nurses, our job deals with saving lives. So, I often recommend that my team members avoid using new methods that may not bode well for patients. It’s best to use only methods that are guaranteed to work when the situation involves a patient’s life.

How to choose the right leadership style

If you have several leadership styles, selecting the most appropriate leadership style will depend on the situation. Using the most appropriate style of leadership will make it easier to manage teams. Here, we address the type of employees that are most suitable for each leadership style.

Autocratic leadership style

This leadership style works best for:

  • Small and medium businesses with few employees
  • Interns

Democratic style

The democratic leadership style is most suitable for:

  • Situations where you have less expertise than some of your team members
  • Projects that need multiple perspectives like advertising

Laissez-faire style

You can achieve the best results if you use the laissez-faire style with

  • Experienced employees
  • Remote workers

Pacesetter style

The pacesetter leadership style is great for energetic and highly motivated workers.

Coaching Style

This leadership style works best for:

  • New employees
  • Trainees

Authoritative style

This style works well for urgent decisions.

Affiliative style

Use the affiliative leadership style in the following situations:

  • After a significant conflict between team members.
  • When you are the leader of a newly formed team.

Procedural style

This style works best for:

  • Technical industries like production and architecture
  • The military

Figure out the style you best identify with and a few examples where it was successful, and you will get through the “What is your leadership style?” interview question with ease.

Learn more: 25 Interview Questions Everyone Should Be Prepared to Answer

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