You can find many different categorizations of management styles online, and in the books. Four types, six types, or even ten of them. Sometimes it is hard to understand what this or that category actually means. Job interview is no school exam, however. Hiring managers do not expect you to say that you prefer paternalistic or collaborative management. They expect to hear how you actually manage people, and in an ideal case they want to hear about some illustration of your style.
At the end of the day, results matter the most for the managers. Long term results over short term, to be more precise. Regardless of whether you prefer to lead the team by an iron fist, or let your people do whatever they want (or anything in between), as long as it works for you, and you achieve the goals you set, and people do not leave the company under your leadership, you are good to go.
Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to this interesting interview question. My selection includes some typical answers, but also a few unorthodox and creative ways of describing your management style. I hope you will find in the selection at least one answer which fits your preference, and the message you try to convey in the interviews.
7 sample answers to “What is your management style?” interview question
- I would describe it as visionary and highly democratic. Instead of bossing people, and trying to show them the right direction each day, I prefer to show them a vision, the final goal. I aim for a big vision, and everyone should understand what role they play in attaining the goals. It should also be intellectually challenging, something that induces creative thinking. And then I let my people a free hand, because I have a great team of designers and engineers in my current job. The only thing I do is reminding them the vision, ensuring that they are motivated and intellectually challenged, and controlling whether they didn’t leave the right direction in their work, or don’t struggle with motivation.
- I’ve been working as a construction supervisor up to this point. And in my experience, the only management style that works on a construction site is authoritative leadership. If you let the laborers do whatever they want, if you do not have clear rules of discipline in place, as well as clear system of rewards and punishment, the effectiveness drops terribly. Because as soon as you leave the place for a meeting or for any other reason, people will stop working. They will smoke cigarettes, talk, and do nothing. And if you do not set deadlines for them, realistic deadlines of course, they will work slowly on purpose, just to earn more money. This is my experience from a construction site, and I am sure that in some other places, other management styles may work. But for me, it’s authoritative leadership all the way.
- This is my first job application, and I am yet to test my management skills in the real working environment. But I would like to be a democratic manager. I want to be receptive to the feedback from my employees, especially because I will be a new force in the company, and it will be my first managerial position. Having said that, it is still important to have some respect. I should be able to make a decision on my own, and to bear responsibility for my actions. So that’s the plan, and I hope to follow it.
- To be honest, I do not have a specific preference. I may alter between autocratic and permissive management, depending on the project, team, or even on the actual situation in the workplace. What I try to say here is that there are situations which require a strong hand and a decisive word, and other that require patience and an open ear for the opinion of your subordinates. I believe to have enough experience and skill to choose the right style in each situation.
- I’m not too much into some management divisions, like they teach us at schools. I’d call my style results oriented management. Because at the end of the day that’s what matters. To meet the deadlines, to complete the work, to reach the goals, and of course to help your people grow. How I achieve this depends on the project, but also on a person I manage. If I have someone creative in my team, someone who’s not afraid to challenge the status quo and present some disruptive ideas, I will let them a lot of room to express their creativity, because it can uplift the entire team. But if there’s someone who expects me to tell them what they should do, and then they do a great job, following my instructions, I do not mind instructing them even on the basic tasks. Because I try to maximize the effectiveness of the team, and the value each employee brings to the company. That’s how I’d characterize my management style.
- I think that if we want to retain the best employees, we have to give them room to grow, and an opportunity to express themselves through their work. That’s why I prefer coach management style. I consider the workers’ needs, goals, motivation, and definitely do not expect the same from everyone in the team. No two people are alike, and someone who manages to do just 70% of work of the best employee is still important. It is simply crucial to know your people, to talk with them often. One of one meetings are the core of my management style. And so far I’ve been successful to build and also to retain great employees. They enjoyed working under me, and I hope to have the same level of success in your company.
- I learned by experience that the best management style is to lead by example. If the workers see that I am the first one in the warehouse, that I do not mind doing manual labor for while, for example when the workload is heavy or someone doesn’t come to work and we miss on person on the shift, they respect me more as their manager. This has been the case in both managerial roles I had, and I would like to continue with this approach also in your company–if you give me a chance to work here, of course.
If you aren’t sure about the right management style, or about your style, you can always emphasize individual approach to each subordinate
It’s great if you understand their company culture, and what style of management they apply throughout the organization, or what works best in the given sector of economy or business.
If you aren’t sure, however, you can always emphasize individual approach. You can either say that you will alter your management style according to the project or team you lead, or even the atmosphere in the workplace (see sample answer no. 4 as a good illustration), or you can talk about individual approach to each employee, considering their motivation, goals, and personality (see sample answer no. 5), leading them accordingly.
* Special Tip: This isn’t the only difficult question you will face while interviewing for any decent job. You will face questions about prioritization, dealing with pressure, dealing with ambiguity, and other tricky scenarios that happen in the workplace. If you want to make sure that you stand out with your answers and outclass your competitors, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Up to 10 premium answers to 31 tricky scenario based questions (+ more) will make your life much easier in the interviews. Thank you for checking it out!
Authoritative leadership style is not outdated
Many people believe that authoritative leaders belong to the 90ties, and that such a management style doesn’t belong to the modern workplace. That’s very far from the truth…
Sure, it’s not a good choice if you lead a group of motivated and creative people. But if you manage a team of workers who care only about their paycheck, and have no loyalty to their employer, an iron fist can still be the best management style. In places like construction site, assembly line, or even in some classrooms (with many disruptive students), it is the only way to maintain at least some order, and to achieve at least decent results.
Do not aim too high if you apply for your first managerial job
If you are just starting your professional career in management, applying for your first managerial or supervisory position, you should be willing to learn from the others–including your subordinates.
Confidence is important, but humility can win you more points in the interviews. Ensure the hiring managers that you are humble enough to learn from anyone in the company, and want to be extremely receptive to feedback from your subordinates.
At the end of the day, it may be your only chance to win their trust and respect. Because if you came as a new young force to the company, and started to boss your people right from the start, you would not get far as a manager…
Ready to answer this one? I hope so! Check also 7 sample answers to other tricky interview questions:
- How well do you adapt to new situations in work?
- What can you offer us that someone else cannot?
- Describe the most difficult decision you’ve ever made.