The interviewer asks, "What is your management style?"
Wait a minute. You’re not applying for a management position.
So, why should you care about common interview questions for managers? Why are you even here?
You are here because interviewers like asking leadership questions regardless of your experience. That’s because they want the best candidates with the most potential.
So they ask:
“You’ve never been the boss? Don’t care. What is your management style?”
And you think:
What is my management style? What is “management style” anyway? Good cop, bad cop?
Because the closest you’ve gotten to management was as captain of the cheerleading squad.
Not to worry. Even if you’re not interviewing to be a manager, you might get this question. And this article will tell you how to prepare for it.
You will find out:
- Why interviewers ask, “What is your management style?”
- How to prepare for leadership questions regardless of your experience.
- How to answer the “what is your management style” interview question.
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“What is Your Management Style?” - What Is the Interviewer Asking?
The first thing you should know is that there is a “right answer” to the “what is your management style” question.
That’s because this is what’s known as a “behavioral” interview question. And to deliver a correct response to a such a question you need to give an example of past behavior.
So, when the interviewer asks you to describe your leadership style what do they want?
That’s right! They want a brief success story about a time when you led or managed a person or team.
Tell a story about a time when you were a successful leader.
Once, I had to finish a project with a tight deadline while shorthanded. The first order of business was to redistribute the workload. I held a meeting, and we mapped out the project. I asked for volunteers to take on the extra tasks, after delegating most of them to myself. I opted for a pace-setting managerial style. I set a fast pace, taking work from team members who couldn't perform and assigning it to others. We finished the project in a state of exhaustion. But the team admired the fact that I rolled up my sleeves and joined them. My supervisor asked me to turn the experience into a workshop for others. Later, the project won an industry award that made the team very proud.
Say that you don’t have experience, but you’re sure you’d do fine.
I’ve never actually managed a team for a job before. But I’m a born leader, so I’m sure it would come naturally. I would listen to what my team needs and help them any way I could.
But that’s not all.
The “what is your management style” question isn’t only about management. The interviewer wants to know if you’ll fit in with their work environment.
That’s why the best answer will show that you’re flexible and adaptable.
I adjust my management style to meet the needs of the people I’m managing.
I have a rigid management style that I impose on my underlings.
But wait there’s more!
Of course, you should also tailor your answer to the position and the company.
Don’t worry. It’s not as complicated as it sounds. This guide will show you how to incorporate each element into your response.
Remember, the “what is your management style” interview question isn’t only for candidates seeking managerial positions.
An interviewer could ask you to describe your management style even though you have no experience.
Or if you’re an entry-level candidate the interviewer might ask to describe the management style you prefer.
That’s why it’s best to have an answer on hand.
The career path for the position you’re applying for could lead to a management position in the future. The role might include working on teams.
The interviewer might want to know something about your general leadership style.
Regardless, it’s best to have a well-developed answer in your pocket.
Here are some alternative versions of the “what is your management style” question:
- How would you describe your management style?
- How would you describe the management style you prefer?
- What managerial style do you use when leading ambitious projects?
- How would you describe your leadership style?
- Can you describe a situation where you successfully led a team?
- Have you ever coached or mentored someone?
Pro Tip: Remember, there is no "right" or "wrong" managerial style. There are only “better” and “worse” methods relevant to given situations.
Want more common interview questions and best answers? Check out our Interview Tips & Advice or go read our guide on Most Common Job Interview Questions and Best Answers.
How to Answer the “What is Your Management Style” Interview Question
What is management style?
Management style is the way that supervisors or leaders interact with subordinates or team members.
So, what are the different types of management styles?
Here are some management philosophy examples:
- Autocratic - the boss is bossy (micromanagement).
- Democratic - the boss includes workers in decision making.
There are other managerial styles. Most fall somewhere between Autocratic and Democratic.
For example, some managers go with a “coaching” supervisor style. Coaching involves the director focusing on the employee’s learning process.
Here’s the catch.
No single supervising style is perfect for every situation.
Coaching isn’t going to work well in a situation where there’s a tight deadline. It’s also one of the unnecessary managing styles to adopt when you're working with a team of experts.
Autocratic managers who threaten employees into working well do better in times of crisis.
But the autocratic management style is less effective over longer periods of time. Often, talented employees get frustrated and angry under such managerial pressure.
That’s why your “what is your management style” response should be “flexibility.”
But once you say your managerial style is flexible, you’ll want to take your answer to the next level.
How? By personalizing your answer and tailoring it to the open position.
So, one of the first things you’ll want to do is think about what “good management” means to you. Ask yourself:
- Have you ever had a manager that you thought had a great supervisor style?
- What was it that appealed to you in the way they handled their team?
- What skills or characteristics would you steal from the managers you like?
- Have you ever had a manager that you hated or despised?
- What was it about their managerial style that made you frustrated and angry?
- What bad managerial characteristics would you avoid?
- Has a superior ever praised you for your leadership style?
Write down a few characteristics that you find appealing or make a full management styles list. The idea is to expand upon the element of “flexibility.”
Think about what characteristics you’d bring to the table as a manager. But don’t toss any old managerial skills onto the pile.
Here’s where you’ll start to tailor your “what is your management style” answer to the position and the company.
Now, you may be the rare and lucky candidate whose chosen company details what they want in a manager.
If that’s true for you, stick with things that reflect the managerial style they prefer.
The rest of you should try to match elements of your managerial style to company culture.
Let’s use General Electric as an example.
The company’s management philosophy:
- Successful people and ideas don’t “happen overnight.”
- Employees “need the right environment” to grow.
You notice on one of GE’s career pages that the company is at the forefront of leadership development. Plus, GE pumps over a billion dollars a year into employee development programs.
You get the impression that GE builds its corporate culture around career-long learning.
So, the interviewer asks you, “What is your management style?”
And you might say something like:
I don’t have one style of management. I assess the situation and the team before deciding what action to take to get results. There are times when the health and safety of the team depends on clear instructions. Having said that, I agree with GE’s approach to supervising styles. Investing in the long-term development of employees is the best way to achieve sustainable results.
I don’t have a managerial style. I just push my team to meet targets and deadlines. That’s the job of a manager - to make sure that their employees get stuff done.
Finally, you need to tell a success story about a time that you led or managed.
The best way to prepare for the “what is your management style” question is to practice using the STAR method.
The STAR method helps you remember how to talk about your accomplishments.
STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result:
Situation - You start by explaining a situation which required you to solve a problem, use a skill, or come up with a new idea.
Task - Next, you explain the action that your job requires in such a situation.
Action - After, you describe the action that you took. If it’s different than the required task, you should also explain why you chose a different path.
Result - What happened in the end? How did the situation play out once you acted? It’s best here to illustrate successes with numbers and details if you can. Numbers help reinforce the impact that your action had.
Start by referring to a situation or a task:
“My team was struggling with deadlines on a regular basis.”
Follow with the action you took to resolve the problem:
“First, I gathered anonymous feedback to identify underlying problems. Second, I asked the team to introduce targets and accountability measures.”
What was the result?
“The team had a shared sense of obligation after setting their objectives. They started pushing and supporting one another to meet goals. The result was that all team members began to meet their deadlines 90% of the time. ”
So, how do you answer the “what is your management style” question?
By using this formula:
Flexible Management Style + Personalized and Tailored Approach + Success Story
Pro Tip: You might find it difficult to talk about your achievements during an interview. But telling a story and giving examples is a way to make yourself memorable. So, don’t be shy!
Want more advice on how to discuss your strengths at an interview? Read our guide: “How to Answer the “What Are Your Strengths?” Interview Question (Examples)”
Best Answers for the “What Is Your Management Style” Interview Question
A “What Is Your Management Style” Response For Professional Managers
Let’s say you have managerial experience. Think about what’s worked best for you in the past. Go into a bit of detail to personalize your answer.
For me, the best approach to management is to switch back and forth between styles. But when I have the downtime, I like to encourage the team to bond. A good manager is one that invests in building a close-knit team that works well together. Of course, this managerial style only pays off in the long run. For more immediate crisis situations, I choose to reassign tasks or pick up the slack myself. I use threats and negative motivation only as a last resort.
Once, I was in charge of a team of 15+ people working across departments. The team started to miss deadlines. I found that miscommunication was causing some interdepartmental hostility. To resolve the situation, I organized a team building activity. I gave the team several fun, communication-based tasks. After each game, I mixed the members until everyone had worked together at least once. In the end, we had a discussion about what forms of communication worked and what didn’t. I then led a brainstorming session about how they could use these skills around the office. The hostility between the teams evaporated and productivity doubled. We even beat our sales target that month by 12%.
I am an all carrot type of boss. I can’t stand those managers who yell, threaten, and hover. I treat my employees like equals and reward them with plenty of back pats and compliments. I believe that a positive work environment and a jolly supervisor makes for happy elves.
A “What Is Your Management Style” Response For Job Seekers With No Experience
Let’s say you don’t have any prior managerial experience. You might have a harder time answering the “what is your management style” question.
Start by cherry picking a few characteristics you liked in past managers. Then follow up with a story about how you were a strong leader at school or in your private life.
I have not yet had the opportunity to find out what my particular managerial style would be. At the same time, I’ve found that the best managers are those that have an adaptable supervising style. From my experience, I work best with managers who pay attention to individual's needs. My last manager was a good example. She used slow periods to coach workers who needed more instruction. When things sped up, she gave clear instructions and took on tasks herself if necessary.
Although I’ve never been a manager, I took on several leadership roles as a student. I was the team captain of our academic team for two years. I made sure that each team member knew what they were responsible for before matches. At the same time, we often switched roles depending on who felt strongest. I took a democratic approach to leadership. I motivated the team by encouraging constructive feedback after matches. We won districts both years, and we’re invited to nationals my senior year.
I’ve never been a manager before, so I don’t have a managerial style. I guess I would try to strike a balance between being liked and feared. People walk all over you if they like you too much. So, you have to yell enough for them to be afraid of not listening to you. At the same, time you can’t yell so much that they hate you and want to leave their jobs.
Pro Tip: Try to use numbers and details to illustrate the impact your managerial style has. Not only are you a flexible manager, but your leadership inspires a 12% uptick in sales. That’s quantifiable value.
Now that you’ve aced your interview what’s next? Time to send a thank you email. Find out how: “How to Write a Thank You Email After an Interview (+10 Examples)”
So, what is your management style? Now you know.
To properly answer this dreaded interview question, remember:
- You are flexible.
- You understand the values of the company.
- You can take charge of both yourself and others.
- The interviewer wants to know that you’re the best. And the best candidates are those with skills beyond what they need for the position.
Still not sure how to answer the "what is your management style" question? We can help! Leave us a comment, and we will help you identify what's unique about your management style before the big day.