Thursday, July 3, 2008

What's your leadership style?

No, really, what is your leadership style? The interviewers have asked this question for two reasons:
  • Will you do well under the current leadership structure at this library--or the branch you are interviewing for because there could be big variations between outposts--and
  • Could you become a leader at their organization?
Obviously, the best way to answer this question is with an example: when were you a leader? Look at your past for an example similar to this:
  • The leader receives an assigned task, or many tasks, that is too large for one person;
  • She selects or inherits her team to complete the work;
  • Based on the duties of each team member, the leader must assign each person a task and a delivery date and the leader decides who is responsible for what, how much and when.
  • If a team member becomes confused, the leader tries to explain or clarify the process the person is responsible for.
  • If a member isn't motivated, the leader may be the person to give him a push, either with rewards or punishments, depending on their leadership style.
  • The leader is responsible for completing the task on time and when it is completed, decides how credit (or blame) will be distributed.
And I am not being negative by mentioning blame: projects do fail and the leader either accepts responsibility for it or ducks and covers. Remember, a follow-up to this question could be giving an example of your leadership abilities or explaining the outcome of the project.

This example assumed that the leader was selected and called "The Leader", but sometimes, a leader is just a motivator who keeps people on track and disperses knowledge. They may also not hold that role all the time (or get paid for it). You may have an example in your past where you stepped up and motivated everyone to a reach a shared goal. Just make sure your references will back this up.

You should at least know some basic leadership terms and describe how your leadership style fits. Psychology has a section on leadership theory, as well as a quiz that will help you express your decision-making process. There are many other quizzes you could take, and a simple search for leadership style and quiz should turn up several.

Knowledge at Wharton and the MIT Sloan Management Review each have a section on Leadership, from a business or corporate perspective--the perspective adopted by some library managers-- but watch out for business jargon and be careful that you are using the correct term for what you mean.

Try to come up with an example that expresses your style--school work is fine, but this needs to be a big project that required the input of several people that you directed, this isn't the time for a soliloquy about how you personally manage time--and explain with that style is. Briefly. Anticipate that the next question will ask about outcomes and where you see room for growth.

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