In all the executive searches I did (over 400), I never had a client say, “Please find us a person who will sit behind a desk and direct the activities of others.” Thus, you should be prepared to answer interview questions about leadership with enthusiasm.
I say this because I interviewed many people who told me they just wanted to direct the activities of others. They didn’t want to get their hands dirty anymore. They were above that. The had earned the right to be a boss.
Are You a Boss or a Leader?
Thus, I loved this graphic my cousin posted on Facebook the other day:
It’s a great illustration of a common interview failure point. Are you the boss behind the desk or the leader at the front of the team?
Prepare to Answer Interview Questions About Leadership
Knowing the difference, building a track record of leading rather than bossing, and being able to convey all that in a job interview matters. It could easily be the difference between a job offer and a rejection letter.
One of the easiest ways to prepare to answer interview questions about leadership is to review/upgrade what you say about leadership on your resume.
Check these in-demand leadership skills, feature them on your resume, and prepare interview talking points about them:
- Retaining and developing talent.
- Managing complexity.
- Leading change.
- Choosing integrity.
- Acting as an internal entrepreneur.
If you’re set to go with StARs on those topics, you will be better able to keep your boss dream to yourself — because sharing it won’t help you get job offers.
Prepare Your StARs
What’s a StAR? It’s a situation/action/result description of something you’ve done. Like this:
Situation: When I started leading the IT applications group at X Corp., we measured employee engagement at 40%.
Action: I worked with HR to develop a new career ladder for analysts and programmers. We provided my people with classes and on-the-job learning opportunities. And we made sure they aligned with skills we needed to develop to support the company’s strategic plan.
Result: Engagement zoomed to 78% in two years. Retention increased commensurately. And we were able to convert half of our entry-level job offers to hires.
Keep Your Boss Dream to Yourself
If you’re careful, you can figure out the boss/lead balance it will take to succeed in any job you interview for without tipping your hand. Do that to keep your options open. It’s better to have an offer you decide to decline than no offer at all.
What About the Hiring Manager?
BTW, you might want to determine the hiring manager’s personal approach to bossing versus leading before you accept a job offer.
Graphic: Source Unknown
Updated May 2019
© 2013 – 2019, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.
Donna Svei, an executive resume writer and former C-level executive, retained search consultant, and CPA, writes all of AvidCareerist’s posts. She has written for and been quoted by leading business, general, and career media outlets, including Forbes, Mashable, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Lifehacker, Ask.com, Social Media Today, IT World, SmartBrief, Payscale, Business News Daily, and the Muse. Let her background and experience inform your job search strategy and decision making.