“What is your management style?” is an interview question that gets asked to pretty much anyone who’s going to be overseeing other employees. And if you want the job, having a great answer is incredibly important.
This resource will show you how to describe your management style in a way that impresses hiring managers, while also leaving room for flexibility.
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The Purpose of This Interview Question
Anytime you interview for a position that involves supervising a team, “What is your management style?” is a question you can expect to hear. After all, managers play a significant role in every organization.
They’re leaders to other employees, oversee mission-critical projects, and report to higher-ups to ensure that company objectives are met. A good manager can lead to substantial improvements all around, and hiring decision-makers want to ensure they choose the right person.
Interviewers use this question to understand your management style and what methods you use to lead a team to success. Every leader has different philosophies and techniques. While there’s no inherently incorrect management style, some are better suited for specific teams than others.
When an interviewer asks you to describe your management style, they’re looking for a couple of different things.
First, they want to know if your management style matches the current work environment and the company’s needs. Some departments require more trust and a hands-off management approach. Meanwhile, others can benefit from more coaching from supervisors.
Your experience in management matters and interviewers will use your response to gauge whether you’re a good fit for the company.
Secondly, interviewers are looking for flexibility. Management styles aren’t black and white, and you may have to adapt to new methods. Hiring managers usually prefer to take a chance on candidates who have experience in multiple management styles or those who are flexible enough to mold to the organization’s needs.
Ultimately, this interview question highlights what leadership qualities you bring to the table, how you prefer to work, and what you can contribute to ensure that the company runs like a well-oiled machine.
Different Types of Management Styles
There are many management styles, and you might lean heavily into one without realizing it. The best way to develop an answer to this interview question is by familiarizing yourself with the most common styles, and identifying the ones that apply most to your work experience.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the most common management styles.
Authoritative or Direct
Authoritative or direct management involves setting expectations. With this style, you’re upfront about objectives, telling your team what you need and how you want results. Managers who use this style track work progress and provide consequences when performance suffers.
Democratic management is the opposite management style of authoritative. It’s about collaboration and input. Managers encourage feedback and take team input into account, inviting everyone to participate in the process. This style involves open communication.
A collaborative management style takes things further than democratic management. Team members have the opportunity to discuss ideas and raise concerns. Managers then make decisions based on the majority. This style fosters engagement and ongoing collaboration.
With consultative management, the goal is to hear from everyone before making a decision. Team members provide input, but the final decision is up to the manager. This style often includes regular meetings and is common with highly specialized fields.
Laissez-faire management is more hands-off. Managers provide the necessary resources to complete projects, but how employees work is up to them. This style involves trust, independent work, and more employee freedom.
This management style is about building relationships with key team members. The influence of trusted employees can sway decision-making, creating an unofficial hierarchy within teams.
Transactional management takes elements of authoritative management. It can involve collaboration, but the most distinguishing factor is the use of consequences and rewards. Employees receive punishment for poor performance and rewards for outstanding results.
Transformational management prioritized innovation and employee development. Leaders focus on grand ideas, pushing teams to think out of the box and develop new strategies to meet goals.
Delegative managers predominantly assign tasks. You delegate work to the most qualified individuals and check the results. With this management style, employees have the freedom to do things how they want as long as they get good results.
The coaching management style fosters growth and motivates employees to do their best. Long-term employee development trumps short-term mistakes as you help employees solve problems. Managers who use this style are often viewed as mentors for the teams they supervise.
How to Answer “What is Your Management Style?”
The quality of your answer can make or break your chances of getting a job offer. While interviewers and hiring managers pay attention to every answer you provide, this one holds substantial weight in the decision-making process.
Follow these steps to develop a response that works in your favor.
1. Identify What Your Management Style Is
Before you share what your management style is, you need to understand what style you use the most. Refer to the list we provided above to get started. There’s a good chance that you use more than one or adopt techniques from multiple styles, and that’s a good thing!
Talk about how you prefer to lead a team and, most importantly, the methods that provide you with the most success.
If you’ve never had a supervisor position, you can reflect on past interactions with managers that oversaw you. Think about the styles and techniques they used and what worked to motivate you in your job. But ultimately, you have been leading or managing as an independent contributor. Think about times you motivated a teammate or helped facilitate an agreement between the team and your boss.
Understanding the management styles you prefer to use goes a long way. It’s far better than looking stumped because you’re unable to communicate how you work.
2. Highlight What You Believe a Good Manager Is
A great way to leave a lasting impression when answering what is your management style is to talk about what makes you successful as a manager. What traits and skills do you use to lead the team and how will they work at this company?
There are many qualities to touch on. You can highlight the importance of communication, natural leadership, problem-solving, etc. Those all make a difference to the company and the teams you lead. Connect the dots and mention why you think they matter for this role.
Bringing up the traits and skills that make you a good manager shows that you’re fully aware of what you need to do to excel in this position. It also proves that you’ve given the responsibilities ample thought and are ready to take on the pressures of the job and everything that comes with them.
3. Give an Example of Your Management Style in Action
There’s no better way to describe your management style than by providing real-world examples of it in action.
Reflect on your leadership experiences and choose moments that represent your style. Discuss how your techniques made a difference and why you applied those leadership strategies.
For example, you can talk about a time when you had to complete a big project and collaborate with the team to spur innovation and creativity. Alternatively, you can go over a situation where someone you supervised had poor performance and what you did to turn things around.
Those real-world examples can add weight to your answer, showing that you’re not all talk. It provides peace of mind that you know your stuff and have successfully applied the styles you prefer.
4. Show That You Can Be Flexible and Adjust
Having a preferred management style is fine, but you should always indicate that you’re flexible enough to adapt.
Not all management styles work in every workplace. Some departments thrive with more freedom, while others need a solid authoritative hand. It all depends on the team you’re leading, what they work on, and the company culture.
Being adaptable is crucial. Your preferred management style might not work with the company’s needs. But if you lean into your flexibility and willingness to utilize other styles, hiring managers may be more willing to learn more and give you a chance.
5. Connect Your Answer to the Job You Want
Finally, connect your answer to the reason you’re there.
Research the company and the position you’re trying to land. Find ways to discuss your past experiences and chosen management styles while linking them to the job. You can talk about why your techniques will make a difference and how you would apply them in this new work environment.
Connecting the dots makes it easier for interviewers to envision you in the role. It also shows that you’ve done your due diligence and understand the job’s responsibilities.
Mistakes to Avoid When Giving Your Answer
Answering “What is your management style?” can be tricky, and there are more ways to flub it than you might realize. Avoid these mistakes to ensure that your response has the impact you need.
Don’t Say You Have No Management Style
Not everyone is familiar with the names of common management styles, but interviewers expect you to be able to convey how you lead a team. Saying that you don’t have a preferred style makes you appear inexperienced.
There are plenty of other candidates who can talk about management techniques, and short responses that don’t deliver what interviewers are looking for won’t do anything to help you.
Avoid Being Too Single-Minded
Always remember that flexibility is paramount. You might have a preferred management style, but must highlight your willingness to adapt. Companies love to mold supervisors, and you can always expect adjustments in a new work environment.
Sounding too rigid could make hiring managers worried about your ability to adjust.
Steer Clear of Anything That Sounds Pompous
You’re interviewing for a management position that will put you in charge of supervising other employees, but that doesn’t mean you’re better than them. Having a pompous attitude is not a good look.
Good companies respect their employees no matter where they are on the corporate ladder and saying things that sound even remotely arrogant or pretentious is a substantial red flag.
Don’t Bad-Mouth Former Colleagues or Companies
Never talk bad about anyone you used to work for in the past. It doesn’t matter how awful you thought your old team was. Never bring those details up!
Bad-mouthing is another red flag that points to the possibility of workplace drama. Plus, those things you say can always get around and ruin your professional reputation.
Understanding the fundamentals for answering “What is your management style?” is quite helpful, but having a few examples never hurts! Here are a few to give you an idea of how to structure an impressive response.
In our first sample answer, the candidate is an experienced manager who leans on collaboration. They talk about why they prefer this management style and provide a great example of how it leads to success.
“I use collaborative and democratic management styles. I believe that it’s essential that everyone feels seen and that we all work together towards a shared goal rather than the typical power dynamics. I like to hear my team’s input and want to make them comfortable speaking up with new ideas or concerns.
One of the most memorable experiences at my last job was tackling a marketing project for a new client. Like every other project prior, I started with a collaborative meeting detailing everyone’s roles. We then brainstormed to determine the right approach and invited everyone the opportunity to share ideas with me one-on-one.
A newer team member came to me with an innovative idea to tie everyone’s roles together and create an impactful final product. I loved the idea and brought it up at our weekly meeting. After some group discussion, we decided it was the best approach.
After several weeks and many weekly meetings, we delivered a fantastic campaign that our clients love. That project exceeded the client’s sales goals by about 20 percent. I don’t believe it would have been as successful without that innovative idea.
That’s just one example of how collaborative management has made a difference in my career, and it’s something I think can lead to exceptional growth for employees. I think other management styles are important, and I tend to pull strategies from several to create a positive work environment that brings out the best in everyone. I’m excited to try them with a new team here.”
Our next sample answer is for a manager candidate who prefers a more hands-off approach. It works because the response goes over why it benefits employees, but the job-seeker also talks about the importance of adaptability.
“From my experience, I believe that employees do best when a manager isn’t monitoring their work at every step. I tend to adopt a more laissez-faire management style, allowing my team to approach projects as they see fit. Of course, I’m always available for assistance whenever they need it, but I find that employee morale improves with more freedom.
For example, I once took over a management position overseeing an accounting team. The team was wary of my presence when I arrived and constantly came to me for approval. After a few weeks of essentially micro-managing them, I held a meeting to review expectations.
They provided valuable feedback about how they prefer to work. I listened and decided to remove some of the approval steps they were used to. Instead of coming to me for everything, I allowed them to work with clients directly.
The dynamic quickly changed, and I received great praise from clients who appreciated the one-on-one interactions with the accountants. We had meetings regularly, and I was always available to coach them when they encountered issues. But that hands-off managerial approach worked well, providing more independence and creating a new air of confidence in my team.
The proper management style depends on the team, but I lean on freedom and collaboration when possible while ensuring that I’m available for assistance. I’m eager to apply those strategies with a new team and see what a difference they can make.”
In our final example, the candidate speaks of the qualities they believe a great manager needs. They speak about the importance of motivation and coaching, leaning into their role as a supervisor who brings the best out of every employee.
“A strong manager is an effective communicator and powerful motivator. While I believe delegation and some authority are necessary, I like to adopt a coaching management style to foster employee growth.
My previous experience involved working with new employees with relatively sparse expertise in the field. I worked at a call center and often led teams that knew little about customer service or how to resolve problems quickly.
t was my job to maximize productivity, which involved coaching agents on troubleshooting customer issues while delivering a fantastic experience. Elements of transactional, transformational, and democratic management styles came into play, but I spent most of my time in that job doing one-on-one and group coaching.
It provided excellent results. I watched every agent I worked with substantially improve, and we cut call times by around 30 percent within a year. My team learned how to resolve problems quickly and confidently, enhancing productivity across the board.”
As you can see, knowing how to answer “What is your management style?” is essential if you want a position where other employees report to you. Fortunately, giving a great response isn’t as hard as it seems!
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.