Hiring managers will sometimes try to assess whether a candidate has leadership abilities through related questions, or they may simply ask point blank, “Do you consider yourself a leader”
If the job is a leadership position, then the obvious answer is yes, followed by several convincing reasons why this is so. However, other jobs may require a different answer. For instance, if the company is looking for a technical guru, a proactive worker, or someone who may likely enter the management track, than an affirmative answer is still appropriate. However, if the job requires teamwork and the hiring manager does not want a maverick, then a better answer would be a qualified yes, followed by a discussion of how the candidate works well with others.
Points to Emphasize
Decide how much you want to emphasize leadership skills, and then consider the following:
Show that you are a leader, not a boss. People want to follow you even when they don’t have to.
Demonstrate effective leadership by discussing your resource and people management skills. Show how you assess risk. Outline the steps in your personal process for problem solving.
Have a specific story where you had the chance to be a leader, assessed the situation, proposed a plan, and followed through with a group of fellow employees to success.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
This may be an essential part of the interview, since effective leaders are uncommon and important assets to a company.
Be ready to answer specific leadership questions, such as, “What do you do if a particular employee begins to show up late and starts doing slopping work,” or “If you had to have a 10% cutback, would you fire 10% of the employees or ask all employees to take a 10% pay cut,” or, “How do you handle a key employee who is obnoxious”
Don’t be too modest. More than your answers, a hiring manager will generally expect you to show leadership in your interview, without usurping the hiring manager himself or herself.
Have a few stories to quote from the Harvard Business Journal, How To Swim With the Sharks, or other sources to show you have immersed yourself in personal leadership training.
Remember that hiring managers already have a general idea of your education from your resume. That is one of the reasons why they setup the interview in the first place. Consider this a chance to add a few zingers to spice up the message in your resume.
A specific point to make as part of your answer should include a general statement of your leadership philosophy:
A leader is a person who matches resources, opportunity, and reward. As a leader, I work to set an example, propose plans that convince people to support me, and demonstrate my proven track record of success. As an effective leader, I believe I can be an essential asset for your company.
Act like a leader and talk like a leader and prepare like a leader.