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You’re at an interview for your dream position and it’s all going well. Then, the Voldemort of questions rears its ugly head, “How would you define your management style?”

Do you reply with a generic answer, hoping the hiring manger doesn’t notice? Or do you try to be very specific, relating back to personal experience that bears little resemblance to what you’ll be doing as a manager? If you’re coming up short, there are a few easy ways you can avoid these pitfalls.

Outline, then Elaborate

When hiring managers ask you to define a personal management style, they aren’t throwing you a curveball for no reason. They’re trying to figure out what you think are important qualities in a leader and how effectively you’ll embody those values.

It pays to structure your answer this way – for example, you may think a good manager is hands on with his employees to make sure they’re satisfied and engaged with work.

Follow this up by explaining how you would want to see this implemented, by using an example from your own experience in positions of leadership. Scratching your head to think of a valid instance? Remember, you’re being interviewed because the hiring manager saw potential in your application.

Think of projects where you’ve had to take initiative or instances when you’ve observed effective management. If you’re still coming up short, you could explain what you would do if you are given the role.

Following through on the Big Talk

If your amazing answer cinched you the job (why wouldn’t it?), putting this into practice in a new work environment may seem daunting. If you’re not sure what management style will work for you in practice, that’s okay. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ for this.

Depending on the company, project, and team you’re working on, adapting your leadership technique to the situation is the best way to stay an effective manager. Here are a few broad styles of management, along with the best situations to use them in:

1. Directive/Authoritative

These approaches involve keeping on top of your employees, giving them consistent feedback, even if it stings a little. This is best when you’re working with a more inexperienced team who you have a respectful rapport with. This kind of style can backfire, however, especially if you’re working with highly-skilled workers who feel that you may be micromanaging.

2. Affiliative/Participative

Unlike the directive or authoritative approaches, these positions are more democratic in their approach in making executive decisions. Employee feedback is valued, and a more personable leadership style is employed.

In conjunction with other approaches, these styles of leadership are great when it comes to keeping your employees motivated and fostering a healthy work environment. When it doesn’t work is during crunch time, and you don’t have time (unfortunately) to be everyone’s friend.

3. Pacesetting/Coaching

These styles have a more hands on approach when it comes to work – leading by example, this type of manager works by taking lead on projects and setting a high standard of quality for their employees to follow.

Problems with this approach occur if your employees do not understand without more personal feedback, or in stressful situations, when you have no choice but to give direct orders.

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