How To Answer “What’s Your Management Style?” (With Examples)

By Maddie Lloyd - Feb. 15, 2021
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“So, what’s your management style?

It’s one of the most common interview questions out there if you’re interviewing for a position that involves overseeing others.

When an interviewer asks you this question, they want to know what you do to direct, motivate, and manage a team of employees.

Not every management style works for every company, and the interviewer is trying to figure out if you would be a good fit for their team.

To give a good answer, you have to show off your ability to handle situations and problems as a manager, while talking about real experiences.

Read on for more details on different management styles and how to answer this question.

What Makes a Good Manager?

Before you can talk about your management style, you have to define what good management means to you. Being able to explain this will help the interviewer see what kind of manager you are.

Ask yourself: what does a good manager look like? No, they’re not just tall, dark, and handsome. Use your knowledge of the company to make sure you mention traits and skills that are important to them.

Consider these characteristics that make a good manager:

  1. They appreciate the company culture. A good manager likes the qualities about the company that make them unique. Managers should be invested in the culture that makes them different from other companies in their industry.

  2. Positivity. Like a cold, a positive attitude can spread to everyone around you. But don’t cover your mouth for this one — when a manager has a good attitude and shows enthusiasm for their work, it can cause everyone to be more positive and work harder.

    People are more productive when they’re happy, and someone who can keep their employees on task while motivating them is a great asset to any team.

  3. Ability to prioritize. Being able to prioritize and focus on the tasks at hand is a great formula for success. A good manager can prioritize the most important projects and get their team to focus on these projects.

    Successful managers don’t just complain about stuff that needs to get done — instead they find ways to get them done before a deadline.

  4. Empathy and warmth. No one wants to work with robots. Managers should lead their employees and guide them with understanding. Everyone goes through tough times that can make it hard to get work done. It’s important that a manager cares about their team and can motivate them to do their best work.

  5. Honesty. Out of all the qualities that make a great manager, honesty is arguably the most important. The best managers will tell their employees what they need to hear, not just what they want to hear. The truth can hurt, but giving honest feedback is the only way your team will succeed.

  6. Accountability. Being a good manager means more than just getting the job done. Good managers are accountable, work to achieve their own goals, and take responsibility when things go wrong.

    Creating an atmosphere of accountability will help others appreciate the importance of taking responsibility for their actions.

  7. Decision making and flexibility. The best managers are able to make big decisions that get the best results from their team. Good managers should know how to think quickly and adjust their methods to each employee, instead of expecting every person to respond to the same style of management.

Identify Your Style of Management

It’s important to be flexible, but before you run to your nearest yoga studio — just do some research on the company to find out if they have a preferred style of management. Try to show the interviewer that you use the same methods in your own management style, and make sure to show that you’re willing to adapt.

Here some popular styles of management to consider:

  1. The autocratic or directive manager. This manager expects immediate obedience from employees and expects people to do exactly as they say. They closely control employees and motivate with threats and discipline. This type of management is effective when dealing with a crisis.

  2. The consultative or authoritative manager. This style aims to give employees long-term direction and goals. This manager is firm but fair. They make decisions with the best interests of their employees in mind, but also focus on the business. They motivate their employees with feedback on their performance.

  3. The persuasive manager.This manager makes choices based on the benefits of the results, and they have the final decision making power. This is a good option for managers who need input from experts, but still want to have the ability to make big decisions.

  4. The democratic or participative manager. This management style seeks to build commitment and unity among employees. With this style, everyone has input and is encouraged to help with decision making. The democratic style of management motivates people by rewarding team effort.

  5. The coaching manager. This style aims to give their employees long-term professional development. This manager helps employees to develop their strengths and improve their performance, and motivates by providing opportunities for professional development.

  6. The affiliative manager. This style has the goal of creating harmony among employees and between the manager and employees. This manager puts people first and work second. They avoid conflict, emphasize good personal relationships, and motivate by trying to keep others happy.

There is no single best style of management. Different environments and people need different methods, depending on their experience and career goals. The key to being a good manager is to have a few different styles of management on hand and to use them as needed.

Why Interviewers Ask “What’s Your Management Style?”

Hiring managers and recruiters ask this question to see if you’ll fit the needs of the team you’ll be managing. Cultural fit is also important; the more readily you can see yourself performing well in the job, the better chance the interviewer will see it as well.

Some teams might prefer a more hands-off approach from their manager, while others require constant communication and support. Ideally, you’ll know which type of team you’ll be working with so that you can tailor your response accordingly.

Even though it’s not a behavioral interview question, interviewers still expect to hear a story. It’s tough to communicate your leadership style without giving an example, so paint a vivid picture (with positive results) of your management style in action.

How to Answer “What’s Your Management Style?”

Answering questions about your management style starts with the steps we outlined above: determining what makes a good manager and deciding which of those traits apply to you most. It’s important to be honest about your management style, or else you and the employer will be unhappy at some point in the future.

Additionally, use your research about the company and the team you’d be managing for this job to customize your answer. Check out the company’s career page or LinkedIn to see what they value, and think of how your answer can embody what they’re looking for.

Ultimately, your answer is a blend of hitting on your strengths while still expressing flexibility.

The most important thing to remember is to answer with a story. While not a behavioral interview question, it does make sense to use the STAR method when answering:

  • Situation. Briefly summarize a situation in which your management style played a big role in a successful outcome — provide the context for the rest of your story.

  • Task. Describe your specific task; often this piece of information can be included in the same sentence as the “situation.”

  • Action. This is the most important part of your answer. Explain what actions you took and how they highlight your management style. Your approach is just as important as the outcome here.

  • Result. The result of your story should be overwhelmingly successful. Unless you’re talking about your weaknesses — which you definitely should not be for this question.

Telling a story about your management style in action is the most effective way to stand out and show you have what it takes to succeed.

Example Answers to “What’s Your Management Style?”

Once you’ve defined what makes a good manager, tell a story that shows your methods and experience. Remember not to just talk about yourself, but talk about how you get people to work their hardest.

  1. Example Answer 1: Democratic/Coaching Style

    “In my experience as a manager, I try to avoid micromanaging and let my employees work independently. At the same time, my employees always know that they can come to me if they need help on a project or are having any difficulties. I like for everyone to feel involved, so when it’s time to make a business decision, everyone has a chance to provide input.

    “I can recall a time when my team was brainstorming ideas for a possible fundraising campaign. Everyone was involved in suggesting ideas, and we made a decision in the end by taking a vote from everyone in the office.”

    Why it’s a good answer: In their answer, this person has shown the interviewer that they use democratic and coaching methods in their management style.

    They have shown that they’re approachable and ready to help and listen to their employees. They’ve also told a story that shows them putting these styles to use.

  2. Example Answer 2: Flexible Style

    “There’s no one management style I use all the time. I adapt depending on the employee and their needs. For example, some employees like having daily guidance and support, while others prefer to check in less often.

    “At my current job, I oversee a team of contractors working on a project. One of them sends me Slack messages a few times each day, but she consistently puts out good work because she knows exactly what’s expected of her. But there are other contractors who do great stuff day-in and day-out without any input from me, and I’m happy to leave them to it.

    “I take the time to communicate big picture goals and talk to each person I’m in charge of at least once a week. That’s led to a 78% contractor retention rate, which is a big improvement from the sub-50% we were seeing before I took over the project.”

    Why it’s a good answer: This interviewee shows off their adaptability, empathy, and efficiency all in one answer. She knows where to direct her energy, how to get results, and how to work with different personalities.

  3. Example Answer 3: Visionary

    “For me, the most important qualities of a manager are active listening and effective communication. As a manager, I listen to questions and ideas and process them independently and collaboratively.

    “Then, I communicate the vision behind our project, both from a high-level and to each department head other relevant stakeholders. I then keep this vision at the forefront as my team works through an assignment.

    “At my last job as a Marketing Director, I was able to start with a vision for carrying out a content marketing push for our brand. I brought it to the marketing team, and with their input and lots of revision, we came up with a definitive vision.

    “By communicating this to everyone from the outset, we were able to turn the project around a month early and 10% under budget. A great starting vision is a powerful thing.”

    Why it’s a good answer: This answer offers a good blend of taking control and allowing for input from everyone. The quick story of an impressive accomplishment also provides context for this interviewee’s management style in action.

  4. Final Thoughts

    Different management styles are most effective when used together. The success of each style depends on how you use and adjust it to the employees and work environment.

    Every company is going to have its own specific values and culture, so try telling a story that shows that you’re adaptable and share their mindset.

    With all this in mind, go out there and let your interviewer know that you’re the best possible manager for their team.

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Maddie Lloyd

Maddie Lloyd was a writer for the Zippia Advice blog focused on researching tips for interview, resume, and cover letter preparation. She's currently a graduate student at North Carolina State University's department of English concentrating in Film and Media Studies.

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