If you want to apply for roles that involve managing or supervising staff, you’ll need to be able to demonstrate your leadership skills.
This goes beyond any given examples of managing a team or delivering training. In fact, management and leading are often seen as interchangeable. This is not the case.
A good director, head of department, manager, team leader or supervisor needs to be good at both.
But the fundamental differences are this:
Managing is ensuring the day-to-day functions or duties of the team or department are carried out correctly and to a high standard. This includes making sure goals and performance targets are met.
Leadership has much more to do with getting your team to understand your vision and to work with you to achieve a shared goal. There is also a pastoral element to leadership that requires you to take an interest in the wellbeing of the team beyond their output.
This includes their physical and mental health, their home life and the relationships they have within the business.
While hiring managers are looking for people with the ability to manage, they are also looking for demonstratable leadership skills too. That means, to be successful you need to know how to tackle those all-important leadership-based questions.
Discuss Past Leadership Accomplishments
The most effective way to demonstrate your leadership ability is to discuss your leadership experience.
Have several examples ready that clearly demonstrate your ability to lead. Make sure each example describes a different situation and – therefore – required a different approach. This will help you to show how you can flex to meet the varying challenges leading a team can bring. Where possible, highlight how those experiences will help you to do the job you are being interviewed for.
It’s also worth discussing how your intervention resolved the issue and what you could have done differently.
If you don’t have any ‘on the job’ leadership experience, then try to apply examples from your personal life. If you volunteer, coach a sport or otherwise have an active role in your local community, you may find examples you can use.
Being able to prove your leadership skills through actual experiences will have a much bigger impact than words and assurances alone ever could.
State Everything Quantitatively
It’s very easy to claim your leadership a sweeping success. However, hyperbole and fact rarely go hand in hand.
So, before you go into your interview and declare you’re the greatest leader since Eisenhower, consider for a moment how that could be interpreted.
For every example you provide of your leadership skills, you need to be able to indicate the benefit that had on the team or the business. Or both.
Whether that’s an increase in output, a decrease in costs, growth in revenue or whatever, you need to be able to back up what you’re saying with a quantitative result.
Also provide an indication of how long it took to see that result. Was it an over night success or did it take a little longer?
This gives your achievements context and helps your potential employer to determine the effectiveness of your leadership.
Demonstrate you can Act Decisively
Leadership isn’t necessarily about getting great results. Of course there still needs to be an output but overseeing projects is more about management than leadership.
Leadership is the ability to think clearly and make decisions. Especially on those day-to-day issues that crop up.
Have some examples prepared to demonstrate how you quickly and decisively handled unforeseen situations or overcame a crisis. Make sure they illustrate your ability to think clearly and communicate effectively.
The ability to cope under pressure and steer your team through difficult situations demonstrates an ability to act in a confidence-building and trustworthy manner. That is important to employers looking for leaders to help guide their business.
Speak Calmly and Confidently
Natural leaders are calm, easy to talk to and approachable. These qualities need to be on display during your interview. Failure to do so will damage your chances of getting the job. Essentially because your interview needs to come away feeling confident that you can lead a team.
Especially if it’s an established team rather than one you get to cherry pick.
While the core of your ability to lead will come from your personality, you still need to make sure your interviewer can see those qualities. Fortunately there are a few ways you can get right on the day:
- Practice potential interview questions in order to avoid any mistakes or miss-telling of your anecdotes
- If you’re interviewing for a new or slightly different job title, be sure to study up on any background knowledge
- Make notes on key points you want to mention
- Write down examples of your job performance in relation to the job specification
Allow yourself to be Passionate
If helping team members fulfil their potential gets your fired up, be sure to show it.
Your potential new employers want to see who you are and what will make you a valued team member. Sharing with them how much you enjoy your work – and how much you would like to work for their organisation will serve you in good stead.
Equally, at some point in every interview you will inevitably be asked: ‘why do you want to work for this company?’
A prepared, coherent answer – the demonstrates your professionalism, your enthusiasm for the role and your commitment to their business.
On that note, it’s also worth carrying out some due diligence. Thoroughly research the company in terms of its culture, its values, culture and background.
Aside from helping you to get excited about your potential new employer, it will give you an idea of whether they’ll still be trading in a year’s time.
Starting a new Career in leadership
If you want to start a new career but you don’t have the right qualifications, we can help.
Stonebridge Associated Colleges is a leading UK distance learning provider. We support thousands of students each year to achieve the qualifications they need to get the job they want.
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