Leadership is one of the most fundamental requirements of any organization. The type of leadership in an organization determines its trajectory and ultimately its destination. Some of the greatest success stories in the world hinged on the qualities of leaders: Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Adolf Hitler, Barrack Obama, J.F Kennedy, and Nelson Mandela are some of the leaders who possessed specific leadership styles vital to their missions. Common leadership styles include transformational, transactional, charismatic, and servant. These leadership styles comprise unique characteristics, although some overlap exists. To interview a leader requires prior research to find out the philosophy that guides them.
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Transformational leadership is heralded as the best contemporary leadership style. In most cases, this leadership style is best described when juxtaposed against the transactional leadership approach. A transformational leader inspires their employees to prioritize the goals of the company instead of their personal goals (Dinibutun, 2020). Such leaders achieve this through qualities such as charisma which transforms them into icons that inspire confidence. Transformational leaders are also said to possess a magnetic aura and are hailed as intellectual titans. The following are some of the interview questions one would ask a transformational leader.
- What kind of leader do you consider yourself?
- What are the most critical values in a leader?
- Who inspired you the most to become a leader?
- What are some of the pitfalls you have encountered in your career as a leader?
- Do you think you have the confidence of your team?
- Have you ever failed in your leadership journey, and if yes, what are the lessons you learned from that experience?
- What do you think differentiates a leader from a manager?
- If you could go back to your younger self, what would you tell them about leadership?
- Do you think people are born leaders, or can they be created?
- What philosophy has shaped your leadership the most
As the name suggests, ethical leadership philosophy espouses the values of making the world a better place. At the core of ethical leadership is respect for the rights and dignity of others. In addition, the ethical style of leadership calls a leader to be trustworthy, honest, charismatic fair, and considerate. This approach to leadership is about values that are considered admirable in society, such as purity of motive and virtuousness. In this paradigm, followers look up to their leaders as role models who make moral and ethical decisions (Dinibutun, 2020). In many leadership approaches analyzed, there is an apparent overlap of ideals as it would be expected for a transformational leader to be a role model. However, ethical leadership is unique in that its main focus is on setting moral standards.
- Who is the one person you look up to for inspiration?
- Has making an ethical decision ever cost your organization business?
- Which is the one industry you believe would benefit the most by adopting an ethical leadership approach?
- How do you communicate with your team?
- What are the immediate goals of your organization?
- What would you consider to be the proudest moment in your leadership career?
- What is the role of leadership in social justice?
- Do you think your style of leadership maximizes employee potential?
- What is the future of leadership training?
- Are ethical leaders born or created?
Charismatic leadership is an approach to leadership that utilizes the personal appeal of the leader to inspire followers. This type of leadership differs from a traditional and legal authority (Dinibutun, 2020). Some believe that the quality of being charismatic is a natural talent that one is born with, while others argue that while the style of leadership does depend on the aura of the candidate, the quality of charisma only serves to augment other types f leadership. For instance, most leaders that can be categorized as transformational possess charisma, while typical transactional leadership lacks charisma. An organization that relies on charismatic leadership is vulnerable to key man risk as such leaders are rare. The other significant weakness of this type of leadership is its unique deficiency in formal organization since its efficacy rests on the perceived greatness of the charismatic leader. An interview with a charismatic leader would include the following questions:
- People consider you one of the greatest orators of all time; what do you say about that?
- What are your current goals in your organization?
- What has been your most significant achievement as a leader?
- How do you address negative situations considering you’re known for always being inspirational?
- How do you train charismatic leaders?
- What is the future of charismatic leadership?
- Do you agree that charismatic leadership can mask deficiencies in an organization?
- What has been the most significant moment in your leadership career?
- If you were to do it again, what would you do differently?
- Name a leader with a different leadership approach and what you admire about them.
Servant leadership is a leadership paradigm where the leader’s goal is service. Unlike in the traditional philosophy where an organization’s success is the primary goal, servant leadership prioritizes the needs of the followers and shares power. Instead of the employees serving their leader, the leader serves them. Under this philosophy, the leader focuses on the followers’ growth, health, freedom, and autonomy (Dinibutun, 2020). When the employees of an organization attain personal development, it automatically reflects on organizational change as they become more committed and engaged. Servant leadership’s strength is that it enhances collaboration and builds stronger teams. It also creates a positive environment in the organization by fostering a culture of belonging. One major weakness of this philosophy is the time it takes to build the culture. It is also only suitable for certain types of organizations. The following are questions one would ask a servant leader:
- What is servant leadership according to you?
- Has servant leadership approach helped achieve your organization’s goal?
- What are some of the pitfalls you have encountered as a servant leader?
- Do you think your type of leadership can be applied to all industries?
- Who is the most iconic leader that inspires you every day as you lead your team?
- How do you deal with disciplinary situations in your organizations?
- Would you advise a young CEO to adopt this type of leadership approach to a start-up?
- What is the future of servant leadership?
- What is the one thing you are most proud of in your leadership career?
- Would you want your competitors to adopt servant leadership approach?
Leadership is a unique gift to possess as it is rare and desired by many. Most leaders discover their talent as early as kindergarten in the playground, while others take a while. This unit has enabled me to reflect on my leadership qualities from an intellectual perspective. I consider myself a leader with mixed philosophy while heavily leaning on transformational with charisma, transactional, and ethical servant elements. While these classifications are important in classifying leadership styles, they are too limiting, and I believe that leaders adopt each style depending on circumstances. A correlation has emerged between extroversion and charisma, but recent studies indicate that introverts are just as capable leaders (Karlsen & Langvik, 2021). I consider myself as just slightly extroverted with considerable oratory skills.
Interestingly, I gained my public speaking confidence in the unlikeliest of places for a business leader: church. I would visit my grandfather for summer in the South, participating in youth programs that included preaching to congregations. Religion was an essential part of my youth which equipped me with certain philosophies that I have applied in my leadership career; ethics. My leadership style cannot fall into one category. While I want to be as transformational as I can, I also believe in rewarding good employees; it may seem dull and conservative to a cynical eye, but it produces results. Despite my leadership qualities overlapping so many paradigms, I would not ascribe servant leadership for myself since I’m in an industry that requires cut-throat competition. I have constantly encouraged my team to have a ‘wolf’ mentality to survive the jungle that is business. Organizations must invest in leadership training as so much depends on the presence of good leaders.
Dinibutun, S. R. (2020). Leadership: A comprehensive review of literature, research and theoretical framework. SSRN Electronic Journal.
Karlsen, H. R., & Langvik, E. (2021). Facet level effects of extraversion on leadership behaviours rated by subordinates. Cogent Psychology, 8(1), 1930712.