In recent years, the topic of leadership styles has gained significant traction in the business world, particularly during interviews for leadership positions. It is also common for MBA interviewers to ask candidates about their leadership style and approach to management.

Before you spontaneously jump to answering this type of question straight in the interviews, we suggest that MBA candidates understand various leadership styles and what kind of leadership style is suited for what situations. In the real world, we often experience that seasoned managers have had to adapt to multiple leadership styles depending on the need of the hour.

Understanding the different leadership styles and when to use them can help you avoid a leadership faux pas. Just like how you might choose a pepperoni pizza when you’re in a rush and need something quick and easy (authoritative leadership), or a build-your-own pizza when you want everyone to have a say (collaborative leadership), or simply trust the chef’s special (delegative leadership), you can choose the right leadership style for the task at hand.

The primary leadership styles are authoritative, collaborative/democratic, and delegative. Each style has its advantages and disadvantages, and understanding these can help leaders choose the best approach for different situations.

The authoritative leadership style, also known as the autocratic style, involves a leader making decisions without input or feedback from their team members. However, it can lead to a lack of motivation and engagement among team members, as they feel their opinions are not valued. This leadership style is often useful in crises where quick decisions are necessary and there is no room for discussion. An experienced leader would reflect on their prior learnings and drive the contingency plan during a crisis authoritatively.

On the other hand, the collaborative or democratic leadership style involves leaders working closely with their team members to make decisions. This leadership style encourages team members to provide their input and ideas, leading to better decision-making and improved team morale. However, this approach can be time-consuming and ineffective in situations where quick decisions are required. Alternatively, this style is most useful when different teams are facing conflicts and deadlock situations, and a leader is expected to step up and enable the resolution of the ongoing issues between stakeholders collaboratively, through team building events or collective brainstorming exercises. These stories make great examples for applicants who may not be in an authoritative position in their pre-MBA roles, as they can demonstrate their transversal management skills.

The delegation leadership style involves leaders delegating tasks and responsibilities to team members and giving them the autonomy to make decisions. This approach is effective when team members are skilled and knowledgeable in their work area, and the leader trusts their judgment. However, this leadership style can lead to a lack of direction and accountability if team members are not held responsible for their actions. These examples in an MBA applications process are better suited for applicants who have held senior leadership positions and have complex teams to manage under their supervision.

It is important to note that while these leadership styles are distinct, most leaders use a combination of these styles depending on the situation. A good leader knows when to use each approach and can adapt their leadership style to the needs of their team and the business.

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