Are You a Servant Leader or Visionary? How to Convey Your Leadership Style in Job Applications

Dec 9, 2020 | Cover Letters, Resumes

A title graphic featuring Let's Eat, Grandma's yellow pencil logo and an alternate version of the article's title: "Leadership Style in Applications."

Knowing and showing your unique leadership style is important for landing a job with leadership responsibilities. But how do you show that on your resume or cover letter?

By: Grace Mitchell | Contributor for Let’s Eat, Grandma

If you’re applying for a managerial or directorial job—or any job where you’ll be supervising others for that matter—it’s likely you’ll be asked about your leadership style. But can that be conveyed in your applications, or does it have to be shown in-person?

Defining Leadership Style

Your leadership style can be described as a thematic condensation of your leadership skills. It isn’t a skill or qualification itself, but rather a matter of how you prefer to do things, which may or may not be a good fit for the company you’re applying for.

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First and foremost, before you communicate your leadership style, you need to define it. If you aren’t able to determine and practice your own style, you won’t be able to communicate this valuable point to hiring staff. Awareness of your own style also saves you the work of applying to companies that don’t resonate with how you operate as a leader.

Is your leadership marked by inspiring your employees and implementing bold new ideas? You may be a visionary leader. Do you encourage employees to share ideas and incorporate group discussions into decisions? You may be more of a democratic leader.

A stock photo of a smiling woman standing at the head of a table with other seated professionals. Photo by Rebrand Cities from Pexels.

Articulate and define how you best lead others — but don’t weigh down your resume with too much description of it. Focus on your accomplishments.

(Note: For the sake of expediency, this blog refers to primary leadership style. However, healthy leadership involves a blend of different styles and the skill to recognize when a different style is appropriate for a given scenario.)

Communicating Your Style

Once you’re aware of your primary style, there’s the matter of communicating your style to recruiters. Your leadership style can be described in your resume through your summary and perhaps some bullets. However, it’s better to use your resume to tell your story more succinctly (remember, its purpose is to get you in the door for an interview.) Find ways to incorporate your style and skills through the specific accomplishments that recruiters like to see in their quick initial scans. Showing is more effective than telling.

Your style is better conveyed throughout your whole personal brand rather than just in your resume. As Jessica Hernandez at Great Resumes Fast says in this article, “most employers may state that they’re looking for certain core competencies and skills, but what they REALLY hire are personalities and work styles — which are exemplified by your brand.”

Demonstrating Your Leadership Style Within Your Personal Brand

One great place to start communicating your style is your cover letter, which supplements your resume with your professional philosophy, a connection to the company’s mission, and specific stories. Ideally, you should refer to your leadership style through your description of your professional philosophy and your elaboration on stories from your resume. If the company’s mission resonates with your own style, even better.

Your leadership style should also come through in your LinkedIn profile. Because of its expansive nature, your About section is perfect for implementing and reflecting on your style. You can use those 2,600 characters to incorporate sentences like:

A stock photo of one professional woman showing another work done on a computer, demonstrating  collaborative brand of leadership style. Photo by CoWomen on Unsplash.

Do you have a leadership style that’s heavy on collaboration? Tell a story of how you empowered your team members in your cover letter and LinkedIn.

“As a servant leader with [former company], I turned around my new department’s historically slow performance through boosting morale with a new “Office Hours” initiative where team members could come to me privately with their concerns.”

Hiring staff are free to read as much of this section as they want to, and you won’t lose points for filling it up with your story as a professional. Just make sure it’s authentic.

Finally, you should communicate your style in your interview itself. Has your transformational leadership been paramount to motivating employees and rescuing a struggling company? Has your coaching style been instrumental in building trust in your organization? Your leadership style is part of what you bring to the table, so now that you’ve gotten in the door for an interview, don’t be shy in telling hiring managers about it!

As an organizational leader, your leadership style can be an important factor for hiring staff to consider. Communicating it in the right way can ensure that it matches the company’s needs and distinguish you from other candidates.

Be authentic with the style you develop, convey it with these tips, and you’ll come across as a confident, qualified candidate who deserves the job.

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