Written by
Changeboard Team

Published
03 Mar 2012

Part six interview questions: Is your leadership strategy effective?

03 Mar 2012 • by Changeboard Team

Thought leadership

In the last article we looked at task based questions. This week we focus on thought based interview questions & answers.

As before it gives you the chance to understand and practice this kind of question and it is vital reading in preparing for a competence based interview. 

“The thought leader constantly looks to new opportunities and the future. They quickly evaluate complex and ambiguous situations and are ready to analyse and challenge tough decisions. The thought leader initiates changes and improvements, and is imaginative and open to taking entrepreneurial risk.”

From our definition of thought leadership above, you can quickly see that there are not many roles that do not require an element of thought leadership. Even the most basic administrative role will require the ability to explore and analyse a problem, identify potential solutions and then implement them.

For more senior or complex roles the dimension of thought leadership is about more complex problem solving involving many variables, longer term thinking and scenario building, right up to visioning and strategy. 

Recognising a thought leadership interview question

As a rule of thumb, the words below are likely, (but not always), to relate to thought leadership, and should therefore trigger your thinking about aspects of your previous role where you have had to problem solve in some capacity.

Creative

Problem

New

Strategy

Develop

Identify

Come up with

Complex

Planning

Opportunity

Analyse

Idea

Preparation to thought leadership questions

It is worth spending a few minutes considering the following. Try to recall examples of situations where you have had to:

  • Come up with an idea.
  • Solve a problem.
  • Set longer term direction.
  • Plan something.

On a sheet of paper jot down a very broad outline of the issue against the CAR acronym (Circumstances, Action, Result) that we introduced in our initial article for each of the examples you have above.

Responses to questions at different levels of experience or seniority require an increase in complexity and their level of impact. An easy to use general rule is that for graduate/trainee management roles the impact is likely to be at the individual level (although not exclusively); at the middle management level the impact is at team or departmental level, while at senior management level the impact will increasingly be heading towards business unit or even organisational level.

Lets consider a middle management example

Interviewer: “Tell me about a time when you had to anticipate potential problems and how you went about developing contingencies.”

Interviewee: “Yes, I as manager of a sales team of ten people, I was becoming increasingly aware of a competitor that was beginning to encroach in our territory. To date, we had not lost sales - our clients were buying both products - but we obviously needed to ensure that in future this did not change. The way we were set up as a client team at the time was that different sales people were specialised in different products and between them covered a very large geographical area. I could see that our competitors were more nimble and I needed to find a way to match this. What I did, therefore, was to split the big area into five smaller areas and restructure the team such that two sales execs were responsible for each of the smaller areas. This meant that they would also need product training so that they could speak to their clients in a knowledgeable fashion and provide continued good client care. The overall impact of this was that the sales execs developed more intimate relationship with their customers – they now had fewer clients to look after and so were able to spend more time with them and offer a wider choice of product. They were also more nimble in their response to client’s needs. This approach counteracted what our competitors were doing and we were able to continue to grow sales.”

Although a short and succinct response, this answer encapsulates the sort of thought leadership that is expected at this level. It demonstrates an awareness of looking outside of the organisation, being aware of competitors and positioning the business, at team level, to be able to respond to a threat.

Clearly, there is much more information that an interviewer can elicit here. 

Other aspects to this response could include: what data was used to drive decision making, who was consulted, what options were considered, what were the strengths and weakness of these options and what were the risks that were being taken.

Buy the book - discount for Changeboard members

For more examples of thought based interview questions and answers, we strongly advise that you read the full chapter in “You’re Hired! Interview Answers: Impressive Answers to Tough Questions” available for purchase from the Trotman Publishing website. 

Remember to use the discount code ‘change’ at the checkout to secure an exclusive 25% discount off your order*.

*Terms and conditions available at trotman.co.uk