Contact Vince

See for information about Vince's services.

I provide the most intensive, effective MBA interview preparation service in the world. My interview coaching clients get results because I help them figure out what to say (logical content), and how to say it (impressive delivery).

I teach some of the world's top engineers and scientists at The University of Tokyo how to present their ideas on paper and in person.

I am a professional stage actor who has performed with The American Shakespeare Center.
At Stanford, I studied improv theatre with Patricia Ryan Madson, who has taught everyone from college students to Silicon Valley executives from companies like Google how to tell believable stories.

I provide one-hour mock interview sessions with feedback. I also provide extended multi-hour training. We begin with an initial diagnostic mock interview, which helps me determine your strengths and weaknesses. In subsequent sessions, we can work on strategy, answer modeling, and mock interviewing.

For Vince's latest tips, plus service details, please go here. Then, please contact Vince when you are ready to start your preparation.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

How to win the Wharton Team-Based Discussion MBA group interview

Tuesday, March 20, 2012



First, let's focus on your self-introduction.

"Walk me through your resume." (WMTYR)
Some interviewers (most notably, Wharton) often start the conversation with: "Walk me through your resume." OR "Summarize your professional life since graduating from university."

The best strategy for this type of self-introduction question is to show each period of your career as a choice. "I joined my company because I wanted to work in an international setting and believed that the ABC industry would provide me with the best chances to use my XYZ skills. I joined the Finance Department in order to learn accounting and profit-based decision-making. Later, I moved to (another department) in order to learn (another set of skills)...."

Try creating an (invisible) "why" column on your resume. In other words, list keyword to show your motivation for each choice. What skill/knowledge did you hope to gain by choosing your university major? What interested you in your industry? Why did you chose your particular company? What skill did you hope to acquire in your first / second / current position?

You might also want to create a macro analysis / summary of your career to date. For example, " I have worked in two different functions. First, I learned sales skills since I knew they would be useful in any business situation. After earning the top sales award in 2007, I was promoted to my current position in corporate planning."

VINCE'S NOTE: Clients have asked me if you should give this answer in chronological order. Absolutely! In other words, if your resume lists professional experience above educational experience (as I suggest) you are actually walking your interviewer UP your resume from college graduation up to your current position.

"Tell me about yourself" (TMAY)
Another common way for an interviewer to start the conversation (after small-talk / ice-breakers) is to say, "Tell me about yourself".

She is asking for quick "snapshot" images of your professional and personal achievements and interests. Your life as a list. 


Professionally, I…
  • One macro sentence (# of years / functions / skills)
  • One recent accomplishment or highlight such as being awarded company sponsorship or completing an important project
Personally, I…(list 2 to 3 interests)
  • 1st hobby / interest (perhaps showing how you use your "mind" such as studying history, a science, or third language)
  • 2nd hobby / interest (perhaps showing how you use your "body" such as sports)
  • 3rd hobby / interest (perhaps showing how you use your "spirit" such as the arts, cultural activities)
VINCE'S NOTE: Some clients ask if you should only mention current / ongoing interest. Not necessarily. I personally would talk about music even though I am not currently in a band. I enjoy strumming my guitar to make my son laugh. And I certainly take every opportunity to listen to live and recorded music. Most of all, some of my best lifelong friends are those I have made through music. So I would mention it as my first personal interest.  

Other templates and tips

How to Answer the ‘Tell Me About Yourself’ Interview Question
Don’t be afraid of this question; instead use it as an opportunity to position yourself for success.

When I was a human resources executive doing hiring interviews, I almost always began my interviews with candidates by requesting, “Tell me about yourself.” I did that for a number of reasons, the most important of which was to see how the candidates handled themselves in an unstructured situation.
I wanted to see how articulate they were, how confident they were and generally what type of impression they would make on the people with whom they came into contact on the job.
I also wanted to get a sense of what they thought was important.
Most candidates find this question to be a particularly difficult one to answer. That is a misplaced view. This question offers an opportunity to describe yourself positively and focus the interview on your strengths. Be prepared to deal with it. These days, it’s unavoidable. Like me, most interviewers start off their interviews with this question. A lot of interviewers open with it as an icebreaker or because they're still getting organized, but they all use it to get a sense of whom you are.

The Wrong Response
There are many ways to respond to this question correctly and just one wrong way: by asking, “What do you want to know?” That tells me you have not prepared properly for the interview and are likely to be equally unprepared on the job. You need to develop a good answer to this question, practice it and be able to deliver it with poise and confidence.

The Right Response
To help you prepare, I spoke to a number of career coaches on how best to respond when faced with this question. Heed the career advice that follows to ace this opener:
The consensus of the coaches with whom I spoke:
  • Focus on what most interests the interviewer
  • Highlight your most important accomplishments
Focus on What Interests the Interviewer
According to Jane Cranston, a career coach from New York, “The biggest mistake people being interviewed make is thinking the interviewer really wants to know about them as a person.
They start saying things like, 'Well, I was born in Hoboken, and when I was three we moved …’ Wrong. The interviewer wants to know that you can do the job, that you fit into the team, what you have accomplished in your prior positions and how can you help the organization.”
Nancy Fox, of Fox Coaching Associates, agrees. She notes that “many candidates, unprepared for the question, skewer themselves by rambling, recapping their life story, delving into ancient work history or personal matters.” She recommends starting with your most recent employment and explaining why you are well qualified for the position. According to Fox, the key to all successful interviewing is to match your qualifications to what the interviewer is looking for. “In other words, you want to be selling what the buyer is buying.”
Think of your response as a movie preview, says Melanie Szlucha, a coach with Red Inc. “The movie preview always relates to the movie you're about to see. You never see a movie preview for an animated flick when you're there to see a slasher movie. So the ‘tell me about yourself” answer needs to directly fit the concerns of your prospective employer.”
Previews are also short but show clips of the movie that people would want to see more of later. They provide enough information about the movie so that you could ask intelligent questions about what the movie is about. Hiring managers don't want to look unprepared by reading your resume in front of you, so Szlucha advises that you “provide them some topics to ask you more questions about.”
Highlight Your Most Important Accomplishments
Greg Maka, managing director at 24/7 Marketing, advises job seekers to "tell a memorable story about your attributes.” For example, if you tell an interviewer that people describe you as tenacious, provide a brief story that shows how you have been tenacious in achieving your goals. “Stories are powerful and are what people remember most,” he said.
One great example is that of Fran Capo, a comedienne who bills herself as “the world’s fastest-talking female.” She offers the following advice: “Whenever I go on auditions or interviews, I have a "set" opening I use. ... I tell the interviewer what I do in one sentence and then say, ‘And I also happen to be the Guinness Book of World Records’ fastest-talking female.’ Then I elaborate.” According to Capo, the main thing in anything you do is to be memorable, in a good way. Your goal when you answer the ‘tell me about yourself’ question is to find a way stand out from everyone else.
And, Be Brief
Maureen Anderson, host of "The Career Clinic" radio show, stresses the importance of keeping your answer short: “The employer wants to know a little bit about you to begin with — not your life story. Just offer up two or three things that are interesting — and useful. You should take about a minute to answer this question.”
To make sure it is succinct and covers what you want it to cover, she suggests that you “write your answer out before the interview, practice it, time it and rehearse it until it sounds natural. Then practice it some more. The goal is to tell the employer enough to pique their interest, not so much that they wonder if they’d ever be able to shut you up during a coffee break at the office.”
Rather than dread this question, a well-prepared candidate should welcome this inquiry. Properly answered, this question puts the candidate in the driver's seat. It gives her an opportunity to sell herself. It allows her to set the tone and direction for the rest of the interview, setting her up to answer the questions she most wants to answer.
(found at; accessed 01/2011)

10 Good Ways to 'Tell Me About Yourself'
'If Hollywood made a movie about my life, it would be called...' and nine more memorable answers to this dreaded job interview question.

You know it’s coming.
It’s the most feared question during any job interview: Do you think I would look good in a cowboy hat?
Just kidding. The real question is: Can you tell me about yourself?
Blecch. What a boring, vague, open-ended question. Who likes answering that?
I know. I’m with you. But unfortunately, hiring managers and executive recruitersinterviewing and you’re out networking in the community — you need to be ready to hear it and answer it. At all times. ask the question. Even if you’re not
Now, before I share a list of 10 memorable answers, consider the two essential elements behind the answers:
The medium is the message. The interviewer cares less about your answer to this question and more about the confidence, enthusiasm and passion with which you answer it.
The speed of the response is the response. The biggest mistake you could make is pausing, stalling or fumbling at the onset of your answer, thus demonstrating a lack of self-awareness and self-esteem.
Next time you’re faced with the dreaded, “Tell me about yourself…” question, try these:
  1. “I can summarize who I am in three words.” Grabs their attention immediately. Demonstrates your ability to be concise, creative and compelling.
  2. “The quotation I live my life by is…” Proves that personal development is an essential part of your growth plan. Also shows your ability to motivate yourself.
  3. “My personal philosophy is…” Companies hire athletes – not shortstops. This line indicates your position as a thinker, not just an employee.
  4. “People who know me best say that I’m…” This response offers insight into your own level of self-awareness.
  5. “Well, I googled myself this morning, and here’s what I found…” Tech-savvy, fun, cool people would say this. Unexpected and memorable.
  6. “My passion is…” People don’t care what you do – people care who you are. And what you’re passionate about is who you are. Plus, passion unearths enthusiasm.
  7. “When I was seven years old, I always wanted to be…” An answer like this shows that you’ve been preparing for this job your whole life, not just the night before.
  8. “If Hollywood made a move about my life, it would be called…” Engaging, interesting and entertaining.
  9. “Can I show you, instead of tell you?” Then, pull something out of your pocket that represents who you are. Who could resist this answer? Who could forget this answer?
  10. “The compliment people give me most frequently is…” Almost like a testimonial, this response also indicates self-awareness and openness to feedback.
Keep in mind that these examples are just the opener. The secret is thinking how you will follow up each answer with relevant, interesting and concise explanations that make the already bored interviewer look up from his stale coffee and think, “Wow! That’s the best answer I’ve heard all day!”
Ultimately it’s about answering quickly, it’s about speaking creatively and it’s about breaking people’s patterns.
I understand your fear with such answers. Responses like these are risky, unexpected and unorthodox. And that’s exactly why they work.
(found at; accessed 01/2011)

more tips here

-Updated by Vince on 14 March 2012

  • I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide
  • If you want my help preparing for your interview, please email
  • Let me know when you plan to interview and when you want to practice with me
  • I will confirm if I have the capacity to help you
  • My interview service details and fees are here
  • Please note that initial consultations are not offered for interview training

Monday, March 19, 2012

Strengths and weaknesses

Common Questions Interviews Ask to Elicit Your Strengths and Weaknesses

  • What are your three greatest strengths and three greatest weaknesses?
  • What are your greatest management strengths?
  • What are your greatest management weaknesses?
  • In what ways could your performance improve?
  • If managers were describing you, what would they say?
  • How would your colleagues describe you? What would you add to their description? In other words, what is something that others are surprised to learn about you?
  • What are your personal strengths?
  • What are your personal weaknesses?
  • What is the weakness of your application?
  • What will the admissions committee perceive to be your greatest weakness as an applicant?
  • What areas do you need to develop?
  • What are your development needs?
  • What personality trait would you most like to improve?
  • What is one thing you would like to change about yourself?
  • Tell me about a team experience that was a failure for you.
  • Tell me about a time when you failed to persuade someone of your view.
  • Tell me about a time when you failed to resolve a conflict.
  • Describe a significant failure in your life and what you learned from it.
When brainstorming weakness, consider your:
  • weaknesses as a leader
  • weaknesses as a team member
  • weaknesses working cross-functionally
  • weaknesses working cross-culturally
  • weaknesses managing time
  • weaknesses managing details
  • weaknesses thinking about big picture / abstract issues
  • weaknesses conveying bad news
  • weaknesses confronting others
  • weaknesses beginning new tasks
  • weaknesses maintaining energy mid-project
  • weaknesses being patient
  • weaknesses persuading subordinates
  • weaknesses influencing seniors
  • weaknesses closing projects
Examples from Stanford LoR Rubric:
  • Displays limited range of influence techniques
  • Builds bonds with team members in immediate area of organization
  • Completes assigned tasks; frequently misses opportunities if not identified by others
  • Sometimes lets distractions or setbacks reduce effectiveness
  • Sometimes underestimates or overestimates own capabilities
  • Generally paces work though occasionally must rush to meet deadlines

ADAM's ADVICE and METHOD (use it!)

Strategies for talking about your strengths and weaknesses:
Advice from Adam's blog:

HAVE AS MANY WEAKNESSES AS POSSIBLE, NOT JUST ONE OR TWO. TRY FOR THREE TO FIVE. Here you be preparing answers to the very common questions that are asked about weakness, but in addition you will need to think about how the MBA program and/or some other aspect of yourself will make it possible for you to overcome this weakness. Weaknesses should be real and not abstract.

You should have clear stories that demonstrate your weaknesses, something many applicants initially have a problem with. Additionally knowing how a program will help you overcome your weakness will explain why you want to attend that school. Finally, SOME, BUT NOT All weaknesses make for great failure stories, another very common topic for interviews.

Strengths/Contributions/Future Potential/Personality
  1. One of my key strengths is X. A story that demonstrates this strength is... Another story that does is... This strength will be a contribution at your school because... This strength will contribute to my future goals because...
  2. Another of my key strengths is Y. A story that demonstrates this strength is... Another story that does is... This strength will be a contribution at your school because... This strength will contribute to my future goals because...
  3. Another of my key strengths is Z. A story that demonstrates this strength is... Another story that does is.. This strength will be a contribution at your school because... This strength will contribute to my future goals because...
For each X, Y, Z insert a keyword describing your strength. Connect keywords to specific stories. If possible, find more than one story that demonstrates the keyword. Next think how this strength could be a contribution when you are student. Next think how this strength will contribute to your goals. By using this method, you will have prepared answers to such common questions as "What are your strengths" and "How will you contribute to our school." Additionally you will be ready to show how your past experience will help you achieve your goals. Additionally when asked questions which are less direct about your strengths, you will already have keywords and stories ready for those questions you can't predict. Keep in mind that your strengths might include particular skills as well as personality characteristics. You should think about strengths in the widest sense. Try to develop about 6-12(or more) keywords and 12-20 (or more) stories that relate to your strengths, contributions, personality, and future potential.

Some questions to ask yourself:
1. Does the strength demonstrate one's potential for future academic and/or professional success? If so, it is a probably a good topic. If not, why does your interviewer need to know about it?
2. Is a weakness fixable? If you are writing about a weakness that cannot be improved upon through your program at school X, why does your interviewer need to know about it?


  1. What is your greatest weakness? 
    Some advisors will tell you to select a strength and present it as a weakness. Such as: I work too much. I just work and work and work. Wrong. First of all, using a strength and presenting it as a weakness is deceiving. Second, it misses the point of the question.

    You should select a weakness that you have been actively working to overcome. For example: I have had trouble in the past with planning and prioritization. However, Im now taking steps to correct this. I just started using a pocket planner . . . then show them your planner and how you are using it.

    Talk about a true weakness and show what you are doing to overcome it.

Please fill out this chart: Strengths (+) and Weaknesses (-)

Professional Example 1
Professional Example 2
Personal Example 1
Apply to MBA Life
Apply to Future Career
Strength 1
analytical (mind)

how strength helps you contribute to classmates

Strength 2
technical (hands)

Strength 3
interpersonal (heart)

Strength 4

Strength 5

Weakness 1

⇒ failure?

how improve through MBA experience?
Weakness 2

Weakness 3
as a leader
e.g. delegation
⇒ setback?

Weakness 4
as a team member
e.g. time management
⇒ interpersonal conflict?

Weakness 5
as a professional
e.g. overspecialized


Tools for brainstorming your strengths and weaknesses
Good luck with your self-study and practice!


Top of blog

-Updated by Vince on 14 March 2012

  • I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide
  • If you want my help preparing for your interview, please email
  • Let me know when you plan to interview and when you want to practice with me
  • I will confirm if I have the capacity to help you
  • My interview service details and fees are here
  • Please note that initial consultations are not offered for interview training

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Accomplishments, Leadership, and Teamwork

2011 marks my ninth year in a row providing one-to-one mock interview sessions for clients in Japan and around the world. I keep changing my approach as I learn new ways to help my clients pass answer typical and non-typical questions.

This year, I am emphasizing the fact that certain stories can be used to answer multiple questions. A certain project can be framed as an achievement, a leadership example, and a teamwork example. At first, this realization confuses some of my clients, but ultimately, it should help them become more flexible storytellers.

The trick is to ask yourself why the interviewer is asking about your achievement, teamwork, or leadership experience. On one hand, an inexperienced interviewer may simply be reading from a list of prepared questions, checking off categories one-by-one. More likely, however, your interviewer asks a specific question for a specific reason. Perhaps she is having trouble imagining you in a team setting at MBA. Or perhaps she does not view you as a leader who will be active at MBA and successful in your future management career. Or maybe she is asking about your accomplishments because she is not confident about your career progression.

Clients often ask me about the difference between accomplishment, leadership, and teamwork.

My short answer

  • accomplishment is about results (quantitative) and impact (qualitative) 
  • leadership is about your future management potential
  • teamwork is about MBA life
If your interview asks for more than one example of your accomplishment, she might be skeptical that you are adding value to your organization. By extension, she might also be unclear about how you can contribute to her MBA program. I usually advise clients to mention a recent accomplishment first since you want to show your interviewer that your career continues to improve as you mature and grow into your role.

Similarly, if she is asking you for multiple leadership examples, she probably does not believe that you can achieve your stated goals. Try to tell leadership stories that demonstrate the core skills that you will build upon at MBA in order to achieve your future career vision. 
Finally, if she asks for multiple examples of team projects, she might be having a hard time imagining you as an effective member who can contribute to project teams and study groups. Believing that past behavior is the best indicator of future actions, a skilled interviewer asks about teamwork to determine your future behavior in study and project teams. If asked about teamwork, emphasize situations where you were not the leader, but you still added value to the group. Most MBA study groups and project teams are flat, meaning that no one is officially in charge. Still, someone often takes charge because he or she has insight, skills, or charisma that helps the team focus and achieve results. Try to share examples of teams you worked in that were similar to those at MBA, meaning non-hierarchical, cross-functional, and, if possible, cross-cultural.

How can you organize your ideas? In addition to taking my small group seminars and one-to-one mock interview training, many of my clients meet each other for peer-to-peer training. They help each other organize their answers and provide critical feedback on how to make their stories more concise and impressive. Other clients create mind maps. By organizing your ideas visually, you can differentiate between your stories and clarify your keywords and examples. One client told me that he could imagine his mind map as he answered the interviewers questions. His mind's eye moved to the "goals" section of the physical map he created before his interview. Then, he could move to areas that covered accomplishments, leadership, and teamwork. 

Overall, I encourage you to use your best idea first. For accomplishment, focus on professional activities. Leadership and teamwork can include non-work activities if they add value and show a different side of your interpersonal skills. Bottom line - with interviews, you will only know if something make sense if you talk about it. Meet with mentors, peers, and counselors to get feedback. Practice early, and practice often.


Some interviewers will ask you for your definition of leadership. If someone asked me that question, I would mention my favorite leadership model, which is Blanchard and Hersey's Situational Leadership. In the 1950s, management theorists from Ohio State University and the University of Michigan published a series of studies to determine whether leaders should be more task or relationship (people) oriented. The importance of the research cannot be over estimated since leaders tend to have a dominant style; a leadership style they use in a wide variety of situations. Surprisingly, the research discovered that there is no one best style: leaders must adjust their leadership style to the situation as well as to the people being led.


VINCE's NOTE: A friend of mine attended Kellogg's MBA program a few years ago. I was directing an educational non-profit at the time. We were chatting on the phone one day, and I asked him the best thing he had learned at school so far. He hit me with the "Situational Leadership" model. I found it immediately useful to help manage my staff, who ranged in age and experience from 15 to 50 years old. I could not possibly be the same leader for everyone on my team. I offer this model to you the MBA applicant not as a "perfect answer", but simply as one more tool to help you dig deeper into your own strengths and weaknesses.

Situational Leadership is a term that can be applied generically to a style of leadership, but that also refers to a recognised, and useful, leadership model.  In simple terms, a situational leader is one who can adopt different leadership styles depending on the situation.  Most of us do this anyway in our dealings with other people: we try not to get angry with a nervous colleague on their first day, we chase up tasks with some people more than others because we know they'll forget otherwise.

But Ken Blanchard, the management guru best known for the "One Minute Manager" series, and Paul Hersey created a model for Situational Leadership in the late 1960's that allows you to analyse the needs of the situation you're dealing with, and then adopt the most appropriate leadership style.  It's proved popular with managers over the years because it passes the two basic tests of such models: it's simple to understand, and it works in most environments for most people.  The model doesn't just apply to people in leadership or management positions: we all lead others at work and at home.

Blanchard and Hersey characterised leadership style in terms of the amount of direction and of support that the leader gives to his or her followers, and so created a simple grid:

  • Directing Leaders define the roles and tasks of the 'follower', and supervise them closely. Decisions are made by the leader and announced, so communication is largely one-way.
  • Coaching Leaders still define roles and tasks, but seeks ideas and suggestions from the follower. Decisions remain the leader's prerogative, but communication is much more two-way.
  • Supporting Leaders pass day-to-day decisions, such as task allocation and processes, to the follower. The leader facilitates and takes part in decisions, but control is with the follower.
  • Delegating Leaders are still involved in decisions and problem-solving, but control is with the follower. The follower decides when and how the leader will be involved.
Effective leaders are versatile in being able to move around the grid according to the situation, so there is no one right style.  However, we tend to have a preferred style, and in applying Situational Leadership you need to know which one that is for you.

Clearly the right leadership style will depend very much on the person being led - the follower - and Blanchard and Hersey extended their model to include the Development Level of the follower.  They said that the leader's style should be driven by the Competence and Commitment of the follower, and came up with four levels:

D4 High Competence
High Commitment
Experienced at the job, and comfortable with their own ability to do it well.  May even be more skilled than the leader.
D3 High Competence
Variable Commitment
Experienced and capable, but may lack the confidence to go it alone, or the motivation to do it well / quickly
D2 Some Competence
Low Commitment
May have some relevant skills, but won't be able to do the job without help.  The task or the situation may be new to them.
D1 Low Competence
Low Commitment
Generally lacking the specific skills required for the job in hand, and lacks any confidence and / or motivation to tackle it.

Development Levels are also situational.  I might be generally skilled, confident and motivated in my job, but would still drop into Level D1 when faced, say, with a task requiring skills I don't possess.  For example, lots of managers are D4 when dealing with the day-to-day running of their department, but move to D1 or D2 when dealing with a sensitive employee issue.

You can see where this is going.  Blanchard and Hersey said that the Leadership Style (S1 - S4) of the leader must correspond to the Development level (D1 - D4) of the follower - and it's the leader who adapts. 
  • For example, a new person joins your team and you're asked to help them through the first few days.  You sit them in front of a PC, show them a pile of invoices that need to be processed today, and push off to a meeting.  They're at level D1, and you've adopted S4.  Everyone loses because the new person feels helpless and demotivated, and you don't get the invoices processed.
  • On the other hand, you're handing over to an experienced colleague before you leave for a holiday.  You've listed all the tasks that need to be done, and a set of instructions on how to carry out each one.  They're at level D4, and you've adopted S1.  The work will probably get done, but not the way you expected, and your colleague despises you for treating him like an idiot.
  • But swap the situations and things get better.  Leave detailed instructions and a checklist for the new person, and they'll thank you for it.  Give your colleague a quick chat and a few notes before you go on holiday, and everything will be fine.
By adopting the right style to suit the follower's development level, work gets done, relationships are built up, and most importantly, the follower's development level will rise to D4, to everyone's benefit.

Another view:

click to enlarge


Gaining Broad Perspective on Leadership

© Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC.
Adapted from the Field Guide to Leadership and Supervision.

What is Leadership?

Many people believe that leadership is simply being the first, biggest or most powerful. Leadership in organizations has a different and more meaningful definition. Very simply put, a leader is interpreted as someone who sets direction in an effort and influences people to follow that direction. How they set that direction and influence people depends on a variety of factors that we'll consider later on below. To really comprehend the "territory" of leadership, you should briefly scan some of the major theories, notice various styles of leadership and review some of the suggested traits and characteristics that leaders should have. The rest of this library should help you in this regard.
Here’s another definition:
Leadership Defined

Theories About Leadership

There are also numerous theories about leadership, or about carrying out the role of leader, e.g., servant leader, democratic leader, principle-centered leader, group-man theory, great-man theory, traits theory, visionary leader, total leader, situational leader, etc. The following articles provides brief overview of key theories. See
Leadership Theories

Leadership Styles Overview

By Murray Johannsen
When developing your leadership skills, one must soon confront an important practical question, "What leadership styles work best for me and my organization?" To answer this question, it's best to understand that there are many from which to choose and as part of your leadership development effort, you should consider developing as many leadership styles as possible.
Three Classic Leadership Styles
One dimension of has to do with control and one's perception of how much control one should give to people. The laissez faire style implies low control, the autocratic style high control and the participative lies somewhere in between.

The Laissez Faire Leadership Style
The style is largely a "hands off" view that tends to minimize the amount of direction and face time required. Works well if you have highly trained and highly motivated direct reports.
The Autocratic Leadership Style
The autocratic style has its advocates, but it is falling out of favor in many countries. Some people have argued that the style is popular with today's CEO's, who have much in common with feudal lords in Medieval Europe.
The Participative Leadership Style
It's hard to order and demand someone to be creative, perform as a team, solve complex problems, improve quality, and provide outstanding customer service. The style presents a happy medium between over controlling (micromanaging) and not being engaged and tends to be seen in organizations that must innovate to prosper.
The Emergent Leadership Style
Contrary to the belief of many, groups do not automatically accept a new "boss" as leader. We see a number of ineffective managers who didn't know the behaviors to use when one taking over a new group.
The Transactional Leadership Style
The approach emphasizes getting things done within the umbrella of the status quo; almost in opposition to the goals of the transformational leadership. It's considered to be a "by the book" approach in which the person works within the rules. As such, it's commonly seen in large, bureaucratic organizations.
The Transformational Leadership Style
The primary focus of this leadership style is to make change happen in:
  • Our Self,
  • Others,
  • Groups, and
  • Organizations
Charisma is a special leadership style commonly associated with transformational leadership. While extremely powerful, it is extremely hard to teach.
Visionary Leadership, The leadership style focuses on how the leader defines the future for followers and moves them toward it.
Strategic Leadership
This is practiced by the military services such as the US Army, US Air Force, and many large corporations. It stresses the competitive nature of running an organization and being able to out fox and out wit the competition.
Team Leadership
A few years ago, a large corporation decided that supervisors were no longer needed and those in charge were suddenly made "team leaders." Today, companies have gotten smarter about teams, but it still takes leadership to transition a group into a team.
Facilitative Leadership
This is a special style that anyone who runs a meeting can employ. Rather than being directive, one uses a number of indirect communication patterns to help the group reach consensus.
Leadership Influence Styles
Here one looks at the behaviors associated how one exercises influence. For example, does the person mostly punish? Do they know how to reward?
Cross-Cultural Leadership
Not all individuals can adapt to the leadership styles expected in a different culture; whether that culture is organizational or national.
A great coach is definitely a leader who also possess a unique gift--the ability to teach and train.
Level 5 Leadership
This term was coined by Jim Collins in his book Good to Great: Why Some Company’s Make the Leap and Other Don’t. As Collins says in his book, "We were surprised, shocked really, to discover the types of leadership required for turning a good company into a great one." What he seems to have found is what The Economist calls "The Cult of the Faceless Boss."

Overview of Leadership in Organizations

Many people today are seeking to understand -- and many people are writing about -- the concept and practices of leadership. There are a great many reasons for the popularity of the topic, including that organizations are faced with changes like never before. The concept of leadership is relevant to any aspect of ensuring effectiveness in organizations and in managing change. This topic in the Library helps you to fully understand the concept and practices of leadership.
There has been an explosion of literature about leadership lately. Leading is a very human activity -- we're all human -- so there are many people who consider themselves experts on leadership. Unfortunately, many people make strong assertions about leadership without ever really understanding a great deal about leadership. Understanding the concept of leadership requires more than reading a few articles or fantasizing about what great leaders should be.
NOTE: Some people use the term "leadership" (the capability to lead) to refer to executive management (a role in an organization). If you're seeking information about executive management, see Chief Executive Role and/or Boards of Directors.
NOTE: There are two closely related topics in the library, including Basic Overview of Supervision and Management (Introduction).

Gaining Broad Perspective on Leadership

Is Leading Different than Managing? (Pros and Cons)

Traditional views of management associate it with four major functions: planning, organizing, leading and controlling/coordinating. However, many educators, practitioners and writers disagree with this traditional view.

Views that Leading is Different Than Managing

The following articles offer views different from the traditional view that leading is a major function of management.
Management Styles (says they're different and compares different traits)
Focus and Context: The Hub of Leadership
Management vs. Leadership
Manage Things, Lead People

View That Separating "Leading" from "Managing" Can Be Destructive

Another view is that to be a very effective member of an organization (whether executive, middle manager, or entry-level worker), you need skills in the functions of planning, organizing, leading and coordinating activities -- the key is you need to be able to emphasize different skills at different times.
Yes, leading is different than planning, organizing and coordinating because leading is focused on influencing people, while the other functions are focused on "resources" in addition to people. But that difference is not enough to claim that "leading is different than managing" any more than one can claim that "planning is different than managing" or "organizing is different than managing".
The assertion that "leading is different than managing" -- and the ways that these assertions are made -- can cultivate the view that the activities of planning, organizing and coordinating are somehow less important than leading. The assertion can also convince others that they are grand and gifted leaders who can ignore the mere activities of planning, organizing and coordinating -- they can leave these lesser activities to others with less important things to do in the organization. This view can leave carnage in organizations. Read:
Founder's Syndrome -- How Organizations Suffer -- and Can Recover

How Do Leaders Lead?

The Challenge of Suggesting Which Methods to Use

The particular competencies (knowledge, skills and abilities) that a person needs in order to lead at a particular time in an organization depend on a variety of factors, including:
1) Whether that person is leading one other individual, a group or a large organization;
2) The extent of leadership skills that person already has;
3) That person's basic nature and values (competencies should be chosen that are in accordance with that nature and those values)
4) Whether the group or organization is for-profit or nonprofit, new or long-established, and large or small;
5) The particular culture (or values and associated behaviors) of whomever is being led.

Suggested Competencies Required for Leading in Organizations

The above considerations can make it very challenging when trying to determine what competencies someone should have in order to be a better leader. Perhaps that's why leadership training programs in institutions typically assert a set of standard competencies, for example, decision making, problem solving, managing power and influence, and building trust. The following lists of competencies was derived by examining a variety of leadership development programs.
Suggested Competencies for Effective Leadership in Organizations
- - - How to Use the Following List
- - - Leading Yourself
- - - Core Competencies to Lead Others
- - - Leading People -- Other Individuals
- - - Leading People -- In Groups
- - - Leading People -- Organization-Wide

Leading is Human Activity -- Everyone's Human -- Everyone's Got Advice About Leading

There are numerous -- often contradictory -- views on the traits and characteristics that leaders should have. The concept of leadership is like a big "elephant" and each person standing around the elephant has their own unique view -- and each person feels very strongly about their own view. Descriptions of leadership include concepts such as the "New Paradigm", "New Millennium". Descriptions can sound very passionate, even evangelical! It can be difficult to grasp consistent messages from articles about leadership. Many writers use different terms for the same concepts. Some interchange use of roles in the organization (executive managers) with competencies in leading (leadership).

What kind of leader will you be?

  1. Thoughtful leaders: lead behind an operation and guide groups to make correct decisions
  2. Visionary leaders: use vision, mission, and direction to define the focus of an organization
  3. Risk-taking/decisive leaders: face critical issues and challenges and make tough decisions that often lead to dramatic change
  4. Team-building leaders: bring together a core team of people, position them according to their abilities, and capitalize them on their strength to achieve a common cause
  5. Legacy leaders: have a talent for building a legacy

Business Week Online

AUGUST 20, 2007
By Jena McGregor

The Five Faces Of The 21st Century Chief

The generalist CEO will give way to the specialist, whether that's a global networker or someone with a knack for assembling all-star teams
James M. Citrin, corporate kingmaker, has long had a close-up view of the leadership demands of the world's most dynamic companies. As founder of Spencer Stuart's technology, communications, and media practice, the executive recruiter has placed 165 chief executives, chief financial officers, and directors since 1994. Big catches include David L. Calhoun, a General Electric (GE ) star he helped lure to private equity-owned VNU (now Nielsen); Eastman Kodak (EK ) CEO Antonio M. Perez; and Motorola (MOT ) chief Edward J. Zander.

From his perch, Citrin has watched CEOs of public companies fight a losing battle against the spiraling demands on their performance and time. "The job of the CEO has become so consuming and complex that if you actually list all the things a CEO is responsible for, no human being can do them all," he says. Add to that a tightening market for talent as more stars jump ship to private equity, and it's clear to him the model of the public-company CEO must change.

Over the next five years, Citrin believes boards will need to embrace the concept of the "specialist CEO." Boards of directors, he says, will need to get more realistic about the rarity of the perfect CEO. Rather than holding out for leaders who are expert at everything, they should instead warm up to CEOs with deep expertise in one or two crucial areas and enough knowhow in the rest to build a high-performing supporting cast.

Citrin believes a change in what boards focus on may prompt a shift in the C-suite's structure. More chief operating officers will be near-equal partners, and more leaders with specific functions, such as heads of human resources and marketing, will interact with the board. In the future, Citrin expects five specialist CEO types to be in the greatest demand:

Whether they're algorithm geniuses, coding prodigies, or merely credentialed scientists or designers, CEOs in touch with their inner geeks will be a sought-after breed. As global competition intensifies the pressure for top-line growth, innovators-in-chief will be more clued in to the next breakthrough business. Plus, their expertise will help them inspire engineering and research and development teams.
ARCHETYPE: Arthur D. Levinson, the CEO of Genentech. (DNA ) Levinson has a PhD in biochemistry and is known for sending out late night e-mails to his researchers on details in scientific papers. Citrin also cites Reed Hastings, founder and CEO of Netflix (NFLX ) and a former software engineer, who Spencer Stuart placed on Microsoft's board.

A two-year stint in London may have counted as enough international experience in the past, but that won't be the case much longer. "More and more of our CEO specs are calling for explicit business experience in emerging markets," Citrin says. Boards are looking for CEOs with passports showing frequent visits to China and India, along with Russia, Brazil, and Dubai. Ambassadors won't just be familiar with these areas, Citrin says, but will have access to local governments, ruling families, and business tycoons.
ARCHETYPE: Citrin points to News Corp. (NWS ) CEO Rupert Murdoch, who has long wooed Beijing officials and launched alliances with local companies. Another example, he says, is PepsiCo CEO Indra K. Nooyi, who was born in Chennai, India.

Citrin believes dealmaking specialists—those able to both sell off noncore assets and go toe-to-toe with private equity players on big acquisitions—will be in heavy demand. Of course, buying and selling has always been part of a CEO's brief, but "increasingly, these large strategic transactions are really bet-the-company kind of deals," he says.

ARCHETYPE: Retired AT&T (T ) CEO Edward E. Whitacre Jr., who turned SBC Communications (T ), once the smallest of the regional Bells, into a powerhouse with a market value of $242 billion. Says Citrin: "He's built the largest player in [his] field from an unlikely starting position."

Corporations' walls are only going to get more permeable, as companies form alliances with outsiders and turn to networks of innovators for ideas to put into practice. Meanwhile, the need for collaboration among corporate units will expand, since demand for new growth areas requires more creativity across divisions. Orchestra conductors will be skilled in getting everyone to play in the same key.

ARCHETYPE: A.G. Lafley, who says half of all new Procter & Gamble (PG ) products should come from outside its R&D labs. Citrin also cites Lafley's integration of P&G's $57 billion purchase of Gillette as proof of his talent as a maestro.

If you think "people are our greatest asset" is an overused bromide today, just wait. The talent war is only expected to worsen as boomers begin retiring en masse and emerging-markets managers remain scarce. CEOs who can retain the best people and deploy them adeptly will be hot commodities.
ARCHETYPE: Xerox (XRX ) CEO Anne M. Mulcahy, who named operating chief and heir apparent Ursula M. Burns to the president's role in April. Says Citrin: "She's been able to put the right people in the right jobs to spectacular effect."


-Updated by Vince on 14 March 2012

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