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10 Leadership Interview Questions: [With Sample Answers]

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You know you have the tools and chops to command a team, if you’re not already the head of one.

However, that doesn’t mean nervousness and fear can’t get to you, and an interview is certainly a part of it.

Worry not, there are a ton of people that experience the same jitters as you.

Even with all those pressures, you can nail leadership-focused interviews with the right preparation and practice.  

The following questions may put you on the spot, especially if you’re in the initial stages of your career.

With this in mind, we’ve broken the questions down to help you nail your upcoming leadership interview and teach you how to best answer each.

10 Common Leadership Interview Questions

Whether you’re looking to move up the career ladder in your company or become the head of a new team, you can expect tons of leadership-focused questions in your interview.

  1. What is your leadership style?
  2. Tell us/me about the instance you have demonstrated your leadership skills.
  3. Have you ever turned down a leadership role, and why?
  4. How do you handle conflict or disagreement situations on your team?
  5. What was a difficult decision you made as a leader?
  6. How do you give and respond to constructive criticism?
  7. How do you motivate an underperforming team member?
  8. How do goals help you become a better leader?
  9. How do you monitor a team’s performance?
  10. How Can You Contribute to A Positive Work Culture?

What Should I Say in a Leadership-Focused Interview

To some degree you should say what the interviewers want to hear – a leader talking!

However, you shouldn’t practice specific responses since they may seem excessively rehearsed. Instead, your responses should demonstrate your qualities, experience, and leadership potential.

If you focus and have a mindset to answer the questions straightforwardly and show confidence in your response, you will be more likely to impress the interviewer.

What Leadership Skills Are Interviewers Looking for in a Candidate?

Interviewers look for various leadership qualities in interviewees, varying with the leadership role and organizational dynamics.

Nonetheless, here are the best leadership skills to demonstrate:

  • Communication skills: Strong communication skills are necessary for leaders at every level. The recruiters seek to determine whether you can clearly articulate the vision and goals among team members and stakeholders, provide guidance, and facilitate organizational change. These skills also include listening keenly and offering relevant and proactive feedback.
  • Decisiveness: The ability to make timely and effective decisions is an essential addition to every leader’s arsenal. Recruiters want to know that you can analyze a situation, weigh your choices, and make well-informed decisions that benefit the organization.
  • Adaptability: Change is inevitable in every organization, and leaders should be ready to adjust and lead in the face of change. Interviewers seek to determine if you’re adaptable to change – whether you can cope with uncertainty, remain calm under pressure, and pivot promptly if necessary.
  • Strategic thinking: Leaders require strategic thinking to envision the future and take adequate measures to achieve organizational objectives. It involves analyzing data, detecting patterns, and making informed decisions. Interviewers want to know how well you can see the bigger picture and comprehend how your choices affect the organization’s goals.
  • Emotional intelligence: Effective leadership requires leaders to manage their own and the team members’ emotions. Interviewers want to know if you have exceptional emotional intelligence and can strike positive interactions with the rest of the team. This is critical in times of crisis or an incumbent problem that has the potential to disrupt the work environment.

What Leadership Traits Are Interviewers Looking to Avoid in a Candidate?

Interviewers often seek to avoid applicants with characteristics that might jeopardize their capacity to lead effectively.

Below are some typical leadership traits that recruiters may be seeking to prevent a candidate:

  • Arrogance: Interviewers prefer not to hire arrogant or overconfident applicants since they can be challenging to work with and may fail to create solid connections with team members.
  • Micromanagement: Micromanagers can be overly controlling, causing demotivation among team members and ultimately reducing productivity.
  • Lack of accountability: Leaders who are unwilling to accept responsibility for their conduct and decisions might undermine team members’ confidence and respect.

Sample Leadership Interview Questions and Answers

Even though the questions may vary depending on the company, looking at sample leadership interview questions will help you to respond and tailor your responses to the specific role you are applying for.

Here are some of the most commonly asked leadership interview questions and how to answer them.

1. What Is Your Leadership Style?

Why This Question Is Asked

This question seems opinion-centered, but there’s more than what meets the eye. Interviewers ask this question to gain insight into your leadership style and if it aligns with their organization’s values and objectives.

Your leadership style is essential to measure if you’re optimal to work with the hiring organization.

What To Focus on When Answering This Question

Focus on exhibiting your understanding of various leadership styles, highlighting your preferences and how they have been influential in the past.

Also, express a commitment to learning and growing as a leader, and describe how you seek opportunities to improve your leadership abilities and expertise.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Avoid coming across as a rigid leader, inflexible to the prevailing circumstances. Avoid being overly critical of other styles of leadership or giving a one-size-fits-all approach to leadership.

Example Answer

I find servant leadership to be the most effective style. I value the flexibility of this style, as it helps me to tailor my approach to the demands of various teams while adhering to my fundamental beliefs of empathy and empowerment.

2.  Tell Us About the Instance You Have Demonstrated Your Leadership Skills?

Why This Question Is Asked

Interviewers need to know your previous experience with leading teams and your ability to take charge and steer a team to achieve objectives.

They may take your leadership skills with a grain of salt if they haven’t been influential for other people.

What To Focus on When Answering This Question

Focus on your ability to manage and lead teams effectively, giving context to your previous experiences and the milestones you’ve achieved as a leader.

Reflect on what you’ve learned and how you intend to apply what you’ve learned in the future.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Avoid sounding arrogant or overconfident. Instead, concentrate on your team’s achievements and how you supported them as a leader.

Also, avoid overstating your achievements or claiming credit for accomplishments that resulted from a team effort.

Example Answer

As a project manager, I helped a team of six developers to build complex software for a client despite a tight deadline. Using transformational leadership skills, and inspiring my team members to work together, we succeeded promptly.

3. Have You Ever Turned Down a Leadership Role, And Why?

Why This Question Is Asked

Interviewers ask this question to evaluate how you approach decision-making and if you have the self-awareness to know when a leadership position isn’t a good fit for your abilities.

Moreover, this question provides insight into your priorities and attitude toward leadership.

What To Focus on When Answering This Question

Focus on your thought process behind the decision to turn down leadership roles in the past.

Also, demonstrate self-awareness and how the position you turned down wasn’t in line with your career goals.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Avoid disparaging remarks about the organization, the leadership position, or the individual who gave you the role.

Such comments may be unprofessional and jeopardize your chances of getting the job.

Example Answer

Yes, I have previously declined a leadership position. I was offered the opportunity to lead a project team, but after much thought, I turned down the role. At the time, I was still establishing my skills and technical expertise. Taking on the project lead job required much of my time and attention, which I believed would have been challenging to balance with my other obligations.

4. How Do You Handle Conflict or Disagreement Situations on Your Team?

Why This Question Is Asked

Interviewers want to know if you have the appropriate communication and problem-solving abilities and how you guarantee that every team member involved in conflict or disagreement feels heard and appreciated.

What To Focus on When Answering This Question

Focus on your collaborative problem-solving abilities by sharing how to work with conflicting parties for a mutually acceptable solution.

Also, demonstrate how you strive to keep a positive and efficient team atmosphere despite disagreements.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Avoid focusing on the negative side of conflicts and disagreements. Instead, you should demonstrate how you worked to resolve the dispute and the resulting positive impacts.

Example Answer

Conflicts and disputes, in my experience, are unavoidable aspects of working in a team. When such circumstances happen, I strive to remain calm to find a solution for the involved parties. I think that conflict resolution requires a combination of attentive listening, empathy, and innovative problem-solving.

5. What Was a Difficult Decision You Made as a Leader?

Why This Question Is Asked

Interviewers ask this question to evaluate your decision-making abilities, willingness to take responsibility, and leadership style.

They want to know your ability to make tough decisions when necessary and how you handle uncertainty.

What To Focus on When Answering This Question

Focus on giving instances you had to make difficult decisions, your decision-making process in such situations, and the outcomes of your choices.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Avoid overemphasizing your achievements, even though it is essential to showcase your leadership skills.

Instead, highlight how your leadership abilities assisted you in arriving at a tough decision and how your team helped to shape the outcome.

Example Answer

One most challenging decision I had to make as a leader was to lay off a long-term employee who wasn’t meeting the role’s expectations. Ultimately, we concluded that letting the employee go was prudent. The result was positive, as the rest of the team became more efficient.

6. How Do You Give and Respond to Constructive Criticism?

Why This Question Is Asked

Recruiters ask this question to assess your ability to handle feedback and communicate effectively.

Giving constructive criticism helps team members identify improvement opportunities, benefitting the employee and the company.

Conversely, you should be able to respond to constructive feedback with open-mindedness and a desire to improve.

What To Focus on When Answering This Question

Focus on your communication skills and emotional intelligence when answering this question.

Also, highlight your willingness to learn from feedback and how you use constructive criticism to cooperate and work effectively with your team members.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Positive feedback is crucial, but it’s also vital to offer constructive criticism when it’s called for.

Avoid presenting yourself as a leader who only provides positive feedback and finds it difficult to give constructive criticism.

Example Answer

I believe embracing constructive criticism is essential to advance as a leader. I try to be clear and precise while offering feedback, concentrating on actions or behaviors that can improve. Also, I always try to listen when I receive feedback and ask for clarification if required. I evaluate the criticism carefully, determine its merit, and act on it.

7. How Do You Motivate an Under-Performing Team Member?

Why This Question Is Asked

Interviewers want to know your leadership and management skills in drawing all team members to pursue team goals.

They seek to determine if you have experience managing underperforming employees and the skills needed to handle such situations.

What To Focus on When Answering This Question

Confirm that you know that underperformance isn’t always on purpose and that there might also be underlying causes.

Also, demonstrate your commitment to assisting the team member in developing their abilities and performance.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Avoid responding that you’ll overlook the team member who isn’t performing well and hope they improve independently. It demonstrates a lack of responsibility and leadership.

Also, avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to team motivation. Each team member is different, and it is essential to consider their particular requirements and motivators.

Example Answer

I first dig into the root source of the employee’s underperformance, and upon identifying it, I offer supportive criticism and encouragement so they can improve. I firmly believe in setting achievable goals and resources, including mentorship and additional training to help team members improve.

8. How Do Goals Help You Become a Better Leader?

Why This Question Is Asked

Interviewers want to assess your understanding of the significance of goal setting in leadership and how you use goals to drive your team toward achieving organizational objectives.

What To Focus on When Answering This Question

Focus on the clarity of your vision in leadership and how setting clear and attainable goals can help improve your communication and formulate a roadmap to achieving success.

Also, emphasize how having clear goals can aid in better decision-making, responsibility delegation, resource allocation, and activity prioritization.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Avoid vagueness; only respond to specific leadership details, drawing from your past experiences.

Also, avoid focusing on personal goals exclusively, as you may sound individualistic and a poor team player.

Example Answer

Setting specific objectives aids me in clarifying my vision, establishing priorities, allocating resources, and monitoring progress as a leader. For example, in my former position as a project manager, I set clear objectives for my team, including finishing a project on schedule and budget. These targets helped us maintain our focus on the project’s goals and properly prioritize our tasks.

9. How Do You Monitor a Team’s Performance?

Why This Question Is Asked

Interviewers want to examine your abilities to manage and analyze your team’s performance and leadership qualities. It covers how you handle this role and your strategies to monitor and enhance team performance.

What To Focus on When Answering This Question

Focus on formulating clear, detailed performance metrics aligning with the team’s goals.

Additionally, explain how you build a culture of continuous improvement – using performance metrics to identify areas for improvement and making necessary adjustments to maximize team performance.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Avoid focusing exclusively on results. It gives an impression that you only care about the results, not the process involved or the human element in performance.

Example Answer

As a leader, I believe effective team performance monitoring necessitates combining techniques, accurate metrics, regular check-ins, continuous improvement, coaching and feedback, and appreciation and awards. I successfully evaluated and enhanced team performance by adopting these strategies in my past roles.

10. How Can You Contribute to A Positive Work Culture?

Why This Question Is Asked

Interviewers want to gauge your understanding of the significance of a positive work culture to overall team efficiency.

They also seek to determine your ability to foster a conducive work environment and encourage a healthy collaborative working environment.

What To Focus on When Answering This Question

Focus on your ability to lead by example and enhance teamwork and collaboration. These skills are the best formula to achieving a positive work culture.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Avoid throwing generic statements like “I lead by example.”

Instead, provide concrete strategies or initiatives you have undertaken in past experiences or intend to adopt to build a healthy work culture.

Example Answer

I can implement various strategies to foster a positive work culture as a leader. I believe that by emphasizing communication, leading by example, encouraging inclusion, and supporting work-life balance, I can contribute to a pleasant work environment and assist my team members in flourishing.

Other Questions You Could Be Asked

If you feel unsure about how to answer the previous leadership questions, you may want to prepare for other similar ones, consider these and learn how to best answer them.

  • Management-Style Interview Questions: They center on how you handle decision-making, problem-solving, communication, delegation, and team building.
  • Attention-To-Detail Interview Questions: These questions are designed to evaluate your ability to work with precision and pay close attention to the small details of a task.
  • Collaboration Interview Questions: These questions provide insight into your ability to cooperate with other team members and contribute to a team-based work environment.
  • Personality Interview Questions: They’re intended to examine your character, qualities, and personal attributes. Personality interview questions help interviewers determine whether you fit the organizational culture, job requirements, and team dynamics.
  • Communication Interview Questions: They’re intended to evaluate your ability to communicate effectively in various contexts and with different audiences.

Additional Tips for Leadership Interviews

Now that you have a good idea of how to best answer leadership questions, here are a few more tips for achieving success at an internal interview.

How Do You Prepare for a Leadership-Based Interview?

Research the organization and the role you are applying for, including values, leadership style, and skills required for the position.

Also, prepare thoughtful questions for the interviewer to demonstrate your interest in the role and organization.

What Should You Wear to a Leadership-Based Interview?

Demonstrate professionalism, confidence, and a polished image when dressed for a leadership-based interview.

It is essential to remain conservative with your dressing, paying attention to details and representing the organization’s culture.

How Should You Introduce Yourself in a Leadership-Based Interview?

Start by greeting the interviewer professionally and politely, and thank them for the interview opportunity.

Proceed to state your name and provide relevant leadership experiences and skills. Remember first impressions can go a long way in your future with an employer.

What Questions Should You Ask at the End of a Leadership-Based Interview?

Ask relevant leadership-based questions to showcase your skills and enthusiasm for the role you’re applying for.

Examples of such questions to ask include:

  • How do you measure success for leaders in this position?
  • Is there anything else I can provide or clarify about my qualifications for the role?
  • What is the timeline for choosing a candidate for this role?

Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s look at some FAQs about leadership interviews.

What is the most common leadership interview question?

One of the most common questions in leadership interviews is, “tell us/me about the instance you have demonstrated your leadership skills.”

Interviewers frequently utilize experience-based questions like this one to gauge how a candidate would perform in a leadership capacity.

What is the hardest leadership interview question?

The hardest leadership questions are those based on your past leadership shortcomings.

While such questions assess your resilience and ability to overcome failures, they can be overwhelming for most candidates.

Wrapping Up

Leadership interview questions can be intimidating even for the most seasoned professionals.

You know you have the traits and skills the position requires, but displaying them in an interview rather than actual workplace, is a significant challenge.

With that said, if you do the necessary research into the most common interview questions, and how to best answer them, you should have a great head start.

Having the right mentality and rigorous preparation for such questions will make it easier to stand out, nail your interview, and land the position you’re looking for.

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