Once you apply for a job, even if you didn’t submit the application for a managerial or executive position, recruiters will still likely ask you leadership interview questions.
The employers ask these questions to check whether you have any leadership skills that might come in handy for a team project or possible career advancements down the line.
Preparing some sample answers can help you deal with tough leadership questions more successfully and with less anxiety. Keep reading for a detailed guide on leadership interview questions, which includes answers that you can use to prepare for your next interview.
- Employers ask leadership questions because they want to know how you organize teams and projects and how well you manage your time.
- The four types of leadership styles are: coach, delegate, direct, and support. Each of these has its purpose, and you should combine them in order to create a healthy and balanced environment for your coworkers.
- Employers expect leaders to possess both soft and hard skills. Some leadership skills that employers look for are: effective team management, conflict resolution, being a team-player, creativity, decision-making and problem-solving skills.
Why do Employers Ask Leadership Questions?
When employers ask these questions, they want to know how well you manage time, resources, and people, as well as whether you prioritize critical thinking.
They also want to see how you deal with conflict at work and, naturally, whether you’re a good fit for the job. A good leader creates a safe and open environment for all of his employees, and that’s exactly what interviewers want to hear.
Leaders should be able to boost morale and motivation in their teams, which ultimately raises their productivity as well.
Moreover, employers ask leadership questions because they want to know whether you:
- Think fast
- Can organize your team easily
- Consider your coworkers’ feelings in difficult situations
- Remain calm in tricky situations
- Can make decisions easily
- Are open minded enough to consider and listen to your coworkers’ opinions
- Have confidence to influence team members
- Are good at resolving conflicts
Leadership Styles & Skills
Let’s look at some leadership styles that you should keep in mind while answering leadership interview questions.
There are four main leadership styles that recruiters want to hear you mention during your interview:
- Coach. A coach leadership style is a great fit for those who are confident enough to motivate their team and help them reach an end goal.
- Delegate. This leadership style refers to those who are able to allow their team members to acquire experience by shifting responsibility to them and trusting them with a given task.
- Direct. A perfect fit for those working with freelancers. Those who practice a direct leadership style give out clear directions without having to provide more than what the team needs to succeed.
- Support. A supportive leadership style practices those who are open-minded primarily through listening to their team members’ ideas and giving suggestions and feedback to hone those ideas.
Although there are four leadership styles, a good leader does not focus on only one of them. A good approach is to absorb something from each style and apply it in different situations. That is what many job interviewers want to hear from you during the interview as well.
Leadership skills serve as the middle ground between managing projects well and managing your team well.
Generally, these are the main skills that recruiters want you to have for a leadership position:
- Being flexible. A good leader is flexible and keeps an open mind when listening to his team members’ ideas and opinions.
- Having management skills. Leaders should be able to manage teams and projects at the same time.
- Remaining patient. As a leader, you need to be patient with your team members and ask if they need any help once they get stuck.
- Being creative. Leaders should be able to bring fresh and new ideas to the table.
- Having problem-solving and conflict-resolving skills. A good leader takes matters into his own hands and tries to resolve any conflicts that may occur between team members.
How to Answer Leadership Interview Questions
Since leadership questions fall under the category of behavioral interview questions, it’s helpful to use the STAR Method to answer them properly.
The acronym STAR stands for the following:
- Situation: Start your answer by describing the instance where you had to show leadership skills.
- Task: Mention the task that was at hand.
- Action: Explain what actions you took to resolve the task.
- Result: End your answer with what your action resulted in.
Try to tailor your answers to the skills and requirements mentioned in the job description. Do some research on the company beforehand, and always remember to stay truthful in your answers!
12 Leadership Interview Questions With Answers
Let’s look at some sample answers that you can use to prepare for your next interview:
#1. Describe your leadership style
Possible answer: When it comes to my most preferred leadership style, I believe that my main focus is always to give support to my team. I try to meet up with my team members regularly to discuss where they need help and talk about any new ideas or feedback that they might have for me. I strive to create a safe space for each team member so that they feel comfortable enough to share their insights with me.
Why this answer works: This answer shows that the thing you value most is keeping the team motivated, giving them space to speak up, and providing them with frequent feedback so they can improve. Usually, these are inevitable leadership interview questions for executives, as they have more experience and have already established a specific leadership style.
#2. What skills are essential for leaders?
Possible answer: I value communication skills the most, as I believe that creating a good environment for my team members is the best way to get things done. I try to hold meetings with my team members as frequently as possible in order to discuss their motivation and whether they need some sort of boost from me to finish the project. This has previously allowed me to form deeper connections with my teammates, which ultimately led to high accountability and effectiveness within the team.
Why this answer works: It’s a good idea to emphasize your ability to encourage your coworkers so that they can perform better and finish projects and tasks faster. These are common leadership interview questions for managers, as recruiters want to know what job skills you think are best for leading a team as the manager of a project.
#3. How do you motivate your team?
Possible answer: I have recently worked with my team on a project that was quite large and complex but needed to be completed within a tight deadline. I knew that the morale and motivation of my team were crucial for accomplishing this goal, so I made sure to tell all my team members that a bonus was in order if we managed to do it on time, and I also created a healthy competitive atmosphere to motivate them to push themselves a little further.
Why this answer works: It’s important to tell the interviewer that you are transparent with the team and that you offer employee recognition and financial rewards when appropriate and necessary.
#4. How do you manage conflict within your team?
Possible answer: My main focus is to allow my team to speak up openly when there’s a disagreement. I always try to find a compromise that can satisfy both parties. I give both of them space to express their concerns and give them ideas on how to resolve the issue to their mutual benefit.
Why this answer works: Around 85% of people admit that they go through some kind of conflict at work. Since disagreements are inevitable, it’s important to mention that you’re ready to listen to all sides attentively, and as a leader, you’ll find a way to help them reach a compromise.
#5. How do you handle team members who are underperforming?
Possible answer: In my experience, an employee who is underperforming is often in the midst of some personal or professional issues. My job as a leader is to openly discuss the reasons behind low performance and ask them whether they need my help with anything. I make sure to give them enough space so they can freely express their problems and concerns.
Why this answer works: Your team members are humans, and they will underperform due to various reasons. You are demonstrating that you understand that well and that you are always open to discussing matters with your team members, even if they’re personal. This shows that you are a team player, and you don’t want to leave anyone behind.
#6. How do you respond to criticism?
Possible answer: I perceive criticism as constructive feedback. I also always try to give the other person the benefit of the doubt, in that I first assume the person criticizing me has a positive intent. I believe that criticism is necessary to grow professionally, as long as it is constructive.
Why this answer works: This shows recruiters that your personal feelings are off the table in the work space. You’re saying that you always remain calm when a coworker or team member is trying to criticize you. You’re saying that you’re always trying to understand where the person is coming from and that you assume that they want you to grow professionally until proven otherwise.
#7. How do you deliver feedback to team members?
Possible answer: My main focus when delivering feedback to my teammates is to clarify that it is coming from a benevolent place, and I always make sure to deliver constructive criticism. I make sure to consider how my feedback can affect the team and whether it can backfire rather than help them improve. I always try to stay as positive as possible to make sure I don’t offend or demoralize anyone.
Why this answer works: Showing that you think before you speak shows the employer that you are not hot-headed and are able to think critically. Besides that, these types of answers also show that you always keep the feelings of your team members in mind before saying anything that might hurt them. These are both qualities that companies look for in a leader.
#8. Describe a situation where you failed
Possible answer example: A situation where I believe I failed was when I was first appointed a team leader on a marketing project that had to be done within a month. After I missed the deadline, I took a few steps back and tried to analyze what went wrong. I decided to ask my team members for feedback on what I could improve next time so I could create a better working environment for them.
Why this answer works: It shows that you’re able to accept the fact that you failed on a project and that you’re not ashamed to admit it. The main focus of your answer should be on how you dealt with the situation rather than why you failed. With this example, you mention what steps you took in order to fix the issue and avoid it in time for the next project.
#9. How do you delegate responsibilities?
Possible answer: After following the team member’s track record and performance for a while. I take note of each of their strengths and weaknesses. This helps me choose the right people who are able to take on responsibility for a specific task.
Why this answer works: It shows the interviewers that you are aware of how you, as a leader, need to be able to choose the right fit for the project. This means creating good relationships with your colleagues and monitoring what they’re great at.
#10. Who do you consider to be a great leader?
Possible answer: The person I admire the most as a leader is Martin Luther King, Jr. He has been an inspiration for me growing up due to his stability and ability to inspire people to take action.
I always admired his public speaking and communication skills, and I truly aspire to acquire enough wisdom and knowledge so I can follow in his leadership footsteps. He has always demonstrated his readiness to be there for his people, and I want to do the same with my teammates.
Why this answer works: It mentions someone that the company may know, which means they can look the person up and check whether the qualities that you described fit the person and the job requirements.
#11. How do you ensure tasks get done on time?
Possible answer: First of all, I make sure everyone understands the purpose of the project, what’s at stake, and the role they play in completing it. After we’ve established that, I delegate specific tasks to each team member with strict deadlines. Breaking down tasks into smaller subtasks makes it much easier to keep the motivation going and finish a project on time.
Why this answer works: This is a great example of using the STAR Method. The answer explains the situation and the task at hand; the action consists of breaking down the project into smaller units and delegating them to each team member; and the result is ultimately finishing the project on time.
#12. Describe a time when you overcame a challenge
Possible answer example: One major challenge that I had to overcome at my previous job was when my boss tasked me with firing a coworker of mine. I was known for having a good relationship with all of my colleagues, so this was especially difficult for me to do.
I discussed my planned approach with HR, and finally I reached out to him and explained that this is what the company needs at the moment and that they have no choice but to let him go. After going through this, I believe that I would approach a situation like this much more comfortably and confidently in the future.
Why this answer works: It shows that you approached the challenge constructively, asked for help and feedback from the appropriate professionals, and tried to soften the blow of being fired.
Regardless of whether you’re applying for a leadership position or not, it’s always a good idea to prepare some sample answers for leadership interview questions.
Make sure to use the STAR method for crafting the answers and to consider the examples above and follow the guidelines we provided. We wish you good luck, and we hope this guide has helped you get the answers you were looking for.