15 Leadership Examples for Job Interviews

By Jeff Gillis

Hiring managers are always on the hunt for one thing: leaders. Whether the job is a leadership position or not, leadership skills are insanely valuable. How do hiring managers assess your abilities? By asking for leadership examples, of course.

The trick is, many job seekers aren’t sure what on Earth they should share. What separates a great leadership example from a blah one? What even counts as leadership examples?

Before you panic, pause, and take a deep breath. You’re here, and we’ve got your back. Come with us as we explore the intriguing – and sometimes confusing – world of leadership, including what it is and some leadership examples that can help you rock your next interview.

What Is Leadership?

What is leadership; it seems like such a ridiculously simple question. The thing is, leadership as a concept is a bit ambiguous; it doesn’t always mean the same thing to everyone.

So, why don’t we turn to the dictionary for help? Well, because it doesn’t really shine a light on things. Merriam-Webster defines “leading” as “providing direction and guidance.” Depending on how you look at it, a traffic light could be considered a leader.

Alright, so what is leadership then? Well, it’s mainly a person’s ability to help others be at their best. It’s boosting people’s confidence, giving them clear instructions, and supporting their growth.

But it also goes beyond that. Genuinely great leaders step up when there’s a crisis without having to be told to do it. They are also effective communicators, delegators, critical thinkers, and decision-makers. As John C. Maxwell put it, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

Hiring managers want to find people with these traits, and not just for management positions. When a person exhibits effective leadership skills, they are often better equipped to shine. They don’t need a manager to hold their hand. Instead, they can take the reins and tackle their responsibilities. They also support their coworkers, and that matters in any team environment.

Since great leaders are critical at every organizational level, hiring managers are going to ask nearly any kind of candidate leadership interview questions.

How to Answer Leadership Interview Questions

Alright, we’ve taken a deep dive into how to answer leadership interview questions before (as well as provided some handy dandy examples). But, when it comes to the basics, here’s what you need to know.

The vast majority of leadership questions are behavioral interview questions. They are open-ended and are usually example-based, allowing the hiring manager to learn more about how you put your capabilities as a leader to work in various scenarios.

So, how do you answer behavioral interview questions? By using the right techniques. Start with the STAR Method, ensuring your answer is compelling and relevant. Then, pepper in the Tailoring Method, giving you a chance to customize your response to the position and hiring manager’s priorities.

15 Leadership Examples a Job Seeker Can Use in Their Job Interview

Alright, there’s a good chance you still have questions about what great leadership examples look like. Luckily, we have some stellar leadership examples at the ready.

These effective leadership examples can help you understand what leading in the workplace actually involves. Then, you can reflect on your own experience, choosing moments that genuinely highlight you as a great leader.

So, here they are, 15 leadership examples that can send any job seeker in the right direction.

1. Guiding Direct Reports

Probably the most obvious example of leadership is overseeing direct reports. If you managed a team, no matter how big or small, those experiences may be your best bet when answering leadership interview questions.

If you go this route, avoid being too general or vague. Sure, you can give the hiring manager a quick overview that outlines the kind of team you had but, after that, it’s time to get specific. Discuss one or two occasions where you really had to step up as a leader. That way, the hiring manager gets a better idea of how you put your skills to work.

2. Heading Up a Project

One of the simplest ways to demonstrate leadership capabilities without having managerial experience is to discuss a time you headed up a project. This can be from your work or school experience, depending on whether you’re a recent graduate.

When you head up a project, you’re in a leadership role. You’re guiding or overseeing the work of others, so it’s a great fit.

Ideally, choose a project that aligns with the kind of work you’d do if selected for the job. That makes your example as relevant as possible, increasing the odds it will resonate with the hiring manager.

3. Mentoring

Serving as a mentor is a form of leading. You’re guiding a newer professional, offering them advice, and providing them with insights and support that can help them further their careers or overcoming obstacles.

If you offer up mentoring as your leadership example, focus on a specific incident. That way, you can describe the situation your mentee was facing and how your involvement made a difference.

4. Teaching

Teaching is nearly always an example of leadership. You don’t have to be an educator to have teaching experiences. If you sat with a new hire at a past position to assist them with learning the ropes of their job, you were teaching. If you taught someone a system, guiding them as they acquired a new skill, or anything in a similar vein, that counts, too.

Like mentoring, you want to focus on specific incidences, including what needed to be learned, the role you played, and the overall outcome. That way, you can share a compelling narrative that highlights effective leadership on your part.

5. Identifying and Solving a Problem

This is similar to heading up a project. If you saw a problem at work and, instead of just telling management, decided to find a solution, you’re stepping up as a leader.

Now, this doesn’t mean management can’t be involved. If you identified an issue, noted a potential solution, but needed permission to institute the change, that’s fine. The trick is that you took the initiative, so it counts.

6. Coordinating Non-Profit Activities

Volunteer experiences are just as relevant as professional or educational ones. If you coordinated a fundraising event or other kinds of activities for a non-profit, even if just for a single day, it can count.

Again, this kind of leadership example is all about the details. You need to showcase how you stepped up, and the overall impact your efforts had, ensuring your leadership traits are fully on display.

7. Managing a Client Account

Not many professionals view their time overseeing a client account as a leadership example, but it can be.

Whether you managed their project, ensured they ended up with the best product or service based on their needs, or guided them through tough decisions, you were leading. Don’t overlook those experiences, especially if client support is a major part of the job you want to land.

8. Leading Meetings

Whether it was a one-time thing, a weekly occurrence, or anything in between, being a meeting head is leading. You had to set an agenda, share information, and keep attendees focused and on-target; that totally counts.

If you’re using leading meetings as a demonstration of effective leadership, make sure you share a challenge that came with the experience. Talk about the parts that weren’t easy but how you overcame them, as that’s what is most likely to resonate with the hiring manager.

9. Overseeing a Committee

Being the head of a committee undoubtedly requires leadership skills. It’s not unlike overseeing a team of direct reports when it comes to effort, and may even be more challenging depending on who the other members are.

Again, this approach is all about showing how you were putting your leadership skills to work to overcome difficulties. Use specific examples of obstacles or headaches, as well as how you solved the issues to achieve success.

10. Guiding a Brainstorming Session

Similar to heading up a meeting or overseeing a committee, taking a leadership role during a brainstorming session could be a suitable option for showcasing your skills. Whether you were working with a group to overcome an obstacle or solve a problem at work or school, you use the same kinds of capabilities if you’re the one guiding everyone’s efforts.

11. Captaining a Sports Team

If you’re a recent graduate, then school-based leadership experiences may be your go-to options. If you captained a sports team, then that might be a great option.

Sports team captains coordinate the efforts of the rest of the team, ensure morale stays high, and guide everyone to victory. If that isn’t leadership, we don’t know what is.

12. Delegating Tasks

Great leaders know that they can’t do it all on their own. The ability to delegate is a critical skill in the world of leadership, so you can use examples of delegating tasks when talking about your capabilities in this area.

If you go this route, make sure you explain the reason behind why you were delegating tasks. You need to give the situation some context, including what you needed to accomplish and why you were in a position where delegating was appropriate. And don’t forget to talk about the results, as that’s a critical part of the equation.

13. Supporting a Colleague

If you had a coworker that was struggling and you stepped up to help, that can actually be a leadership example. You saw a problem and intervened, offering your colleague support, guidance, or direct assistance to ensure success. That’s the kind of stuff managers are expected to do all of the time, so it definitely qualifies.

14. Leading Social Clubs

Were you the one that coordinated a book club or weekly pickleball game among friends? Then, my friend, you were being a leader. It takes the same skills and traits to keep those activities running smoothly as it does when overseeing projects at work or guiding a team, so they can work as suitable examples.

15. Tackling Personal Side Projects with a Group

Yes, even personal activities can work as leadership examples. That is, as long as you were in a leadership role.

Maybe you and a group of friends decided to build a barbecue pit, and you were the one who found the plans, coordinated supply purchases, and oversaw building efforts. That could technically count. The trick is to only use side projects that required some coordination and planning on your part, as any other kind may not work.

JEFF'S TIP: Now, it’s usually only best to use personal side projects when interviewing if you don’t have a professional, volunteering, or academic example. It’s a bit of a riskier move, so don’t default to this. Instead, considering it a “break glass in case of emergency” option if you really can’t figure out anything else.

Putting It All Together

Ultimately, there’s a good chance you have relevant leadership examples you can talk about in your next interview. Just review the list above and reflect a bit on your professional, educational, and other experiences. You’re almost guaranteed to have something in your background that can work.

Once you pick an example, use it to craft a compelling answer to the leadership interview questions. That way, when you meet with the hiring manager, you’ll be ready to shine with all of your might.

Thanks for reading!

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About The Author

Jeff Gillis

Co-founder and CTO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Jeff is a featured contributor delivering advice on job search, job interviews and career advancement, having published more than 50 pieces of unique content on the site, with his work being featured in top publications such as INC, ZDnet, MSN and more. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.