Top 25 Leadership Interview Questions (Example Answers Included)

By Mike Simpson

Many candidates assume that only managers have to face off against leadership interview questions. It makes sense that leaders would need to prove that they can, well, lead. It’s a core part of their job, after all.

But, in reality, anyone may actually find themselves staring down a leadership question.

Why?

Because leadership is a ridiculously valuable soft skill. Those who know how to lead often step up during a crisis, and they are willing to guide others, sharing their expertise to help others thrive. It’s a great quality, and hiring managers are chomping at the bit to find it.

What does that mean for you?

That you need to be ready to put your leadership capabilities on display. Let’s look at how you can make that happen.

What Is Leadership?

Alright, before you dig into the details about leadership interview questions, let’s take a step back and examine what leadership really is. Like many soft skills, the idea of leadership is a bit ambiguous. It may mean different things to different people, and that makes it a bit of a confusing concept.

To make matters worse, even the Merriam-Webster dictionary isn’t much help. All it gives is definitions like “capacity to lead.” Gee, thanks for all that clarity.

Well, luckily, you have us, and we can tell you what it usually means in the eyes of hiring managers.

In the simplest term, leadership is the ability to guide, support, and nurture others. Leaders are adept at finding ways for others to be at their best.

Typically, self-motivation is part of the equation. A leader doesn’t have to be told to step up; they just do it when it’s necessary. It’s automatic.

Other traits can also factor into leadership capabilities. Communication, organization, accountability, critical thinking, and decision-making are essential components, for example. In fact, any supporting skill can showcase whether you have leadership potential.

How to Answer Leadership Interview Questions

Now that you have a better idea of what leadership actually is, it’s time to shift the discussion. Knowing how to answer leadership questions is crucial to your success. Without a sound strategy, you might fumble your answer, and that could keep you from landing a job.

So, how do you develop a great strategy? By following a few tips, that’s how.

First, if a hiring manager wants to find out about your capabilities as a leader, they are probably going to use behavioral interview questions to make that happen. Behavioral interview questions let them figure out how you will likely act on the job. And, since leadership is usually all about what you do, it’s really the best approach.

Answering behavioral interview questions can be a bit tricky. Usually, there isn’t a strict right or wrong answer. Instead, the hiring manager will present you with a scenario. You have to tell them how you would navigate it, either based on your past experience or how you think you’d respond.

If you want to make your answers stand out, then you need to use a two-fold approach. First, embrace the STAR method. This storytelling technique makes crafting compelling answers a breeze. Plus, it keeps your replies focused, reducing the odds that you’ll ramble.

But you don’t want to stop with the STAR method. Instead, use the Tailoring Method to take an engaging response and go up a notch with it. The technique is all about customizing your answer based on the hiring manager’s needs. It enhances relevancy, increasing the odds you’ll speak the hiring manager’s language.

How do you make your answers unquestionably relevant? By doing a little research. Devour the job description to see exactly what the hiring manager is looking for. Then, make sure your answers speak to those priorities.

You can also review the company’s mission and values statements for more helpful clues. Any guiding principle or goal it lists is an organizational priority. By talking about those, you are incorporating the big picture into your responses, and that can be incredibly effective, too.

Top 3 Leadership Interview Questions

Alright, it’s that time. You have a great strategy, and that’s an excellent start. But what can make those tips more helpful? Why, some leadership interview questions examples with some sample answers, that’s what. Let’s dig in.

1. Can you tell me about a time when you demonstrated leadership capabilities on the job?

When it comes to quintessential leadership questions, this is definitely one of them. It’s about as open-ended as possible and gives you the ability to discuss any example from your experience. There are no boundaries, so the options are near-endless.

This question allows the hiring manager to learn more about how you’ve put your leadership skills to work. It gives them a better indication of how you may be able to wield those abilities in the future since the question specifically focuses on a past work experience.

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“While I was working for my last employer, I was given a special project to oversee. It was my responsibility to ensure it was a success, including coordinating the work of other team members. To keep things on target, I scheduled a strategy meeting to divvy up duties and create a timeline. While also working through my tasks, I reached out regularly to monitor the team’s progress, offering guidance and support as necessary to ensure everyone stayed motivated and that deadlines would be met. Ultimately, the project was a success, finishing on time and with all deliverables meeting or exceeding expectations.”

MIKE'S TIP: When you are picking your leadership example, don’t just use the first one that comes to mind, even if it seems like the most impressive. If you want to make your answer undoubtedly relevant, try to focus on an example that mimics something you’d do in the job you’re trying to land. This creates greater alignment, so it could make you appear like a more valuable addition to the hiring manager’s team.

2. Which supporting skills do you think are most important when it comes to leadership?

As mentioned above, being a great leader doesn’t just involve one skill. Several have to come together. Otherwise, guiding a team effectively is essentially impossible.

Ideally, you want to tap on at least a few of the critical supporting capabilities. However, when you answer this question, don’t merely rattle off a list. That’s the dullest approach you could use and, while it does answer the question, it isn’t an impressive answer.

Instead, you want to use this as an opportunity to do one thing: share another example. Remember, when you show the hiring manager instead of just telling them, your reply will have a stronger impact.

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“First, I think that communication skills are crucial. I regularly use active listening when communicating with others, ensuring I fully understand their perspective. Additionally, since I’ve regularly worked with stakeholders who don’t have the same level of specialty expertise, I’ve found that the ability to take complex ideas and simplify them is paramount for success. However, communication alone isn’t enough. Accountability is also vital, as it allows me to lead by example. Similarly, critical thinking is a core component for strategic planning, and served me well when I lead a project with my past employer, which was completed on time and ultimately exceeded expectations.”

3. When there is a disagreement on your team, how do you handle it?

If you are trying to secure a management role, conflict resolution is going to be a core part of your job. At some point, a disagreement will happen. If it gets out of hand, you’ll need to diffuse it.

The hiring manager wants to know that you aren’t afraid to manage conflict and that you have the skills to pull it off.

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“When there’s a disagreement, my first step is to understand the perspective of each person involved. I use active listening skills, giving each party my full attention. I’ll summarize my understanding of the situation, asking probing questions to gain additional clarity as required. At that point, my goal is to facilitate conversations that lead to resolutions. Using a calm and respectful approach, I’ll work with the involved parties to find a reasonable compromise, brainstorming, and discussing ideas until a suitable option is found. The process ensures everyone can learn more about the other’s perspective and that the resolution is a collaborative venture.”

22 More Leadership Interview Questions

Here are 22 more leadership interview questions candidates could encounter during their meeting:

      1. Tell me about the hardest decision you’ve ever made as a leader. How did you decide which course of action was best?
      2. What steps do you take to make sure that projects are completed on time, on budget, and to the proper standard?
      3. How would you describe your leadership style? How would your colleagues describe it?
      4. Can you tell me about a time where you faced a leadership challenge? What did you do to overcome it?
      5. If a team member is under performing, what steps do you take to improve their performance?
      6. Have you ever taken on a leadership role voluntarily? If so, can you tell me about it?
      7. Tell me about your approach to delegation.
      8. Can you describe a time when you lead by example?
      9. Have you ever served in a coach or mentor role? How were you able to help the other person achieve success?
      10. How do you monitor a team’s performance?
      11. If a team is struggling to stay motivated, what steps would you take to boost engagement?
      12. When a member of your team presents you with an idea, how do you respond?
      13. Which of your past managers was your favorite leader, and why?
      14. Are there any leaders that inspire you?
      15. How do you respond to constructive criticism?
      16. What approach do you use when you need to deliver constructive criticism?
      17. What steps do you take to measure your personal performance at work?
      18. During your first days in the job, are there any changes that you try to implement immediately?
      19. When starting with a new team, how do you evaluate the current state of their capabilities?
      20. What do you think is most important in creating a positive culture?
      21. How do you determine who gets access to professional development or training?
      22. If your project became unexpectedly shorthanded, what would you do to ensure it stayed on target?

Putting It All Together

Ultimately, whether you are applying for a management role or an entry-level job, there’s always a chance you’ll have to answer some leadership interview questions. Luckily, with the tips above, you can do so with confidence. You’re an exceptional candidate and, with the right preparation, you can make sure that the hiring manager knows exactly how much value you bring to the table.

Good luck!

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About The Author

Mike Simpson

Co-Founder and CEO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at TheInterviewGuys.com. His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan, Penn State, Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.