Top 10 Leadership Interview Questions (+ Example Answers

leadership interview questions

By Mike Simpson

UPDATED 8/31/2022

Many candidates assume that only managers have to face off against leadership interview questions. But, in reality, anyone may actually find themselves staring down leadership questions.


Because leadership is a ridiculously valuable soft skill, particularly in a landscape where companies are facing a leadership skills gap. 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 chopping at the bit to find it.

That means call candidates need to be ready to put their 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.

To make matters worse, even the Merriam-Webster Dictionary isn’t much help. All it gives is definitions like “capacity to lead.”

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 interview questions about leadership 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.

In fact we we wanted to let you know that we created an amazing free cheat sheet that will give you word-for-word answers for some of the toughest interview questions you are going to face in your upcoming interview. After all, hiring managers will often ask you more generalized interview questions!

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Top 10 Leadership Interview Questions And Answers

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.


“While I was working for my last employer, I was given a special project to oversee. Ensuring the project was a success was my responsibility, so I knew I had to step up. Along with coordinating the work of a diverse team, I set up weekly strategy meetings to keep everything on target. I delegated tasks, set the timeline, and followed up regularly to ensure everyone was achieving their goals. Additionally, I coached team members who fell behind, preventing small challenges from derailing the project. Ultimately, we finished on time, and every deliverable met or exceeded 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.


“In the world of leadership, you can’t ignore the power of active listening and communication skills. Ensuring team members feel heard makes a difference. Along with being a sign of respect, active listening demonstrates that I value their perspective, which is essential. Couple that with clear communication, and you increase the team’s odds of success.

In my last job, I took over a project that was failing. When speaking with team members, it was clear that they had long had concerns about the project’s directions, but their worries were ignored. As a result, obstacles they saw on the horizon became genuine hindrances, putting the project behind schedule and harming output quality.

When I took over, I spent time diving into their concerns, as well as gathering insights about solutions they believed were worthwhile. It allowed me to show them respect and tap into their expertise. Then, we worked together to set new, clear targets, ensuring all team members were well-informed. In the end, we brought the project back from the brink.”

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.


“If I notice signs of conflict on a team, the first step I take is to schedule one-on-one meetings with each person. That allows me to create a safe space and get their perspective on the matter, ensuring everyone feels they can speak freely.

Along the way, I ask probing questions to get additional clarity. Once I have a solid understanding, I work to find resolutions, relying on a calm, metered, collaborative approach involving all parties that leads to a suitable compromise. That way, everyone feels valued, respected, and involved, leading to better outcomes.”

4. If a team member is underperforming, what steps do you take to improve their performance?

As a leader in an organization, it’s common to have to address performance issues. This question can either be situational or behavioral, so you can either outline what you’d like you’d do in this situation or discuss an example from your past.


“In my last role as a manager, there was a team member that began falling short of expectations, though they had previously exceeded them in the past. I approached the situation knowing that something must have changed and that it was impacting how they were handling their duties.

First, I scheduled a meeting with them to discuss the issue. I used a fact-based approach, outlining both their previous ability to exceed expectations and the various struggles with work quality that had developed.

Next, I asked them if anything had occurred that altered their performance. During the discussion, they revealed an issue with a process that involved getting information from a colleague in another department. That colleague was a recent hire, and it turned out the problem correlated with their arrival, and they seemed to be struggling to fulfill this duty.

After the meeting, I spoke with the new hire’s manager about the obstacle we’d encountered involving the information my team member needed to handle their tasks. At that time, the manager was unaware of this issue, though they now had an opportunity to address it.

We arranged a group meeting with myself, my team member, the new hire, and the new hire’s manager. This allowed us to discuss the importance of this duty, as well as work together to find a resolution that ensured the new hire could handle the task and my team member would be able to manage their responsibilities.

Ultimately, it became a breakthrough moment. My team member was able to get the information they required, restoring their performance, and the new hire had a chance to improve in this area, too, leading to greater productivity all around.”

5. Tell me about your approach to delegation.

Delegation is critical for leadership roles, so hiring managers often want to know how candidates approach it. If you have an example from past positions, share it. If not, discuss your overall delegation philosophy and outline how you’d handle it if hired into the role.


“I view delegation as a critical part of the broader success equation. When I have tasks to divvy out, I use a two-fold approach. First, I consider which team members either have the needed skills or could acquire valuable skills by taking on the duty. Next, I examine workloads to determine if other adjustments are necessary to make handling that responsibility manageable.

Once I have a preferred team member in mind, I meet with them to discuss the task. Along with outlining what’s required, I discuss expectations. Additionally, I ask if there’s anything in their current workload that would prevent them from meeting those expectations.

By using that approach, I can clarify the requirements without accidentally overburdening a team member. Plus, it allows me to address any questions they may have, allowing them to get started on the right foot.” 

6. When a member of your team presents you with an idea, how do you respond?

While leading involves a lot of decision-making, remaining open-minded is also essential. Even if you think your approach is a solid one, that doesn’t mean a team member may not have an idea worth pursuing.

Here, the hiring manager wants to know how you act when presented with an idea from someone else. Outline a clear example and discuss why you think your strategy is effective.


“When a team member introduces an idea, I use active listening to ensure I fully understand what they’re presenting. That includes paraphrasing to ensure I grasp what they’re discussing, as well as clarifying questions as necessary.

How I proceed from there depends on the nature of the idea. In some cases, it may require further thought or research on my part. If that’s the case, I let the employee know what steps I plan on taking to vet their idea.

If the idea isn’t currently a fit, I’ll express appreciation for their contribution and clearly outline why we need to use another direction. If the idea is viable, then we’ll discuss potential implementations and impacts, allowing us to see what may be necessary to make it happen.”

7. When starting with a new team, how do you evaluate the current state of their capabilities?

If you’re about to lead a new team, spending time evaluating the employees’ capabilities is essential. The hiring manager simply wants an overview of your approach, either based on past experience or addressing it as a hypothetical.


“After starting with a new team, my first step to evaluate their capabilities is to explore any past work and performance evaluations that can help me gather insights about their abilities. Additionally, I’d review their current duties and responsibilities to learn more about what they’re taking on currently.

Next, I’d schedule one-on-one meetings. Along with asking about their skill levels and discussing their past work, I can gauge their level of enthusiasm regarding various abilities. That helps me determine what they’re capable of handling, as well as what ignites their passion.”

8. Tell me about a time when you declined an opportunity to lead. Why did you choose not to step into the leadership role?

This leadership question can feel a little tricky. However, leaders don’t just need to know when to step forward; they need to understand when stepping back is wise, too. That’s why the hiring manager asks this question. Essentially, they want to see that you can exercise good judgment.


“In my last position, I was asked to oversee a project because I had prior experience leading project teams. However, the project wasn’t aligned with my area of expertise. Additionally, I was currently overseeing two other projects, both of which were long-term and of high value to the organization.

I told my manager that I would like to decline the opportunity. I not only explained how it could hinder my performance on the two other projects but also stated that I felt a colleague’s area of expertise was a better match to the new project’s requirements. Additionally, I said that I had great respect for my coworker’s capabilities and, while they hadn’t led a project previously, they were an exceptional team member in past projects we did together, often exuding leadership traits.

Ultimately, my manager understood my position and also appreciated my insights into my colleague’s abilities. They later offered the project to my coworker, and I’m happy to say that their project – as well as the two I was overseeing – succeeded.”

9. What do you think is most important in creating a positive culture?

Here’s a question where there are easily multiple right answers. It’s based on your perspective, so you want to discuss the factor that you feel is most critical, as well as why you think it’s essential.


“In my opinion, the most important factor when you want to create a positive culture is recognition. Ideally, gratitude shouldn’t just come from managers but from every level of the department.

Everyone likes to feel valued and appreciated for their efforts, so it has a positive impact on morale. Plus, it encourages beneficial behaviors while creating a culture of respect. Together, that creates an enthusiastic environment where positive mindsets are common, leading to better results overall.”

10. How has your leadership style changed over time?

If you’re looking at a higher-level leadership role, there’s a good chance you’ll encounter this question. It lets the hiring manager see how not just whether you’re willing to change when needed but how you’ve grown as you gained experience.

Ideally, you want to touch briefly on your initial leadership style. Then, provide some details about how your approach shifted over time.


“Initially, I relied heavily on set processes and procedures to make decisions regarding overseeing my team. Essentially, I was highly methodical and systematic, which created a sense of consistency.

However, over time, I learned that continuing to do what was always done wasn’t universally ideal, as it could mean missing opportunities to improve by adopting new approaches. As a result, I became more open-minded and began gathering insights from my team about what we could potentially change to improve the completion of tasks and the environment.

Along the way, I began integrating a lot of other styles. I adopted a servant leadership style to remove roadblocks and provide support, integrated democratic strategies when appropriate to the situation, and got comfortable with transformational leadership approaches.

Today, I blend aspects of all of those styles together, which makes more a more effective leader overall.”

25 More Leadership Interview Questions

Here are 25 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 when you faced a leadership challenge? What did you do to overcome it?
    5. Have you ever taken on a leadership role voluntarily? If so, can you tell me about it?
    6. Can you describe a time when you lead by example?
    7. Have you ever served in a coach or mentor role? How were you able to help the other person achieve success?
    8. How do you monitor a team’s performance?
    9. If a team is struggling to stay motivated, what steps would you take to boost engagement?
    10. Which of your past managers was your favorite leader, and why?
    11. Are there any leaders that inspire you?
    12. How do you respond to constructive criticism?
    13. What approach do you use when you need to deliver constructive criticism?
    14. What steps do you take to measure your personal performance at work?
    15. During your first days in the job, are there any changes that you try to implement immediately?
    16. How do you determine who gets access to professional development or training?
    17. If your project became unexpectedly shorthanded, what would you do to ensure it stayed on target?
    18. Which of your past experiences best prepared you for a leadership role?
    19. Have you ever been removed from a position of leadership? If so, what happened and how did you move forward?
    20. How do you think your colleagues would describe your management style? What about the employees you’ve led previously?
    21. If two team members present different – but viable – solutions to a problem, how do you choose the one to pursue?
    22. If you could change one thing about your leadership style, what would it be and why?
    23. Is there any area of leadership where you struggle? How does it impact your performance?
    24. Tell me about a time when you misjudged a team member you oversaw.
    25. Have you ever acted as a mentor? What was that experience like?

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 Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at 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.