If you’re preparing for a leadership interview, whether it’s been a while or it’s your first one, you might be full of trepidation. You might have the average interview worries about what you’re going to wear and how you’re going to convey confidence without appearing arrogant.
But you’re also needing to prepare for a leadership role, which brings a new set of questions and preparation.
How to Answer Leadership Interview Questions
Leadership qualities are often intangible, like vision, calmness, and communication. No scale or professional certificate shows that you’ve mastered them. Instead, you’ll need to demonstrate them using the STAR method.
The STAR method is a structured way to answer behavioral interview questions. It stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. You can use the STAR method to break down any leadership experience into its fundamental parts and show how you handled it.
Creating a Concise Response
Start by setting the scene with a brief overview of the situation. Then, describe the task you were working on and your actions to complete it. Finally, share what result you achieved and how it impacted your team or company.
Remember that if this is your first leadership interview, you can highlight your leadership qualities even if you weren’t officially in a lead role. Consider times that you supported team initiatives, helped your peers, or found a way to convince your boss to go in a different direction.
Preparing for Common Leadership Interview Questions
While it’s impossible to know exactly what questions the interviewer will ask, generally, they’ll fall into several of the following areas. It’s best to brainstorm scenarios and create bullet points, rather than memorize your answers. That way, you can adjust in the moment to answer the specific questions that are being asked.
We’ve rounded up some of the most common leadership interview questions with example answers to help you start brainstorming.
Can you share a time when you had to lead a team through a challenging situation?
When I was leading my sales team during a downturn in sales, we had to make some tough decisions to stay afloat. One of the things I did was institute a hiring freeze and cut back on travel and other expenses. It wasn’t easy, as many of our sales are driven by in-person meetings, but it was necessary to keep the team going.
We began a targeted distance sales program that ranged from sending gift certificates to having Zoom meetings with clients. I’m proud of how we persevered and became more robust on the other side. These days, I’m always looking for ways to save money and make sure my team’s jobs are secure because we’re doing our due diligence as a company.
What do you think are the key attributes of a successful leader?
Successful leaders always look for ways to continually improve and motivate their teams to grow and evolve their skills. They have a clear vision of where they want to take their team and can communicate it effectively.
In my last role as a leader for a marketing team, we were branching into a new target demographic with our product. I had to be able to communicate the vision for where we were going while also motivating my team to take risks and try new things. I started by utilizing brainstorming sessions and vision boards so we could get the creative juices flowing together. After they saw that the entire team was branching out, they felt more comfortable stepping outside of the box on an individual level.
What do you think sets you apart from other leaders in your field?
One thing that sets me apart from other leaders is my ability to connect with people. I work to discover what motivates and drives them to do their best work. Rather than focus on the goals, I focus on the people that will get us to those goals.
For example, previously, I was with a team of engineers working on a new product. One of the things I did was sit down with each engineer and talk to them about their process. I wanted to know how they thought and what motivated them. Based on those conversations, I could give them specific tasks that played to their strengths and helped move the project along more efficiently.
Can you share a time you had to make a tough call as a leader?
As a leader, I had to decide when a winter storm was approaching whether or not we would close the restaurant on a Friday night. Since it was our busiest night, it was not a great option from a fiscal perspective, but I felt that it was more important for our team to get home ahead of possible winter driving conditions.
In the end, we closed early and sent the team home. The storm ended up not being as bad as forecasted, and it would have been safe to remain open, but I still feel like it was the best call with the information I had.
Describe when you had to give negative feedback to someone on your team. How did you handle it?
I remember when I had to give negative feedback to one of my salespeople. They were not meeting their quotas, and their attitude was starting to affect the rest of the team. I sat with them and talked about what they needed to improve. I was honest with them but also tried to be constructive.
While I told them what they were doing well, I also gave them specific things they could work on. I also assigned a schedule of weekly check-ins with me and additional side-by-side training with a senior member of the team. Ultimately, they improved their performance and attitude and became a top performer on the team.
Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss or another leader in your organization. How did you handle the situation?
I disagreed with my boss about a marketing proposal we were working on for a large client. I felt we should focus on a different aspect than they did. I created a report that showed the data driving my vision, then voiced my opinion and presented my case.
In the end, we agreed with the data and changed the project’s direction a bit to meet both of our goals. I think it’s important to be able to respectfully disagree with leaders in your organization. It shows that you’re willing to stand up for what you believe in and are not afraid to support your team.
Additional Leadership Questions
- What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a leader? How did you overcome them?
- What do you think is the most important thing for leaders to remember?
- How would you describe your leadership style?
- How would your team describe your leadership style?
- How do you handle conflict within a team?
- Tell me about a time when you had to give feedback to an entire team that was unpopular.
- How do you motivate your team?
- What are your thoughts on delegation?
- How do you deal with stress and pressure?
- What are your thoughts on taking risks?
- How do you keep a project on schedule?
- Share a time you led by example.
- How do you deal with negative feedback from your team?
- Which of your previous leaders was your favorite/least favorite and why?
- What leaders have inspired you?
- How do you set and measure goals for yourself and your team?
- How do you work to create a culture where your team can thrive?
- How do you support your team’s development?
- What personal development goals do you have?
- What aspects of leadership do you struggle with?
Preparing for Your Interview
While some job seekers get anxious about answering open-ended questions, remember that an interview is simply a conversation. You have an excellent opportunity to fully explain your leadership style and ensure the role is a fantastic job fit.
Consider enlisting a professional career coach to assist in your preparation by conducting a mock interview. By thoroughly preparing for your interview, you can ensure that you’re showcasing yourself as the best possible job fit.
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