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Leadership interview questions and answers

Here’s a sample of great leadership interview questions to ask candidates. With these questions, you’ll learn about leadership experience, skills and leadership styles.

Christina Pavlou
Christina Pavlou

An experienced recruiter and HR professional who has transferred her expertise to insightful content to support others in HR.

leadership interview questions

10 good leadership interview questions

  1. Tell me about a time you struggled with work-life balance. Did you manage to solve the problem? How did you do it?
  2. Tell me about a time you took the lead in a team project. What was the outcome of the project?
  3. Tell me about a time your idea improved the company in some way. How did you make sure it was implemented?
  4. Two employees left from your team just before the deadline on a big project. How would you change your leadership style to meet the deadline?
  5. How do you monitor the performance of individual team members?
  6. In what specific ways do you motivate your team?
  7. How do you make decisions about the compensation of team members?
  8. How would you describe your leadership style?
  9. How do you handle conflicts within your team?
  10. How do you ensure that your team meets its objectives and targets?

Here are 10 essential interview questions and sample answers to help identify the best candidates for this role.

1. Tell me about a time you struggled with work-life balance. Did you manage to solve the problem? How did you do it?

This question assesses a candidate’s ability to manage personal and professional responsibilities while maintaining a leadership role.

Sample answer:

“I once had a project that coincided with personal commitments. I prioritized tasks, delegated effectively, and ensured clear communication with my team. By setting boundaries and being proactive, I managed to maintain a balance without compromising on either front.”

2. Tell me about a time you took the lead in a team project. What was the outcome of the project?

This question evaluates a candidate’s leadership skills in a team setting and their impact on the project’s outcome.

Sample answer:

“I led a team on a marketing campaign. By fostering collaboration and ensuring everyone’s strengths were utilized, we exceeded our target KPIs and increased sales by 20%.”

3. Tell me about a time your idea improved the company in some way. How did you make sure it was implemented?

This question gauges a candidate’s initiative and their ability to drive change within an organization.

Sample answer:

“I proposed a new CRM system that could streamline our sales process. I presented a detailed plan to the management, highlighting the benefits. Once approved, I oversaw its implementation and training, resulting in a 30% increase in efficiency.”

4. Two employees left from your team just before the deadline on a big project. How would you change your leadership style to meet the deadline?

This question assesses adaptability and crisis management skills in leadership roles.

Sample answer:

“I would first evaluate the remaining team’s strengths and redistribute tasks accordingly. I’d also increase check-ins and offer additional support, ensuring we stay on track and meet the deadline.”

5. How do you monitor the performance of individual team members?

This question delves into a candidate’s approach to performance management and team oversight.

Sample answer:

“I use a combination of regular one-on-one check-ins, team meetings, and performance metrics to monitor progress. This allows me to provide timely feedback and address any issues proactively.”

6. In what specific ways do you motivate your team?

Understanding how a candidate motivates their team can provide insights into their leadership style.

Sample answer:

“I believe in recognizing and celebrating small wins, providing opportunities for professional growth, and ensuring open communication. This creates a positive environment where team members feel valued and motivated.”

7. How do you make decisions about the compensation of team members?

This question evaluates a candidate’s fairness and transparency in making compensation-related decisions.

Sample answer:

“I base compensation decisions on a combination of performance metrics, market benchmarks, and individual contributions. I also ensure that the process is transparent and that team members have clear performance goals.”

8. How would you describe your leadership style?

This is a direct question to understand a candidate’s self-awareness and how they perceive their leadership approach.

Sample answer:

“I’d describe my leadership style as ‘collaborative.’ I believe in empowering team members, fostering open communication, and making collective decisions.”

9. How do you handle conflicts within your team?

Conflict management is a crucial aspect of leadership, and this question assesses a candidate’s approach to resolving internal disputes.

Sample answer:

“I address conflicts head-on by facilitating open discussions between the involved parties. I listen to all sides, ensure understanding, and guide the team towards a collaborative solution.”

10. How do you ensure that your team meets its objectives and targets?

This question gauges a candidate’s strategic planning and execution skills.

Sample answer:

“I set clear expectations, establish measurable KPIs, and conduct regular progress check-ins. I also provide the necessary resources and support to ensure the team can effectively meet its objectives.”

Why is it important to ask candidates leadership interview questions

When you’re hiring for a senior level position (e.g. team leaders), look for soft skills in candidates that may reflect their leadership styles. These can include:

  • Motivation: How they use feedback and acknowledgment to inspire productivity
  • Delegation: How they identify employees’ strengths and weaknesses to assign duties
  • Communication: How they encourage team members to express concerns and ideas
  • Integrity: How they handle confidential information, manage work relationships and follow company policies to set a good example for their team

Good leaders add value to the company by fostering a collaborative environment and welcoming new ideas. Leadership interview questions help recruiters get greater insight into a candidate’s way of working. Use job-related examples to understand how candidates:

  • manage (or collaborate in) a team to achieve goals
  • motivate their subordinates/co-workers
  • approach challenges and conflicts in a team
  • reach decisions

These interview questions can also reveal the leadership potential of candidates, even if they’re interviewing for entry-level roles. Employees with leadership skills and experience tend to show commitment to their job and overcome obstacles in a timely manner.

Tips to assess leadership skills in interviews

  • All candidates will claim to have communication and motivational skills. Behavioral and situational interview questions will help you identify how they use these skills in work-related scenarios.
  • Leadership is not (only) about knowledge. A good leader shares the company’s values and contributes to its long-term growth. Opt for candidates who aspire to grow and are interested in developing their careers.
  • Team leaders get involved with hiring and training new members. Ask interview questions to gauge their familiarity with these procedures.
  • A good leader is tenacious during hard times. Use work-related leadership examples to identify how candidates react to challenges and approach difficult decisions.
  • Ask leadership questions that reveal candidates’ creativity. Employees who can make quick decisions when things don’t go as planned can prove vital for your company.

Red flags

  • Negativity. It’s important that those in leadership positions nourish positive team environments. Candidates who focus on the negative or lack energy will struggle to motivate their team members.
  • Dishonest answers. If you spot inaccuracies in candidates’ answers, that indicates they lack professionalism. Leaders usually play a strategic role in a company, so look for employees who are honest, ethical and don’t hesitate to admit their mistakes.
  • Inflexibility. Experienced leadership candidates might be used to a specific way of working. To be good leaders, candidates should be eager to adjust to different circumstances.
  • Signs of arrogance. Being a team leader doesn’t give you license to be bossy or order people around. Effective leaders know when to follow other people’s suggestions and value contributions from others.
  • Blaming others or making excuses. Employees in leadership positions who don’t take accountability for their actions (or failures) risk ruining the team’s balance. Look for trustworthy candidates who focus on finding solutions instead of complaining about problems.

Let’s summarize some of the questions and add a few more divided into specific types.

Frequently asked questions

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