Questions hiring managers ask to test leadership skills

Interviews can be stressful for any job candidate, especially if they are seeking a leadership position or are looking to move into a role with greater responsibility. Solid and competent leaders are essential to the success of any business. Still, they’re not easy to find, making it an interviewer’s job to ask critical questions that assess the qualities of good leadership. 

Just as it’s an interviewer’s job to prepare questions and shape the conversation in a way that illuminates the best possible talent, it’s your job to prepare for those questions and shape your narrative to demonstrate you are that talent.

How do you show leadership in an interview? Here are some common questions that a hiring manager may ask in interviews that you should think about and prepare for.

Question: How would you describe your leadership style?

This question prompts the interviewee to describe how they see themselves in a leadership capacity and demonstrate their understanding of the importance of leadership skills. To prepare for this question, you should review the commonly understood types of leadership and identify which category fits you best. 

Don’t worry if you don’t fit neatly into one. You can always articulate how you see yourself as a blend of two different styles. Or explain how you might draw on the skills of one personality type  in certain situations and another in other circumstances.

Be prepared to explain your choice regarding how you behave and interact with your colleagues. Back this up with an anecdote from your work experience. It doesn’t hurt to elaborate on why you believe your leadership style is suitable for the position at hand.

Question: How do you keep your employees motivated?

This question is about your ability to recognise the skills and personalities of individual team members, give them the autonomy they need to do their jobs, praise them for good performance, and encourage collaboration. 

Make it clear to your interviewer that you understand different personalities require different motivational approaches, as do employees who perform well versus those who do not. Show that you recognise the key factors that influence morale, and don’t be afraid to acknowledge those you cannot control. Try to find a link to the prospective position and how you might apply your experience to motivate your new team.

Question: How do you handle disagreements between team members?

Dealing with conflicts that arise in the workplace is one of the key qualities of a good leader, so you can expect to be quizzed on this. This is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the soft skills necessary for effective management. 

Outline your philosophy on conflict management and provide an anecdote that demonstrates your ability to build relationships with colleagues. Cover other leadership skills like how you communicate and listen effectively, defuse tensions before they escalate too far, act and react objectively, and identify and resolve recurring conflict scenarios. Keep your response positive, and focus on the successful resolution of a conflict rather than the conflict itself.

Question: How do you delegate tasks and responsibilities?

Interviewers will want to know you can assign the right tasks to the right people and empower them to carry them out to the best of their ability. This is an opportunity to show that you know which tasks you can delegate, which are better done by yourself, and why. 

Provide an example that shows how you have handled this effectively in your current or past role. Explain how you outline your expectations of team members, link these to organisational goals, monitor progress (without micromanaging), and provide support when needed. This question is about assessing your ability to effectively leverage your human resources and recognise your team’s potential, so try to illustrate that.

Question: How do you monitor the performance of your team members?

This question is critical in today’s increasingly data-driven business environment. Your answer should show that you understand the key metrics relevant to various work scenarios and don’t just make decisions based on instinct. 

Try to give an example where you have drawn parallels between individual performance and group productivity, and mention any tools or methods you’re familiar with. If you feel confident in your understanding of the metrics relevant to the position you are seeking, say how you would address those.

Question: Tell us about a time you demonstrated leadership skills

This is an opportunity to show leadership in your interview, one you can prepare for very carefully. Find out about the company you are applying to, and try to choose an example that provides significant value to the company. Remember that you’ve almost certainly demonstrated leadership even if you haven’t held a leadership position before. And don’t be afraid to give an answer from outside the workplace, such as a role in a sports team, club, class, or other organisation. 

When answering this question, try to align your answer with other leadership values or styles you may have mentioned, as the interviewer will likely be looking for consistency and confidence in your response.

How to be a STAR interviewee

Try this you don’t know where to start to show you have leadership skills. Use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method to prepare for behavioural and situational questions you’re likely to face in a job interview. They will likely ask you to share an anecdote that illustrates your perspective. This technique allows you to include all relevant information while keeping your answer brief.

Situation: Succinctly describe the story’s context you’re about to share.

Task: Explain the challenge at hand and your role in resolving it.

Action: In greater detail than the first two steps, describe the specific actions you took to address the situation and the skills you employed. Don’t be afraid to focus on your contributions even if you worked in a team, but be careful not to brag or sound conceited.

Result: Equally important to your actions is their outcome. Try to provide specifics that quantify your contribution and explain what you learned from the experience.

Follow these interview tips for a leadership role, and you’re one step closer to making the shortlist.  

Need help preparing for an interview?

Interview Skills offers practical, professional and effective training to help you make the best possible impression in any job interview. We’ve worked with companies and candidates across a huge range of sectors and backgrounds to develop a keen understanding of what hiring managers want. Our personalised interview training programmes include two sessions where we interview you based on your desired job description, and provide detailed feedback to help you outperform your peers.

Contact us to see how we can help you ace your next interview.