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Answering Leadership Skills Interview Questions

Updated: May 10

Why do interviewers test your leadership skills in job interviews? They want to know more about your working style; what can they expect from you if they decide to hire you?


Your interviewer is looking for someone who can make difficult decisions based on all the information available, who will keep their promises, take care of their team, and lead by example. That could seem a difficult list to remember, but you will find some examples of interview questions that focus on your leadership skills below, as well as some examples of how you can answer them.


"What is the Hardest Decision You Have Made as a Leader? What Helped You Choose the Best Course of Action?"

Your interviewer is asking you about the hardest decision you've made because they want to know how you manage difficult situations. Sometimes a leader has to ask a team member to change roles to something they don't like, to work on a day they usually don't, or even to leave the team. Your answer should show you take the impact of your decision seriously, including for your team, your colleagues, your work, and your company. That also means you should say you think about alternative options, and ask for help when you need it, because good leaders are looking for good outcomes, not just to look good.


If you don't have a good work example, don't worry. Leadership skills demonstrated in any other part of your life are transferable skills you can also use in your working life.


When preparing your answer to this question, think about these points:

  • Why was it a difficult decision?

  • What possible options did you have?

  • What were the possible outcomes for your team, your colleagues, and your company for each option?

  • Why did you choose the one you did?

  • Would you do anything differently now?  

Example Answer:

“The toughest decision I've made as a leader was to let go of a skilled team member because of their negative impact on team culture. I was thinking about what was best for the whole team and productivity, but I also knew that letting anyone go would have a big impact on their life, and their family. Their skills were valuable, but the team's overall well-being and ability to work together smoothly came first. I considered other options like trying the team member in different roles, or accommodating them further, but we had already tried a number of similar options in the past with no real improvement. I took advice from HR, and prioritizing the team's needs guided me to the right decision. As much as I wanted to help my team member improve, and do what was best for their well-being, I had 10 other team members to think about, and our productivity needed improving. So, I let that team member go.”


“How do You Keep Track of Individual Team Members' Performance?”

Performance evaluations are common when managing a team. It is your responsibility to track your Team Members' performance, to recognize excellence, and to help anyone on your team that is falling behind.


Your interviewer wants to hire someone who understands the importance of making improvements whenever they find the opportunity, and who encourages their whole team to develop their skills. You want to show you engage in a system that looks at how well your team performs and that you feed this back to your team in a positive way. You also want to show you are relatable to your team, but never downplay the evaluation process. No interviewer wants to hire someone who makes fun of their business practices!


Example answer:

"There are a number of ways to keep track of progress; one example is monitoring their activities while they are using computer software. You can easily set weekly, monthly, or yearly goals if you know what tasks they are performing. If a team member is underperforming, I can investigate what they did during that time. An open discussion with them can really help to work out where the problems are. It could be as simple as providing a back support to help them concentrate, or it could be something more complex about their lack of work ethic. A mixture of the information I have from their software usage and their personal feedback usually makes it quite clear how best to proceed."


"How Can You Contribute to a Positive Work Culture?"

With leadership roles, you have a large influence on creating and keeping a positive work culture in your team. Your interviewer knows you have the skills needed on paper, you sent this in your application. What they don't know is if you understand the importance of looking after your team's well-being, the effect this will have on their productivity, and if you know how to achieve this.


To demonstrate your understanding of how essential a positive work culture is to the success of your team, explain the importance of providing a safe and rewarding working environment for them to thrive in. Some good ways of achieving this could be:

  • Setting realistic short-term goals and long-term goals to aim for.

  • Providing flexible working hours and/or locations.

  • Being open and honest with your team.

  • Recognizing and rewarding your team for good work.

  • Helping your team maintain good work-life balance.

  • Encouraging your team to develop their skills.

  • Being accountable and reliable as a leader.

All of these practices contribute to a positive work culture where your team feel seen, valued, supported, and motivated to be productive.


Example Answer:

“Accountability and availability are important; I want my team to know they can come to me when they need to, and that I will be supportive but honest about what can be done to assist them. Maintaining a positive attitude towards challenges myself helps to set the tone for the rest of the team, and we can work together on realistic short-term goals rather than only looking at the more daunting long-term targets. Then when we achieve those goals I can reward the team and show them that I recognize their skill and effort. I want my team to feel valued, engaged, and supported to further their careers. That's the goal for great company culture.”


"How do You Respond to Ideas or Suggestions from Team Members?"

Good leaders have an open mind and are receptive to constructive feedback from their team members. Your interviewer is looking to hire someone who takes feedback as a learning opportunity and not a complaint. We all think differently, and more ideas means more choice, and more opportunity to choose the best possible course of action.


Anyone answering this question in a way that shows they dislike hearing their team members' ideas will not be hired. Tell your interviewer how you believe in the power of teamwork, and share times when you have achieved positive results because of it.


Example Answer:

“Having the resource of a group of experienced and knowledgeable team members is so valuable for finding creative solutions, and making improvements to our processes. I encourage feedback and discussion during group meetings, but I also make it clear that my team can come to me one-on-one, this makes sure that everyone has an opportunity to share their views and suggestions. At the end of the day, I listen carefully, and see if their suggestions match our project goals, and give constructive feedback. If an idea is a good fit for our goals, I support it. Real teamwork is about choosing the best option for the project, it shouldn't matter who suggested it.”


Wrap Up

Interviewers are always searching for people with skills that could make them great leaders in the company someday. Practice is key for job interviews, especially when answering leadership questions. So, here are some tips to remember when you practice:

  • Always think about leadership questions and plan how you will answer before the day of your interview.

  • You can use real-life examples where you've shown planning and teamwork skills.

  • Don't worry if you're just starting out, talk about what you think a great leader would do. Maybe you have worked with a great leader before.

  • Practice and stay positive - you've got this! You read a guide, so you have already started preparing.

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