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Top 8 Leadership Interview Questions and Answers

Updated on October 29, 2014

The most overlooked question is the one most candidates are unprepared to answer.

Interview questions on Leadership is the most common type of behavioral interview questions (along with questions on Teamwork).

You might think that leadership questions are only relevant for management positions, but that’s a common fallancy. Most companies are looking for people with leadership potential even when hiring for entry-level positions.

More importantly, these interview questions on leadership experience doesn’t necessarily have to be the leadership ability displayed on-the-job.

College graduates can always speak about their leadership experience gained through community service, co-curricular activities or academic projects.

Are leaders born or made?
Are leaders born or made? | Source

1) Are Leaders Born or Made?

We hear it all the time. And we've had enough. Leaders aren't born. Neither are great artists, athletes nor mathematicians, but some are born with the potential.

To assume that some people come into this world with a natural capacity to lead, and everybody else doesn’t is perhaps, the most destructive idea in the world.

Indeed, to an extent, some are born with the predispositions of a great leader.

But the truth is, everyone can become a great leader. You do not need any predispositions to be a great leader.

Don't ever let anyone (Interviewers, colleagues, friends, family members and even yourself) tell you that no matter how hard you try, you simply aren’t ever going to be great leader. Don't ever believe that you don’t have the innate wiring of a great leader.

Start learning how to communicate and listen to others. Gain self-awareness and learn how to motivate people and lead them. Participate in a seminar or a course to hone your leadership skills.

Go for it, improve your leadership, ace your interview and lead in a project.

What are the common qualities of these iconic leaders?
What are the common qualities of these iconic leaders? | Source

2) What are makes a great leader?

What are the most important qualities that distinguish a great leader?

Objective: To assess the qualities you believe in and whether these qualities align with the organization's vision.

Ideal response:

The most important quality for leadership is integrity. It reflects a deep commitment to do

the right thing for the right reason, regardless of the circumstances. Leaders with integrity are incorruptible and incapable of breaking the trust of those who have confided in them.

However, an excellent leader must also possess: self-awareness, vision, drive, ability to motivate and being compassionate.

A great leader needs to gain self-awareness to understand his/her own strengths and weaknesses. A great leader needs to understand the impact of his/her actions have on others as well as the goals and values he/she believes in.

Self-awareness is the sole determinig factor of how willing a leader is open to criticism and being able to accept what their flaws in order to grow as a leader.

A leader must have a strong vision and drive. The leader must set an aim and be driven to achieve this aim despite the adversity he/she faces. It is both inspiring and motivating for team members to know the meaning of their tasks and work towards achieving the goals.

A leader must be able to motivate his team mates and be compassionate. The leader must be able to positively influence his members to share the same vision to accomplish the goals.

A compassionate leader will be mindful of the feelings of the team member and actively seek to understand their strengths and weaknesses. This will allow the leader to bring the best out of them.

Do you have the imagination to come up with creative solutions?
Do you have the imagination to come up with creative solutions? | Source

3) Tell me about an innovative solution you developed to overcome your workplace challenges.

Innovation and creativity are key topics explored in leadership interview questions.

Effective leaders often promote change and innovation.

Objective: To assess your abilities to find creative solutions to unique problems and promote change.

Ideal response:

When I was in the sales department for my previous company, I faced the hurdle of processing a vast number of request forms. More importantly, these forms were only available in the hard copy format and many customers faced the predicament of obtaining the forms. The company even lost some customers due to this inconvenience.

Naturally, I took the initiative to create an online database and convert the hardcopy forms to an online format so that the information uploaded onto the database conveniently and instantly. This has led to the ease of submission of request forms for the department and the customers.

Above all, this has raised our productivity by cutting down our processing time by 75%, thereby saving the department precious time and resources.

Everyone has to deal with workplace conflict at some point.
Everyone has to deal with workplace conflict at some point. | Source

4) What you would do if your colleagues were arguing over a project?

Objective: To assess your ability on handling a conflict and tackling colleagues with different personalities.

Interview questions on conflicts amongst team members explore your ability to understand and respect different views.

You will need to provide a strong example on how you demonstrate your ability to settle the dispute by focusing on solving the problem and tackling the various personalities involved in the conflict.

The example will also need to show how you were able to listen to the team members and negotiate with the parties involved to reach a resolution.

Ideal response:

I would assess the situation and make a decision based on how the work should be done. I would handle the situation by meeting with the individuals involved in the dispute on a one-by-one basis to understand the details of the argument. Next, I would bring the entire team together and make it clear that I will not side with either of them. I work through the issue and break down the argument so that the team morale will not be negatively affected. More importantly, the decision that I have ultimately made as the team Leader must be respected.

Everyone has to deal with conflict at some point. For example,...(give a strong leadership experience on how you dealt with a dispute amongst your colleagues.)

In retrospect, I found that speaking with the team member in a non-confrontational way is the best approach. Having an honest and non-confrontational conversation allows my colleagues to open up to me and inform me of their personal issues and perspectives. This way, I am able to find out what the cause of the problem and then be able to work toward a solution. It is important to resolve the dispute immediately before the team morale is negatively affected.

Difficult people, sometimes we don't have a choice?
Difficult people, sometimes we don't have a choice? | Source

5) What type of people do you have difficulty working with?

Poor communication is the root of many conflicts amongst colleagues. When co-workers fail to communicate and listen to each other, organizational efficiency and team morale breaks down.

Objective: To assess how you can work with or resolve conflicts amongst co-workers through communicating, empathising and motivating your co-workers.

Ideal response:

I believe I can work well with anyone, but I do not enjoy working with individuals who are irresponsible and do not accomplish their tasks at hand. If there is a team member who lacks the ownership to complete their tasks, there is a risk of causing internal conflicts and decimating the team morale.

I would handle the situation by meeting and speak with the team member in a non-confrontational way with the individual on a one-on-one basis.

I would inform the individual of the importance of his/her tasks and ask if there were any circumstances that I needed to be aware of that were affecting their contribution. I would assist them to work through any personal issues and encourage them.

By communicating with the individual, I am able to find out what the cause of the problem and then be able to work toward a solution.

"When I asked you to prove me wrong, I didn't mean for you to actually get the facts"
"When I asked you to prove me wrong, I didn't mean for you to actually get the facts" | Source

6) If you believed your supervisor was wrong, how would you handle the situation?

Objective: To assess your abilities in evaluating the decisions and offering alternative solutions.

Ideal response:

I would present my reasons to the supervisor and provide an alternate solution.

In my experiences I find that telling someone they are wrong without providing facts or examples is the wrong way to go about it.

I would ensure that I was fully prepared and had analysed the situation before speaking to the supervisor. Most importantly, I would discuss my reasons in private, in a one on one situation, not in front of other team members.

Looking back, I found that speaking with the supervisor in a non-confrontational way is the best approach. By communicating with the individual, I am able to find out what the cause of the problem and then be able to work toward a solution.

For example,...(give a strong leadership experience on how you communicate with your supervisor and offer an alternative solution.)

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger?
What doesn't kill you makes you stronger? | Source

7) Tell me about a time when the going got really tough. How did you lead your colleagues to accomplish the task?

Leaders gain commitment by setting objectives and motivating the team to accomplish the tasks. Leaders encourage debate and demonstrates personal commitment while valuing individuals and their contributions.

The best examples needs to include enough detail to be believable and memorable. The example must show how you were a leader and how it encapsulates your overall leadership experience.

Ideal response:

I remember when I was heading a youth wing, there was a time when we really had no ongoing projects. The members in the youth wing studied in different colleges- we each had different schedules and it was challenging to find available time to meet and plan activities together. In conclusion, we were really unorganised.

It contributed to a mass exodus of people leaving the youth wing and it really demoralise the members a lot.

That was this time, as a leader, I became these people’s excuse of being unambitious no direction, but truth is I have to learn to accept it even though it never meant to be.

We started to review our strategy in organizing for activities and replan our ideas to boost our morale. Since we had low budget and low manpower, we began brainstorming 3 aspects: publicity, cohesion and interest. Publicity was needed to create awareness and encourage more youth to join us.Cohesion and interest served to organise projects that members are passionate in and bond through interactions with each other.

This change in direction invigorated the team and led us to a list of projects that we were passionate in and felt could make a difference to the community.

One of them was the Newspaper Fundraising event. Since our interest lies in community service, I incorporated the element of community serivce by ultilizing the profits obtained from the recycling of newspapers to provide daily necessities to the needy residents.

Throughout the project, the members were motivated to organize the event as they could reconcile with the purpose of serving for the needy.

In the end, we witnessed that many residents were passionate in the cause and we earned a profit of around $20,000. The event garnered praise and full support from our senior grassroots leader for the innovation and execution of the project.

From there, the youth wing expanded and organised several block parties, a road-cycling marathons and other community service projects.

When I first started this youth wing, I envisioned youth taking ownership in building a caring community and pursuing their own interests. I am now proud that this legacy is still being committed by my junior batches.

Are you as adaptable as Darwin in X-men: First Class?
Are you as adaptable as Darwin in X-men: First Class? | Source

8) How would you react if a project you had been working on suddenly changed or the deadline had been changed?

One of the most common challenges include changing of project deadlines. The interviewers wants know how you adaptable you are and how you can utilize and motivate your team members to meet deadlines.

Objective: To assess your adaptability and how you utilize and motivate the team members to accomplish tasks.

Ideal response:

My first response would be to speak with the supervisors to get an understanding why the project had been changed.

I want to ensure that I had all the facts and answers before approaching the rest of the team.

As soon as I had the answers I would notify the team to let them know things had changed. Once everyone was aware of the changes I would want to sit down with the team to develop a new strategy to move forward with the project.

Unfortunately, I have been in a situation where there are sudden changes to the deadline and details of the project.

For example,...(give a strong leadership experience on how you motivate your team members to overcome the challenge of a shortened deadline.)

The greatest takeaway was learning to be adaptable, to communicate effectively and have a good work ethic. There will be many times, that a project's deadline is shortened due to unforeseen circumstances. Thus, it is important to adapt to these changes and respond rapidly to handle the situation appropriately.

A little motivation to be a leader

The Interview Poll

What is the most common leadership interview question?

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    • Frienderal profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks CuriousSam! :) Indeed, to assume that some people are born to lead while everybody else doesn’t is perhaps, the most destructive idea in the world. Anyone can be a leader when given an opportunity to do so!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I agree that leaders are definitely made not born, although some maybe blessed with the predispositions of a leader. Had a great laugh on the video. Thanks!


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