Recruiters look for specific core skills in applicants that help retain them as company assets in the form of potential future leaders. Leadership skills are a blend of essential strategic management and people skills that make candidates stand out and gain an edge over their peers at company interviews for senior positions. The ideal candidate impresses interviewers with their poise, ability to draw references from real-life experiences, and collaborative qualities.
In this blog, we discuss what these skills are, why they are sought after, and how you can prepare for the top 20 leadership interview questions that prospective employers routinely ask to identify and assess a candidate for a leader’s role.
How Do You Prepare for a Leadership Interview?
The interviewer asks situational questions to check your level of proficiency to helm business projects, handling professional setbacks, your route map of success, and how your induction can add value to the company.
Prepare an outline of the most challenging times you faced at a workplace or in life, the challenge per se, and the plan of action you took to overcome those challenges. Explain the consequence, emphasizing its impact on you, your team, and the noteworthy takeaway from the crisis.
The STAR technique is often proposed as the best for aspirants preparing for leadership roles. It is an acronym for:
What Are the Four Basic Leadership Styles?
While there are four primary leadership styles, leaders rarely stick to one exclusively. As a leader, you will be expected to assume roles in different capacities, given your situation. An understanding of the key leadership styles can help you fine-tune your approach according to the circumstances.
Here are the four leadership styles and some situations they are ideal for:
- Direct - This style is useful when one outsources work to freelancers and contractors, giving them clear directions. You don’t need to go out of your way to offer support any more than what they need in order to deliver what’s expected of them.
- Coach – When you lead as a coach, you must articulate the team vision to your subordinates and motivate them to believe in their endeavor wholeheartedly and bring goals to fruition.
- Support - You must be flexible and open-minded to listen to ideas, and encourage suggestions for collaborative teamwork and collective growth. Make each member feel empowered as a contributing partner. As a supportive leader, you play the role of a facilitator but retain the final say.
- Delegate - This is the style adopted when you fully entrust responsibilities to individual team members for their experience and maturity. The delegating style of leadership is most often seen in teams comprising senior executives or managers.
5 Essential Leadership Skills and Practices
If you’ve applied for a leadership position, these are the five leadership skills that the recruiters might be looking for in you:
- Self-development: Good leaders are learners for life. To engage team members and inspire them to maximize their potential, leaders must lead by example. They must schedule self-development activities in their timeline, chasing growth with persistence.
- Team development: Leaders must ensure a safe working environment where they can partner with their team members to ensure a consolidated team growth and achievement of goals. Management at the micro-level enables macro development.
- Strategic management skills: Leaders are required to manage conflicts with their strategic thinking abilities. They take critical long-term decisions and have a broad perspective to exceed their clients’ expectations while achieving team/company goals with finesse and exactitude.
- Professional ethics: Good leaders are good role models as they set the bar high for their team members with their sound value system. They familiarize themselves with the ethical diktats of their organization to avert violations.
- Creativity: Aspiring leaders must prioritize working on their innovative skills in a highly-competitive world. Leaders are expected to push the envelope in bringing fresh, original ideas to salvage a business process from hitting a dead end. Often, they bear the onus of replacing outdated operational models with relevant and improvised ones.
Top 20 Leadership Interview Questions and Answers
1. Tell me/us about the time you demonstrated leadership skills at work?
Draw references from previous work experiences where you took the initiative to lay out a successful strategy for a project, how you delegated tasks to your team members according to their strengths to maximize the outcome, organized the entire presentation with collaborative efforts, and delivered results.
2. What is your leadership style?
Even if you have never spearheaded a project, it is best not to be straightforward about this with your interviewer. Match your thinking patterns and behavioral approaches with a leadership style that defines you. Think about real and imagined situations in workplace scenarios, and come up with a befitting answer.
3. Which supporting skills do you think are more important for a leader?
Think about the personal qualities that encouraged, inspired, and engaged your teammates to perform better in the past. Empathy, respect, trustworthiness, effective communication, and good problem-solving abilities are required to be a good team leader.
4. How do you manage a conflict situation?
Conflict of interests or ideas is inevitable in the workplace. Give real-life examples when you encountered warring team members, kept your calm, listened with intent to understand individual perspectives, and offered dispassionate suggestions for desirable results.
5. What was the hardest decision you have taken as a leader? What helped you to prompt the best course of action?
If there was ever a time in your career where you were at crossroads, explain to them about it and justify your reason for choosing a decision you thought was most suitable at the time.
6. How do you ensure your team delivers quality work within the specified timeframe and budget?
Pick up instances from your career where you steered a project successfully. You can go ahead and explain how you outlined the project scope, created realistic targets, broke up the project into workable plans, set expectations, and built accountability within your team. Then, talk about the results — how your team met the target and achieved results without compromising quality scores. This is also a good time to talk about client appreciation.
7. How do you motivate an under-performing team member?
Under-performers usually suffer from many mental blocks and professional challenges that stop them from giving their best. As a leader, tell your interviewer how you would address these underlying issues by designing solid plans for your employees to train them on effective self-management to attain their full potential.
8. Tell me/us about your approach to delegation?
To handle this question the best way, you can begin by sharing your understanding of how vital it is for leaders to train their eyes and mind to choose the best fit for task delegation. It would help if you also talked about the importance of providing relevant instructions, resources, and training to the concerned group and positive feedback to boost employee morale.
9. Can you describe a time when you led by example?
You can refer to incidents when you worked diligently along with your team members to get a task completed within a tight deadline. Or you may talk of other similar events where you led and inspired them to complete work under unfavorable circumstances.
10. Have you ever served in a mentor role?
You can think about the opportunities you got in your career to wear the mentor’s mantle to guide, train, and connect your mentee with a world of possibilities through a working network.
11. How do you monitor a team’s performance?
Besides keeping a close eye on your team’s performance, you can also mention technological tools that help your team to track their performance. It’s a great idea to tell them how you compare your observations with theirs and follow up with action plans for those in need.
12. How would you boost a sagging team’s morale?
Team members can be easily distracted and demoralized on flimsy grounds. Explain to your interviewer how you would keep the lines of communication open and transparent, fill gaps in communication, offer employee recognition, and have trained managers on the team to oversee other details to maximize team productivity and prevent sagging morale.
13. How do you respond to ideas/suggestions from team members?
A competent leader has an open mind and is receptive to constructive feedback from their employees. Tell your interviewer how you believe in the power of collaboration, and share instances where you achieved positive results because of it.
14. Who do you look up to as an ideal leader, and why?
You can name any person from your life/work sphere who has positively impacted you with their subtle teachings and exemplary leadership qualities.
15. How do you respond to criticism at the workplace?
Emotional detachment is the key to success in any work sphere. You can explain why you choose to ignore negative comments but welcome constructive criticism that fosters professional growth.
16. What steps do you take to measure your performance at work?
Explain the measures you take to evaluate your growth each day, like keeping a checklist, seeking feedback, rating your performance, taking refresher courses on critical skills for a leader, and staying relevant to your position with changing times.
17. How do you evaluate the capabilities of a new team member?
Go on to explain how you will get copies of job descriptions, learn about employee roles, performance rated by the outgoing manager, and targets achieved in their capacity (and collectively as a unit), to help you evaluate a new team.
18. How can you contribute to a positive work culture?
Explain the importance of providing a safe and secure working environment for employees to thrive. The strategies to achieve this could include setting attainable goals, providing a flexible work practice, keeping the lines of communication transparent and accessible, offering positive reinforcements, and helping your team maintain good work-life balance. All of these practices contribute to a positive work culture.
19. If you suddenly become short-staffed before a deadline, how will you manage the deliverables without compromising their quality and timeframe?
Explain to your interviewer how you will immediately communicate the unforeseen departure to the rest of the employees in the team. What steps you would take to encourage the team to push limits to meet the deadline, coming up with smart plans and short-cuts. At the same time, how would you prevent resentment and low morale among those who are having to pull the extra weight? Talk about how you would negotiate compensation for them or make them feel valued for the additional efforts.
20. How can your presence add value to the company?
To answer this question adequately, you need to have a clear understanding of the job role, what skills the recruiters have outlined in the job description, and what are the company’s missions and goals. With the knowledge of these key things, you can build yourself up as the ideal candidate through this answer. Go on to describe how you can apply your experience, expertise and skills from your present role as a team leader to fulfill what the hiring company needs. In short, your answer should cover the company’s requirements and how your capabilities and qualifications uniquely position you to meet them.
Our Readers Also Asked
1. Why should we hire you as team leader?
When this question shows up, you need to show the interviewer why you would be a good fit for the role they are looking for and the leadership skills you possess. Show traits that make you a good team leader such as multitasking, being a team player, being understanding and considerate, leading by example, etc.
2. How do you introduce yourself to a team leader interview?
This interview is usually similar to other interviews. Be polite when you walk into the interview, shake hands with the interviewer, answer all their questions using the STAR method. Thank them for giving you their time and this opportunity and ask when you would possibly hear from them.
3. What qualities should a team leader have?
Here are some important qualities that a team leader should have:
- Acknowledgment, appreciation and giving due credit
- Active listening
- Showing commitment
- Having a clear vision
- Investing in the team's future
- Acting with integrity
- Acting objectively
- Motivating others
High-paying career opportunities for Business leaders in 2023:
4. What questions are asked in a leadership interview?
Here are some common questions that are often asked during a leadership interview:
- Tell me about a time you improved your company performance in some way
- Tell me about a time you took the lead in a team project
- Tell me about a time you struggled with work-life balance
5. What are the 4 basic leadership styles?
Types of Leadership Styles
- Autocratic - Do as your told leadership, comes from a single figure.
- Democratic - Also known as participative leadership with includes involving all your team members to help make a decision.
- Laissez-faire - This type of leadership involves empowering your employees to be able to make complete their tasks without micro management.
- Transformational - This type of leadership requires offering a grand vision and rallying your employees around it.
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