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As a manager, your skills are invaluable to a multitude of companies. Given that, it’s no surprise that at some point you’d want to transition from one managerial position to another.
While this potential move can be exciting, you know your potential employer will be sure to grill you on your leadership experience. After all, leadership is one of the most valuable soft skills to have, even if you aren’t a manager. Therefore, it’s important that you go into your interview fully prepared to answer any leadership related questions.
Luckily, because hiring managers often ask similar questions and look for similar answers, the samples in this article can help you strategize for your interview.
In a position that relies on managing multiple people, a hiring manager will want to gauge your management style and leadership skills. As a result, it’s important that you present yourself as an experienced leader.
As mentioned previously, it’s vital that you strategize before going into the interview, so you aren’t caught off guard by a question and don’t have to think of examples off the top of your head. Additionally, because there are a wide range of relevant questions you could be asked, you should focus on good, managerial traits you have that you can highlight while answering them.
Good traits to focus your answers on are: positivity, prioritization, empathy, honesty, accountability, decisiveness, and flexibility.
All of these are excellent traits for a leader to have, so you should keep them in mind when answering leadership related questions.
In addition, accentuating these traits will help you when answering behavioral interview questions, as the hiring manager will likely ask you to “tell them about a time…” or “describe a time where…” and expect you to give examples that show your value from a past situation.
The hiring manager does this because they want to hear specific, personal examples from your previous work experience that highlight how and why you’re a good manager.
Given that, you’ll want to be prepared with a story or two about a time you performed exceptional leadership. Maybe in your previous position you helped a divisive team work together and increased performance. Maybe you came up with a new idea that benefited the company you worked for. Or maybe you remember making a difficult decision that positively altered the course your company had been taking.
Whatever example you remember, prepare the story before you go into the interview. Remember to focus on how your actions as a leader contributed to you and your team getting positive results. Focus on the skills and traits you have that make you an amazing leader. Having these points prepared will allow you to discard any information that will cause you to ramble.
With those tips in mind, here are 20 common leadership related questions and answer samples. Remember, when answering questions be sure to personalize as much as possible.
If there was a disagreement on your team, how would you handle it?
To gauge your conflict resolution skills. Make sure you keep your answer positive, and use an example of a time you successfully solved a disagreement or de-escalated a situation on your team.
I believe that proper communication is the key to solving disagreements on the team. While working at my previous position, there was a situation where two team members had a disagreement over their daily tasks. My first step was to approach them individually and get their perspectives, so I could understand the situation better. Next, I calmly and respectfully pulled them aside and had a discussion on how we could compromise. This discussion led to them taking on tasks they believed were more evenly distributed, and that solved the disagreement.
When was the last time you had a conflict with a dissatisfied customer? How did you resolve it?
If you work in an environment that sees a customer base, the employer will want to know how you will keep them happy, while also maintaining company protocol. Talk about a time when you helped calm a customer down and came to a good solution for them.
At my previous position a customer called the front desk very frustrated with the fact that she’d waited more than two weeks for a reply from our sales team. First, I apologized to the customer and took down her details. After, I was sure to pass the details to our head salesperson, who contacted the customer within the hour. During this time I investigated why the inquiry hadn’t been answered, and discovered that the wrong mobile number had been written down for her. I let the customer know, input the new phone number, and then offered a goodwill discount on her next order. Fortunately, she not only continued to order from us, but also wrote up a five-star Google review of our business.
What is the best way to negotiate with a difficult person, or multiple people?
To see if you can solve conflicts with diplomatic solutions. Make sure you emphasize your patience and willingness to work with diverse personalities.
I think communicating privately with people who are experiencing tension in the workplace is the most positive and productive way of resolving it. I would be sure to approach this person and keep the conversation calm and respectful. Once I got their attention, I would take a moment to express my appreciation for their work as a way to keep things positive and boost their confidence. Then, I would discuss whatever issue is causing difficulty and do my utmost to solve it without conflict.
If your team is struggling to stay motivated , what would you do to encourage better performance?
To see if you’re capable of motivating your team towards better performance. Remember that communication with your team is key, and if you can, use an example of how you motivated your team in the past.
I believe that communication, blended with a positive and rewarding work environment, leads to motivated teams that perform well. At my previous position my team found themselves in a rut after the company made some hour cuts. At the time, I communicated with each of them individually about their concerns. Then, I talked to everyone as a group about our goals and inspired them with positive feedback about their role at our company. Doing so made them feel heard in the workplace, and increased their performance.
In what way do you monitor your team’s performance?
To get an idea of how you motivate your team, and keep them on task. Be sure to highlight your communication skills and ability to manage others.
While working at my previous position I often held group meetings at the start of a shift so my team understood our priorities and what needed to be done that day. I was also very hands on in assisting with my team’s work, as I was always open to answer questions and get their feedback on how their tasks were going. I believe this sort of communication allowed me to not only track their progress, but also improve performance overall.
When given a new team, how do you evaluate their current capabilities?
To address not how you’d adapt to a new team when hired, but also how you’d handle evaluating any new team members. Emphasize your ability to listen and learn about your team’s strengths and weaknesses.
Before anything else I’d be sure to listen carefully in the workplace. My goal would be to understand each team member’s strengths and weaknesses. Next, if need be, I would talk privately to each team member about our project and how they feel about their progress and the progress of their fellow team members.
What was the hardest decision you ever had to make as a leader?
To understand your decision making process and how you handle difficult situations. Make sure that the example you use had a positive outcome, so you can show that you make good decisions under pressure.
One time I was scheduled to have a vacation for two weeks, but a few days before I expected to leave there was an emergency at work. Being the team leader, it was my responsibility to manage the situation, no matter what. I made the decision to postpone my vacation, so that our project would be completed on time and to company standards, and I’m proud of myself for stepping up and being the leader my team needed at the time.
Tell me about a time you had to let go of a team member. How did you approach the situation?
To gauge how you handle difficult and potentially awkward situations. Make sure you understand the gravity of letting a team member go. Express how you would show empathy while still keeping to what the company needs.
While letting go of a team member was always a difficult decision, sometimes it was the best thing for the team, and the company. When letting go of a team member I always found time to speak with them privately. In one specific case, one of my team members had been considerably late far too often, and regularly underperformed in the workplace. Motivational discussions did little to help him improve, so the company and I made the decision to let him go. After thanking him for his work, I calmly and empathetically explained to him that he was being let go, and why. I then allowed him to finish out his posted schedule that week, before I removed him from our system.
Are you a risk taker?
To look out for candidates that take too many risks or can’t explain their decision making process. This is a red flag for hiring managers, so explain that you aren’t a risky candidate.
Not really. I rely on a strong and structured decision making process, as I believe that has a much more positive effect on my team.
What steps do you take to make sure that a project is completed timely, on budget, and to company standard?
To get a general understanding of your managerial skills. Explain to them how and why you’re capable of managing a group of people in a way that will achieve the results they want.
First and foremost, I would be sure to communicate with my team about all the details of our project, as everyone needs to understand our timeline, budget and standards. Once everyone is on the same page, I would delegate certain team members to take on tasks they excel at, and carefully monitor everyone’s progress. If need be, I would also set mini deadlines for portions of the project to make sure everyone stays on track.
How do you approach delegating team members to different tasks?
To understand how you decide to manage your team. Emphasize that you would delegate your team to work certain tasks based on their skills. You’ll want to know who is proficient at what and give them positions to match their proficiencies.
I believe the best way to delegate team members is to balance congregating those who work well together with assigning each person whatever task they’re most proficient at. To do this, I would first listen to my team and work to understand the natural role each team member excels at. Next, I would try to figure out which team members work well together, and hopefully find some overlap in their skills. Only after assembling this information would I begin to delegate tasks to my team members.
When was the last time someone in your team approached you with a unique idea? What did you do?
To see if you’re open to creativity and new ideas, and more importantly, to understand if you’re willing to listen to others. Think of an example where you implemented an idea one of your team members had, and how that idea made some sort of improvement.
When I was a manager at the gas station, one of my team members said that she noticed customers often buying mozzarella sticks and mac and cheese bites together, and recommended that we give a slight discount when they were purchased together. I obliged, and to my surprise our food sales increased by 15%. This is why I’m always willing to hear new ideas from my team.
Tell me about a time when you had to complete a task you’d never done before.
To assess your independent problem solving skills. As a leader, it’s important that you are able to solve problems and accomplish tasks yourself so you stand out as a good example for your team.
While working at the gas station we had been given a new lottery game to add to our electronic system. The game relied on implementing a series of numbers at certain times of day, so it confused many people on my team. Fortunately, after reading the company instructions thoroughly, I spent some time practicing with the system and figured out the proper way to input information for the game. Afterward, I made sure to teach others on my team.
Has there ever been a time where you had to come up with a creative solution? If so, were you successful?
To gauge whether you are a creative and innovative person. Think of a time you had to solve a problem in a way that might have seemed strange to you at the time, but ended up working.
Tell me about a time you demonstrated leadership on the job.
To learn about your experience as a leader. Ideally, you should use an example from the recent past, and be sure to focus on how your actions as a leader led to positive results.
When I was working as a manager at my previous position there was a weekend where three different people on our team fell ill and weren’t able to come to work. Luckily contacted the regional manager and was able to pull a staff member from a different store to help. Of course, I also stepped up and took on any other shift responsibilities that weren’t met by my team that weekend.
What do you like about managing others?
To understand why you want to lead and what your leadership style is. Remember to pull in some of those ideal traits mentioned previously. This question also gives you an ideal opportunity to show your passion for the position.
As an empathetic person, I’ve always communicated well with others. As a result, being a manager has really allowed me to help the people on my team shine. Even though I am responsible and accountable for the team, I never worry because I know I can led us to our goals in a positive and productive way. This balance between supporting others and leading them is just something I’m passionate about getting right.
Which qualities are most important for a leader to have?
To test you on your understanding on what makes a successful leader. Highlight the traits mentioned previously: positivity, prioritization, empathy, honesty, accountability, decisiveness, and flexibility.
I believe in any and all situations a successful leader will be able to prioritize and make decisive decisions that will positively benefit the team, or the project in question. They will do this by managing their empathy for the team with the company’s standards of performance. Even if a team member causes an issue, a good leader will take accountability for that issue and find a way to resolve it.
What do you believe creates a positive team culture?
To assess if you’re a good choice for their company. Research the company ahead of time so that you can showcase yourself as someone who would fit seamlessly into their team culture.
I think adaptability, respect, and communication create the best team cultures. As a manager I want to know that my team and I support each other in many ways. For example, if a team member is sick, I want to know that others will step up to take their shift, and if no one can, I will step up to create an example. Additionally, I want everyone on my team to feel comfortable coming to me with questions. In this way, I will make sure that everyone on my team takes care of each other.
Tell me about a time where you led by example.
To assess your ability to get your hands dirty and work as well as you expect your team too. Share an example of a time you helped a team member complete a task or stepped up to take on something for your team.
When working at my previous position there was a time when our company implemented a new frozen coffee machine. I gave my team the instructional pamphlet on how to operate and clean the machine, however, they found the instructions very confusing. Therefore, I called a team meeting and used the instructions to show them myself how to work and clean the machine. Stepping up and showing them first hand helped immensely, and afterwards no one had an issue with the machine.
Name a leader who inspires you.
To understand your potential leadership style by taking a look at someone you look up too. You shouldn’t go grandiose with the question, rather, focus on the traits your person of choosing has that makes them a good leader. Ideally, you should focus on past mentors, managers or other people who had a direct influence on your life and your behavior.
I always felt incredibly inspired by my college advisor, Dr. Bob Sperling. He always knew how to communicate with me in ways that guided me toward better decisions, and with his help my performance in college increased to the point that I made high honors. I will always appreciate him and his ability to lead me towards the goals he knew I could achieve.
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