If you’re looking for how to answer leadership interview questions, then this article is for you.
We’re going to look at 21 common questions for leadership roles, including:
- Supervisor interview questions
- Manager interview questions
- Leadership behavioral interview questions
After going through this article, you will know how to impress the employer in your leadership/management job interview, and you’ll know the mistakes that can cost you the job.
How to Answer Leadership Job Interview Questions
When interviewing for leadership positions, it’s important to give interview answers that show competence and experience as a leader, but it’s equally vital to show the right personality traits – like the ability to work well with others, communicate effectively, and overcome unexpected challenges.
This is how you demonstrate leadership skills in an interview.
So when you answer leadership interview questions, you should split your focus between showing your technical knowledge and experience, but also communication skills, emotional intelligence, and your ability to be a positive influence on the company culture overall.
Make it your aim to show the interviewer that you possess these traits:
- Calm under pressure
- Positive and upbeat
- Genuinely interested in the industry AND in leading people
…And you’ll get more job offers in your leadership interviews… whether you’re an experienced manager or executive, or someone who’s looking to step into their first formal leadership position as a supervisor.
Next, let’s look at some specific questions you can expect to hear in any leadership interview, with sample answers and tips for how to impress the hiring manager!
21 Leadership Interview Questions and Answers
1. What is your leadership style?
First, for any leadership role, the interviewer is likely to ask you about your style and approach to leadership.
Employers want to understand the leadership qualities and leadership styles of the candidates they’re speaking to so they can hire someone whose style will fit with the current team.
This is why they ask, “What is your leadership style?”
They want to know…. Do you micromanage? Do you give people a lot of room to work with and only intervene when there’s a major problem?
They may also ask about how you delegate tasks, how you do performance reviews with employees, and more. So be ready to get specific about these topics in any leadership or management job interview.
Also, research the company and hiring manager before your interview and try to get a sense of whether they seem laid back, strict, etc. That way, you can make sure you’re describing your leadership style and leadership skills in a way that will fit with their culture.
Otherwise, you may not get hired.
Read example answers to this interview question here.
2. What are your leadership experiences?
Next, they’re likely to ask about past leadership that you’ve done. How many years? How many people led? What type of leadership (direct reports, project-based or cross-functional leadership, mentoring/training, etc.)
This is one of the most common leadership questions you’ll be asked, so make sure you brush up on your past work so you can answer quickly and confidently here.
If you want to see a good example answer, this article has 10 leadership experience examples to give you more ideas.
Important note: You do NOT need to have formal leadership to be able to talk about leading in the past. Any experience you have counts! They obviously liked something on your resume if they invited you to interview for the job. So even if you led in class projects, or in small projects or meetings in past jobs, mention that!
3. What is your greatest accomplishment as a leader?
Next, they may ask, “What is your greatest accomplishment?”
And if you’re in a leadership job interview, you should assume they want to hear about team accomplishments or achievements. Don’t mention an individual accomplishment here if you are aiming for a leadership job.
Instead, talk about how you led your team to accomplish something great.
This will get them excited about your leadership potential and show them that you’ll be a good leader for their organization, too.
Understanding your past work and successes as a leader helps them predict your leadership potential in their role. That’s why this is one of the more popular leadership questions in an interview.
You can find example answers to this question here.
4. How do you motivate others?
Next, you’re likely to be asked how you motivate others, since keeping a team motivated is essential to the team’s performance.
To answer this leadership question, talk about how you gain commitment from each team member, how you keep them engaged and interested, and what leadership qualities help you do so.
Even if this position you’ve applied to will be your first leadership role, you can still talk about how you’ve taken the lead in a task, a project, a team meeting, etc.
You don’t need to be a team manager or oversee a whole team to point to past leadership and to demonstrate an ability to motivate those around you.
This is one of the top questions you’ll hear in the interview process, and it’s designed to separate effective leaders from those who will struggle. So practice this question if you want employers to be convinced of your leadership capabilities.
5. Would you rather be respected or feared by your employees, and why?
I do not recommend saying, “feared” here. But I wouldn’t just say “respected” and leave it at that, either.
I’d recommend responding with something like this:
“I’d rather be respected by my team. I think it’s also important to be trusted. You can’t always make the popular choice when leading a team. But if you’ve built trust, your team members will give you the benefit of the doubt that this decision is best in the long run. That’s how I’ve been able to get my past teams to buy into the decisions I’ve made.”
This type of answer will show that you have a great understanding of what it takes to be a leader and that you’ve built strong leadership skills in past roles.
This is the type of answer that will set you apart in a leadership interview, so practice talking like this.
6. How do you make decisions?
Next, you can expect a couple of behavioral interview questions, and “how do you make important decisions?” is one of the most common.
They may also ask for a specific time you had to make a tough decision, what you chose to do, and why.
Your aim to be that you were able to stay calm under pressure, use logic and facts to come to your decision, and then explained it to your team.
A great leader doesn’t just make decisions; they inspire confidence in their team by explaining new decisions and new ideas clearly.
So show that you’re a great decision-maker, but also a great communicator.
7. How would you describe yourself as a leader?
This is similar to some of the questions above… and it is one more way they might try to learn about your approach to leading a team.
The best way to show them that you’re a great leader to is talk about specific successes in the past, so along with giving them a general idea of your approach here, try to provide an example of a team success you led.
This article has some general examples of how to describe yourself effectively.
8. What do you need to improve?
Employers love to hire someone who is talented and confident in their skills, but there are also times when you should be humble in an interview.
Show the interviewer that you’re humble and always working to improve and learn.
When answering this question in a management interview, name something that will boost your skills as a leader once you master it, but not something so essential to the job that you’ll scare them away from hiring you.
For example, you wouldn’t want to say, “Well, I’m not great at communicating with my team. So that’s something I need to improve.”
This would be a huge red flag, because communicating with your team members is such a vital part of the job that you probably couldn’t succeed as a manager or supervisor without this ability.
9. Why did you choose this career path?
The interviewer will likely want to know how you got started in this industry and this field of work, and finally – why you chose a leadership path.
That’s why they ask about your reasons for choosing this career.
So be prepared to talk about what you enjoy about this career and how you got started – both in the industry and in your specific area of focus (for example: sales, project management, research & development, etc).
10. What motivates you in your career?
You can also expect some questions about what drives you, what motivates you, and why you get up and come to work each day aside from the paycheck.
I recommend you talk about what you find fulfilling in your work. Why do you enjoy being a team leader? Or what small leadership tasks have you enjoyed in the past that made you decide to apply for this supervisor or manager position as a next step?
They may also ask, “What are you passionate about?” which is a similar question. Pick something work-related if you can. You can say you enjoy teaching and helping others, for example. Then explain how working as a manager has been fulfilling because you’ve been able to help develop newer employees, watch them grow, serve as a mentor, etc.
11. What are your greatest strengths as a leader?
Review the job description before the interview, think about what seems most important to them, and then be prepared to name one or two strengths that seem to fit into their needs.
(Putting your answers in terms of their needs is one of the keys to how to sell yourself in an interview, and will get you far more job offers).
For example, maybe the job description says they need someone who can bring new ideas and initiatives to the team. You could say that one of your strengths is brainstorming new ideas, testing new ideas with your team, and improving processes and efficiency.
Then, to make your answer even better, give a specific example of how you did this in one of your past leadership experiences.
12. Tell me about a time when you failed.
This is another behavioral question where the interviewer is looking to gauge how you react to tough situations – in this case, a failure or setback.
So when you talk about a time you failed, show them you did everything you could to limit the “damage” and quickly recover. And most importantly – show that you learned from the experience and prevented it from happening in the future.
Employers are okay with past failures, and they want to hear about a real failure here. But they want to see that you learned from it. Good leaders are always learning and improving, so don’t forget that.
Saying you’ve never failed won’t make you sound like a good leader; it’ll make you sound fake. So that’s NOT what to say here.
13. What sets you apart from other candidates?
When employers ask, “What sets you apart from other candidates?” it’s a chance to brag about yourself!
This is not the time to be overly shy/humble and say, “I don’t know, shouldn’t you be deciding that?”
You want to give a strong answer here and name something specific that you feel makes you uniquely qualified to succeed in this position.
It can be a similar leadership experience in the past. Or it can be how your leadership style seems to fit well with their company culture. It can be a specific set of leadership skills that you have (like managing multiple software development teams across multiple locations).
That last example is one of the strongest answers you can give. It shows them that you understand what their job involves and have highly relevant experience.
The more you can point out that you’ve done similar work in the past, the more likely you are to get hired for the job!
This interview tip is true for any position and any industry.
14. Why did you leave your last job?
Any time you’re unemployed, a recruiter, HR person, or hiring manager is very likely to ask about it in a first interview or phone interview.
They just want to understand what happened and make sure there aren’t any big “red flags” (like you having arguments/disagreements with upper management, etc.)
It’s best to be clear and direct in your answer, and not share more than you’re asked. Just give a direct answer and then move on.
And if you’re job searching while you still have a job, they may ask, “Why are you looking to leave your current job?” instead.
In that case, don’t badmouth your current employer; just focus on the things you’re hoping to gain by making a move. I like to use the phrase, “more of.”
“I’m looking for more of an opportunity to lead projects and build a team”.
15. Tell me about a time when you had to convince someone else of your point of view.
If you thought you’d get through this article and only have to practice two behavioral questions… bad news. This is yet another question that employers are very likely to ask.
When they ask this, they’re looking to see how you communicate and how well you will be able to handle disagreements as a leader, manager or supervisor.
To be ready to respond, prepare a story about a time you had to explain your point of view or convince someone that your approach made sense. Ideally, in a work scenario.
16. Leaders are often required to make difficult decisions. Tell me about a time you made a decision that not everyone agreed with.
With this behavioral question, the employer wants to make sure you’re capable of doing what needs to be done, even if it’s not the popular choice, or even if your team isn’t 100% on board with it.
If you’re the manager or director of a group or department, you need to make the final call. (Even if your job often involves asking others what they think… which IS something great leaders do).
So you can expect to hear this interview question for management positions, and you need to be ready to show that you’ve made tough decisions and communicated effectively to your team, even if it wasn’t the popular choice.
Good leaders do what’s best for the team in the long run, even if it means having a difficult conversation or two.
17. Tell me about a time you had a disagreement at work. How did you resolve it?
Next, you should prepare for one more of the most common manager, supervisor, or team lead interview questions.
With this question, the interviewer is hoping to hear a story where you stayed calm and professional despite disagreeing with a coworker.
I’d recommend talking about a disagreement with a peer or a superior (for example, if you were a manager and disagreed with a director).
This will show the employer that you can stay calm and communicate with upper management… and won’t give them any doubts that you’ll have disagreements with your team members that are working “underneath” you in this role.
18. What are the three most important traits you possess as a leader?
This is one of those interview questions where there isn’t one “correct” answer, but it’s best to think of common leadership traits that you really do possess, and it’s also best to think about traits that will help you in this particular role.
For example, if the team is large and full of all types of people (different ages, different skill sets, etc.) then you could say that one of the most important traits you possess is the ability to relate to all sorts of people with different points of view.
That way, the interviewer will see that this particular challenge won’t be an issue for you in the job.
19. Which other companies are you interviewing with?
This next question isn’t specific to a leadership interview, but you’re likely to hear it. Employers often ask what other companies you’re interviewing with. This interview question isn’t a trick; they just want to get a sense of what you’re looking for overall.
It’s a red flag if you’re interviewing with a tech company but you tell them that every other company you’re interviewing with is a health non-profit.
So, just make sure you can show them that you’ve applied for a couple of positions similar to theirs. They want to see that you have specific reasons for wanting to be doing this type of work in this industry.
That’s the only big “trap” to watch out for with this interview question.
If you can show them that their job fits the general theme of what you’re looking for, and that you’ve thought about what you want to do in your career, then you’ll be fine.
Also, don’t feel pressure to share specific company names. You can say:
“I’m interviewing at a couple of other mid-sized healthcare companies like yours. I’d prefer to keep the names confidential. I’d do the same for your firm if another interviewer asked me this question.”
Here’s more info on how to answer, “what other companies are you interviewing at?”
20. What are your goals for the next five years?
When you interview for a team leader role, they might also be curious where you see yourself going in future years. So expect one or two leadership interview questions to be focused on your future plans.
Employers don’t expect a perfectly-accurate answer when they ask, “where do you see yourself in five years?”.
But they do want to see that you’ve thought about your career, and that this job fits into what you want to be doing long-term.
So for example, you could say, “In three to five years, I hope to be working as a Director of a sales department. I applied for this Sales Manager position because it seemed like a great next step in my career, where I could continue to build leadership skills and then hopefully advance further in your company when the time comes.”
21. Do you have any questions for us?
Always ask questions – about the team, the company, and the role.
You could ask them what leadership skills they feel are most important in the person they hire.
You can ask them what challenges the team is facing. Or what they hope a new leader will bring to the group.
You can ask them about the overall strengths and weaknesses of the team. (Don’t ask about individual team members, but it’s okay to ask about the group).
And finally – ask about what’s next in the process and when you can expect feedback (so you can follow up if you don’t hear a response).
If you want more ideas, here are 26 unique and impressive questions to ask the employer.
Conclusion: How to Prepare for a Leadership Interview
We’ve covered the top 21 interview questions for managers, supervisors, and other leadership roles.
Employers can certainly ask other leadership interview questions, but if you practice these leadership questions, you’ll be ready to demonstrate your overall leadership abilities and win the job.
As a final step – practice at home so that you’re comfortable and relaxed. Don’t memorize each answer word for word…
If you do this, you’ll just sound scripted and unnatural in the interview (and be under a lot of pressure to remember everything in the heat of the moment).
Instead, try to think about the key points you want to mention for each topic or question.
And then practice by recording yourself talking into my smartphone “recorder” app. Then, you can play it back and hear how you sound.
Once you’re comfortable with how you sound, and you’re hitting the key points and mentioning the key skills you want to highlight, you’re ready for your leadership interview.