How to Answer 10 Essential Leadership Interview Questions

Enhance Your Interview Preparation - Get the HR Perspective Through the Thoughts of an International Recruiter

woman interviewed by a blond woman and a man in a suit

Leadership is a highly sought-after quality in candidates across all levels. It reflects strengths such as problem-solving, organization, and effective communication. Even if your prospective role does not explicitly require managing others, showcasing your leadership abilities can be a significant advantage. 

During interviews, you might be asked about your leadership skills through behavioral interview questions designed to understand your approach and experiences. Preparing for these questions can highlight your potential value to an organization. 

To get some insight into the rationale behind these questions, as well as the best way to answer them, we spoke with Karin Björkman, an international recruiter with more than 20 years of experience and founder of the recruitment agency Beyondo. Read on. 

Understanding Leadership Interview Questions 

“Regardless of the job, hiring managers are fundamentally looking for three key things: (1) your ability to perform the required tasks, (2) your genuine interest in the work, and (3) your compatibility with the team and organizational culture.”

- Karin Björkman, Beyondo recruiting 

Questions about leadership can appear throughout your interview process. You can describe what it means to be a leader by the way you answer leadership questions. According to Björkman, “These questions will often explore your teamwork, conflict resolution, communication, and motivation techniques.” They give you a chance to demonstrate how you collaborate, make positive impacts, stay organized, meet deadlines, and use transferable skills. 

Elevate Your Leadership Skills with Training 

Technology is advancing rapidly, and as a leader, it's essential to stay current. Even if you're not directly using the latest digital platforms, understanding them is crucial. According to Björkman, “As technology continues to advance, employers are increasingly seeking candidates proficient in digital tools and platforms.” That said, the Harvard Business Review categorically states that the “best leaders can’t be replaced by AI.” Why? 

There’s a human element that AI and today’s technologies simply cannot replicate. Leaders must help team members grasp and embrace the benefits of change, ensuring successful implementation. Leaders are the ones boosting organizational buy-in and commitment. A successful leader will motivate team members, create a detailed roadmap, enhance employee support, and address any issues. These are things simply not achievable by machines. 

“Are you hungry to learn and build new skills?” was highlighted in MITSloan Management Review as one of its essential leadership questions.  

Whether you're in a leadership position or aspiring to be, staying knowledgeable and upskilled is vital. Technologies like AI and processes like Agile, or managing human relations like inclusive leadership are also changing the way we lead. As such, you must understand how to guide teams strategically and use critical thinking and emotional intelligence to help team members to pivot, adapt, and implement changes to stay competitive. 

10 Common Leadership Interview Questions and Sample Answers 

Here are common questions about leadership you may encounter during an interview. In many instances, the interviewer is not looking for a ‘perfect’ answer. Instead, according to Björkman, “they want to understand you and how you work on a deeper level—how you think, how you interact with people, how you work under pressure, etc.”  

With each question below, Björkman has tried to include the “HR reasoning” behind the question in addition to a possible sample answer. (Remember, even if you don’t receive these questions verbatim, they are still good leadership skills you want to highlight and should think about how to incorporate into your responses.)

1. What kind of leader are you? / How would you describe yourself as a leader?

The way you lead significantly influences those around you and their performance. While there are many common leadership styles, each leader also brings their own unique approach to the table. Understanding your leadership style can help you better meet your team's needs, showing you how to integrate new methods and adapt as your career evolves. If you’re unsure of your leadership style, take this short quiz

While some leadership styles may be more effective in certain situations, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Adapting your style to meet the needs of different situations can often yield the best results. Whether you are an experienced leader or just beginning your journey, understanding and assessing your leadership style can be a valuable component of your leadership development plan.  

Björkman’s Sample Answer: My leadership style is flexible and adaptive. I prioritize listening to my team’s needs and adjusting my approach to support them. I’ve been on teams where a new leader made changes solely to leave their mark. This approach rarely turned out well. Instead, I like to focus on listening actively to the team and then determining what approach will work best for them. I get a clearer picture of the challenges, and importantly, they feel included in the process. 

2. What do you believe are the key qualities of a successful leader?

Hiring managers ask this question to find out what you think makes a great leader and to see which leadership qualities you have. Your answer gives them an idea of who you are both personally and professionally. Björkman confirms this as one of the most popular leadership questions recruiters and hiring managers like to ask. 

This question might be asked in various ways, for example:  

  • Which leadership skills do you consider most important? 
  • Could you tell me about the best leader you've worked with? 
  • What skills do effective leaders possess? 
  • What qualities do you admire in a leader? 
  • What characteristics make a good leader? 
  • What makes you a good leader? 
  • How do you define leadership? 
  • What qualities would your ideal boss have?  
  • What kind of person makes a good leader? 

Sample Answer Key Points: You will want to highlight complementary skills such as problem-solving and empathy. Provide explanations for how these skills enhance leadership effectiveness. 

3. How do you motivate a team?

Hiring managers want to determine whether your leadership and management style would complement their current ways of working or potentially cause conflict with existing employees. 

Sample Answer Key Points: Explain your methods for inspiring a team, especially in hybrid or remote work settings, where applicable. Share how you use tools and processes to build rapport and trust. 

4. How do you handle conflict on a team?

In many roles, collaboration is essential, yet differences in personalities, perspectives, and opinions can sometimes spark conflict. Employers ask this question to evaluate your capacity to handle such situations with respect and professionalism. 

 Sample Answer Key Points: Share specific examples or strategies for conflict resolution, emphasizing your approach to facilitating solutions and maintaining team harmony. 

5. How do you delegate tasks?

Hiring managers will ask this question because effective delegation is crucial for ensuring that every team member understands their role in the project and feels valued for their contributions. Providing constructive feedback, including acknowledgment for good work and guidance for improvement, encourages employees to be fully invested.  

 Sample Answer Key Points: Discuss your process for distributing work among your team, ensuring that each member receives tasks that align with their strengths or provide opportunities for growth. Include how you identify each team member's unique talents and effectively monitor their progress. 

6. How do you encourage employee development?

Hiring managers generally want to know how—and whether-- you prioritize employee development to ensure that team members' skills evolve in line with industry trends. Also, whether you use development as a motivating factor for retention. 

 Sample Answer Key Points: Provide examples of how you’ve supported professional growth within your team, such as recommending courses or providing ongoing feedback. 

7. How do you give feedback?

Providing feedback to employees is crucial for effective management communication, fostering professional growth, skill mastery, confidence, and job satisfaction. However, according to a Gallup study, 70% of workers feel they lack sufficient face-to-face interaction with their bosses. This lack of feedback can reduce productivity and diminish their commitment to performing at their best. 

 Sample Answer Key Points: Reflect on your preferred methods for giving feedback and how you tailor your approach to different situations. Include how and when you use quick check-ins versus more detailed performance reviews. 

8. How do you respond to feedback?

The hiring manager is looking into your personality and whether you are growth-minded. Leaders must not only provide feedback but also be open to receiving it to continue their own professional growth and effectiveness. Those who do not respond well to feedback tend to have strained relationships with colleagues and team members. 

 Sample Answer: I value feedback as a crucial tool for growth and continuous development. For example, I regularly have 1:1s with my manager to discuss successes and areas for improvement. Most recently, they suggested a different way I could have handled an important meeting. Those comments made me realize I don’t have to be the one talking all the time to show I’m in charge. 

9. Tell me about a time you had a significant impact on a team or project.

The purpose of asking this question is generally to understand how you handle challenging situations, like difficult clients, tight deadlines, or high-impact projects.   

 Sample Answer Key Points: A strong answer will showcase your capability to remain calm and produce excellent work, even under pressure. Describe a successful project or initiative where your leadership made a notable difference. Be sure to emphasize the outcome that was achieved. 

10. How do you set priorities as a leader?

Hiring teams often pose this question to gauge your time management skills and your ability to analyze situations critically. Your ability to grasp competing demands and prioritize your own or your team's focus speaks volumes about the kind of leader you might be.  

 Björkman’s Sample Answer Key Points: Start by explaining how you organize your day, using to-do lists or spreadsheets to manage your workload. For example, “I start by assessing project goals and deadlines, then use project management tools like Asana to organize and prioritize tasks.” Next, discuss how you handle shifting priorities like when emergencies or urgent tasks arise. 

Are you Thoroughly Prepared? Here’s a Bonus  Question About Leadership 

11. How do you promote diversity within your team? Could you give us an example of how you’ve worked with inclusion? 

With multi-generational workforces and perceptions of inequity on the rise, employers are tending to probe more into a potential leader’s ability to unite teams. The Harvard Business Review found the single most important trait that crafts a sense of inclusiveness is a leader’s visible awareness of bias.

The purpose of asking this question is to evaluate how committed and self-aware you are to being an inclusive leader, as well as your emotional intelligence to make decisions with that awareness. Embracing the idea of inclusive leadership is easy; practicing it is much harder. 

 Björkman’s Sample Answer: “I know that I set the tone as a leader and it’s up to me to model behavior for the team. We all have unconscious biases, and it means that we sometimes let those biases and assumptions guide our interactions and decisions. At a previous job, I once made a point for myself to practice— in front of the team— the proper pronunciation of a new team member’s name. I also made sure to correct anyone on the team who continued to mispronounce or tease their name. You see, I had a close colleague who once told me how belittled and disrespected they felt when our boss teased them about their name. I could see how the rest of the team’s teasing really undermined their confidence. I never forgot that lesson.”  

Show You’re a STAR: Tips for Answering Leadership Interview Questions 

“I always recommend to my clients that they answer the questions using STAR,” says Björkman. The STAR method is a structured technique for answering behavioral interview questions. “It’s a particularly effective way to showcase your skills and abilities through real-life examples.”  

A helpful pneumonic, “STAR” stands for: 

  • Situation: Describe the situation or context where the event took place. 
  • Task: Explain the task you needed to accomplish. 
  • Action: Describe the specific actions you took to address the task or situation. 
  • Result: Describe the outcome/ results of your actions. 

Björkman offers additional suggestions to help you prepare for a leadership interview: 

  • Try to match your leadership style with the company's values and mission. (Ask yourself honestly if this is the right place for you if they don’t align). “Before your interview, research the company’s culture and mission to find areas that stand out or interest you.”  
  • Be honest in your responses while highlighting your essential leadership skills” such as problem-solving, communication, emotional intelligence, and critical thinking.  

In conclusion, leadership is a highly valued trait in candidates at all levels. Even if the role you're applying for doesn't require managing others, showcasing your leadership skills can provide a significant advantage. Interviewers often use behavioral questions to gauge your approach, experiences, and-- ultimately fit-- for the role. Being prepared for these questions can effectively highlight your potential value to the organization 

*Special thanks to Karin Björkman of the recruitment agency Beyondo for helping us with this article. 

Aspiring to lead, regardless of your job title?

Check out these training programs for tips and guidance! 
Search Leadership Training courses

Picture of Rama Eriksson

Rama Eriksson

Digital Content Editor (more)
Rama Eriksson is a Digital Content Editor at Her writing is complemented by 15+ years as an international marketing professional. She brings her experience and curiosity to connect professionals to the right training to help further their goals. Rama has Masters degrees in both law and business. Originally from the New York area, Rama has lived in Stockholm, Sweden since 2010. (less)


Rama Eriksson is a Digital Content Editor at Her writing is complemented by 15+ years as an international marketing professional. She brings her experience and curiosity to connect professionals to the right training to help further their goals. Rama has Masters degrees in both law and business. Originally from the New York area, Rama has lived in Stockholm, Sweden since 2010.