Interview questions and answers for Leadership positions

Business in the modern days has become very turbulent with the growing competition and fast developments in technology. It is of late understood that one man shows where is it difficult for the CEO to look after all the aspects of the business and people with the growing businesses. Leadership is encouraged at all levels in the organization and a certain amount of power & authority are shared so as to deliver the set targets and goals for the success of the organization.

Organizations not only look for candidates with the right technical skills and experience but also the driving spirits and the zeal that an individual possesses. The interviewers would focus on understanding behavior pattern and the professional approach the person follows to become a right cultural fit in their organization. The question “Tell about yourself” would help in breaking the ice and proceed with the further discussion.

Here are some of the questions that can be asked in an interview to assess the skills of a person in various aspects like communication, decision making, problem solving, critical & analytical thinking, strategic planning and team management which are necessary for a person to be a leader.

What is leadership and how do you define a ‘good leader’?

Leadership is all about influencing others and is an art of leading deliberately to create a result that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Leaders are tagged with power and authority who guide the team towards achieving the goals. A good or a great leader leads the team by being an example, inspires, persuades and develops personal connections that help in the success of the organization.

There are many styles of leadership. Which one do you follow to get the work done?

Changing according to the situations and analyzing the implications is very important for a leader. Sticking to a particular leadership style all the time does not work in any organization, be it autocratic or democratic. The order of the day is to wear different hats dealing with different situations. One should be autocratic at times when the targets are set by management and also when time does not permit any discussions. Similarly one can be participative and encourage ideas at the early project stages to firm up on the roadmap and fix the individual targets.

Leadership is all about taking risks. Share an instance where you have taken a big risk and proved to be successful.

Example: Our Company is a multinational technology service provider for various business majors in USA and Europe. The management had some proposals of bringing some onshore technology projects to India to reduce the cost though not very confident finding the suitable resources in India. I personally took lead to handle one project designing sensory devices for factory. The duration of the project was estimated to be 2 years by the customer where we had to start from scratch. Everyone felt that I was trying to take a big risk as if I was not successful, it would send wrong signals to the management for future decisions.

I worked closely with the customer and the in house HR team in identifying and training the resources for the project and lead towards the successful completion of the project.

How do you make the team members emotionally committed to the overall goals & priorities?

Team management is very important for any leader to achieve the set goals. The team should be aware of the macro picture of the project and what each every individual is contributing to. This makes the team feel enlightened and helps them understand how important they are for the accomplishment of the project. This helps in making the team emotionally committed to the goals. Conducting project review meetings and discussing the way forward ensures no one being lost in the mid and motivates them to finish the tasks given them on time.

What is your strategy in sharing the work among your team members?

One can understand the strengths and weaknesses of the each team member by working closely with them. The strategy then becomes simple in sharing the work such that the strengths of individuals are rightly tapped. Also providing continuous on the job training to work the weaknesses to everyone and thus building a strong performing team.

What support and assistance do you provide to your team?

A leader can only gain confidence and respect from the team members when he\she does not mind getting into their shoes and lend a helping hand when required. Understanding the work of every individual team member and providing comfort and necessary support when they are stuck at some point is very important for success. In short the leader should become a shoulder on which the team can rely on when they are in trouble be it at work or in personal life.

How do you handle the situations like "One of your team members has not performed on the agreed tasks"?

Yes. Leading a team will not be a cake walk and at many instances people would not perform their tasks as committed due to various reasons. I have faced many such instances personally and it would be like nothing but firefighting. The strategy that I follow is to quantify work and share it with other team members and perform a close review.

You can illustrate a situation... During the last project, one of the team members X met with an accident and was hospitalized. The project deliverable being within the next 15 days everyone was totally occupied with their own work but knowing the fact that the project is incomplete without X’s work. The entire team worked extra hours each day to both learn the work and perform. This involves a great amount of team spirit and my role as team leader became very crucial in coordinating the entire team and meeting the target delivery of the project.

Leader need to be empathetic with the team members. Do you agree?

Yes. Empathy touches the soul of any individual. I feel it is merely misunderstood by many that being empathetic is being lenient. Empathizing with the problems one is facing consoles the individual and gives a feeling that people care for him\her. We spend more than 60% of our time at office and developing good relations with peers, superiors and subordinates is very important. Organizations will surely be benefitted with the leaders being empathetic with the team members.

Change is inevitable and there will be resistance for change; give us an example of one such instant where you handled change successfully.

Change is essential with the improving science and technology in the modern day world. But there will be resistance to move out of the comfort zone which is human psychology.

You can illustrate a situation where you anchored and lead the change. A narration for example, I faced a strong resistance when wanted to move from the existing Six Sigma methodology to a Lean Six Sigma methodology where both quality and process speed are taken care of. My team was reluctant and I had to persuade them a lot to get started with the new process. Had to wear the hat of an autocratic leader to get the work done as it is good for the organization in the long term. Even the team members who were resistant initially are happy now.

How good are you in time management and how frequently you work beyond working hours?

Time management is very important and drawing a line between office and personal time is very much required for rejuvenating the mind for fresh thoughts. In fact long working hour’s culture should not be encouraged unless there is a pressing need or a deliverable to be completed. Planning, setting deadlines and proper execution of the tasks becomes the key.

Do you believe in the concept of ‘fun at work’ and how does that impact your team’s performance.

‘Fun at work’ is the hot topic in the modern day workplaces with HR professionals in many companies working on different strategies to make their offices best places to work. I do believe in the concept not as a HR policy or procedure. Making the team feel comfortable and happy in all their interactions with their peers, superiors and clients is very important for productivity. Organising small team outings, birthday bashes and monthly top performers announcements are some of the initiatives that help in making the workplace filled with positive energy.

Explain the situation where you managed the toughest conflict between two of your team member, as a leader.

In fact, for any leader 80% of the success is in dealing with people and 20% in doing the job well. Conflicts at work would generally be differences of opinion between two or more people on a common issue. Take the example of a conflict between the heads of two departments like design & Testing on the target date of project completion.

Resolving the conflicts will be possible by being patient, empathetic and an active listener ensuring that each of their view points is heard. Finally influencing and collaborating everyone for a win –win situation.

Was there any situation in your career where you failed as a leader?

The interviewers look for your attitude towards failure as the path of a leader is not always filled with green pastures. Explain the situation and ensure that something has gone beyond your control as it is understood that business is uncertain and lot of factors do influence. Show the acceptance and what lessons were learned during the course while leaving no negative feelings.

If you are hiring for a position in your team. What qualities you look in an interviewee apart from being technically qualified?

Apart from strong technical skills and good qualification, one needs to be a good team player with positive attitude to learn new aspects in the new organization. Also one who is willingness to take challenges with high aspirations to grow I would be the person I choose to be in my team.

Have you ever had to fire a person? What were the reasons, and how did you handle the situation?

Firing a person sends a wrong impression on the hiring and management of talent in the system. It is the last resort any organization would opt for as it brings down the morale of other employees.

If you have really faced such a situation, describe the management process followed and rational behind the decision.

At the same time, it is a tough decision but when it needs to be taken in favour of the organization, it has to be and the leader should be emotionally strong enough to make such decisions.

Have you come across any situation when your decisions are challenged by your superiors or subordinates?

Yes. There have been many such instances where my decisions were challenged both by superiors and subordinates. This actually ensures everyone thinks carefully before they act and hence need to be double careful while taking decisions.

How do you handle high pressure situations of meeting the deadlines of the customer?

Pressure and stress are very common in today’s competitive world. Proper planning and execution are the two aspects that I follow to mitigate the pressures of deadlines. Again with the kind of experience I have gained over the years helps to analyze and understand the customer behavior and thus maintaining good relationships.

What strategy do you follow while delegating the work?

Effective delegation of work is very much necessary for meeting the targets successfully and reducing the work pressure. It is again an avenue that I use to identify talent and giving additional authority to perform certain activities. It is more about tapping the right talent in the team and empowering them.

Explain a situation where you have delegated a crucial work to a team member who has successfully completed it under your mentorship.

How do you keep yourself motivated and ensure the goals of the organization are accomplished?

Taking up challenges and focusing towards achieving the goals are the two very important aspects that help in keeping high levels of self –motivation. Also the recognition at different occasions and forums from the management or organization helps in forgetting all the hardships undergone for the fulfillment of the set targets and boosts positive energy.

Recognition and rewards are important tools of management. What strategies do you follow?

Yes. It is rightly said that recognition and rewards are important tools of management. I categorize my team members as highly resourceful, resourceful and average performers. The performers on month on month basis are recognized in team meetings and project reviews. Star performers based on annual performance are recommended to the HR for consideration on higher increments and promotions.

The highly resourceful team members are ensured that they get fast tracked growth and recommend for any onsite opportunities whenever possible and encourage a competitive spirit among the team members..

You have been working in your current organization since a long time. Wouldn’t it be difficult to you switching to a new company?

The fact that being associated with the current company for a long time is true and it is really a difficult decision looking to move out of the organization that has groomed me to what I am today.

But Change is beautiful and it is for good. Looking for an equally challenging role that can help me grow further in the career and contribute to the growth of the industry as a whole.

How well do you know our organization and what changes can you bring in if you are appointed?


These questions are a kind of trap and need to be careful while answering them as such.

You as an outsider know about the products & services that the organization offers in different platforms. Also know the kind of customers they cater to.

Any individual can bring in changes to the existing system only after understanding the existing processes and influencing factors in the organization. If one tries to say that he \ she can bring in a particular change shows the lack of maturity.

So the best way is to tell the interviewers that rich experience you have gained over the years can help them in analyzing the situation and taking the best possible alternatives after joining their organization.

How open and flexible are you to travel and relocate to other business locations if necessary?

At a certain stage in career travel becomes very inherent part of the job of a leader where in visiting other business locations for project transitions, meeting customers and business development plays a key role.

The answer should express your view of being open and flexible to travel and relocate for the benefit of organization.

What qualities do you look forward to in your boss?

I look forward to my boss as perfect mentor and a great people’s person. He should be the one whom I can approach any time to seek necessary support and guidance.

You can give the example of a relationship you share with the your present or previous boss who has become your role model. This helps the interviewers understand the good relationship that you have developed with your boss which is not that everyone is able to do very easily.

Tell us how you demonstrate the ethical values as a leader.

The leader is the key in demonstrating the core ethical values both in the personal behavior and aligning them with the practices in the organization. I personally believe that honesty and transparency help in gaining confidence both in the interactions with superiors as well as the team. Integrity is an important competency that I have developed over the years growing up in the ladder.
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