There are lots of lists of practice interview questions for job seekers. A lot of them focus on strengths, weaknesses, handling difficult situations and working with co-workers. These questions are important, but when you’re competing for a management position, a hiring manager will be interested in what you know about leadership.
The days of the “boss” who tells everyone what to do, wields a lot of power, barks orders and everyone follows are over. These managers may get things done, but they have to continuously watch, prod and discipline unruly employees who perform more out of fear than dedication. Companies are looking for managers who know how to lead and inspire employees to perform. Here are some practice interview questions on leadership for your next management interview.
1. What is your definition of leadership? This is a “what is it” question. It’s not “great” or “necessary.” They want you to describe what leadership means to you. Try to think of a great leader you admire, either from history or current events or a former manager, and describe what that person did or said that made her a leader. “Leadership is….” and then fill in the blanks. This isn’t an easy question, and it’s best to formulate an answer well before it’s asked.
2. Name a great leader and why he inspired you. This should be easier, since you’ve already thought of one or two from question #1. Describe the traits this person had, such as honesty, integrity, the ability to communicate, and openness. Use qualities that conform to the company’s culture or values. You want the hiring manager to see how you would fit well with the leadership team.
3. What would you do with an employee who consistently misses performance goals? This is not your typical “handling difficult employee” question. Recruiting and hiring employees is a time-consuming, costly task. Firing everyone who doesn’t measure up may be for some situations, but leaders are coaches and trainers and set goals to help people make the most of their abilities.
4. What is the most important trait of a leader? What has inspired you in the past? I had a very tough manager whose greatest trait was she never let you wiggle out of a tough situation. Instead of stepping in when you failed, she would talk it over, give you some suggestions and a pep talk and send you out to make another try. I call that belief in the ability of her staff. It was tough, but I knew she believed in me, and helped me believe in myself.
5. What type of leader do you like to work for? This is a great question to show how prior leaders have helped you improve weaknesses and turn them into strengths. They are also sizing up whether you’ll mesh with your manager and the leadership team.
There are a lot of skills and experience questions to practice. Leadership is something that is tough to teach. Practicing these questions will help you understand how your leadership style fits with a job and company and enable you to clearly get that message across.