Tell Me About a Time You Demonstrated Leadership Skills

Updated March 22, 2023

Leadership skills are soft skills that provide direction and vision to people, motivate and inspire them to achieve organizational goals and help create an environment conducive to success through strong communication and collaboration. Effective leaders have the ability to communicate well, motivate their team, delegate responsibilities, listen to feedback and solve problems in ever-changing workplaces. If you're interviewing for jobs, learning more about why a hiring manager may ask about leadership skills can help you prepare an effective answer.

In this article, we list the reasons why employers ask about a time when you demonstrated leadership skills, explain the steps to answering this question and share some sample answers to help you draft your response.

Why do employers ask "Tell me about a time you demonstrated leadership skills"?

Hiring managers often ask situational or behavioral questions like "Tell me about a time you demonstrated leadership skills" to assess a candidate's skills and abilities required for the position and evaluate their past experiences and future potential in handling work-related situations. These are some reasons they might ask you a question about leadership skills:

Evaluate how you handled leadership situations in the past

The question provides hiring managers with insight into your behavior and decision-making abilities in the past. This helps in identifying your strengths and weaknesses and understanding how you performed in a leadership role. They may also ask follow-up questions to understand how you handled specific challenges, conflicts or situations in the workplace.

Related: What Is Achievement-Oriented Leadership? (Plus Benefits)

Identify your leadership style

This question helps hiring managers discover your leadership style by learning more about your leadership experience and approach. Some companies also conduct personality tests to assess your leadership style. For instance, if you have a directive leadership style, they may ask follow-up questions about your approach to decision-making and management style.

Related: Directive Leadership Style: Definition and How To Use It

Assess your communication and decision-making skills

Some key leadership skills include communication, decision-making, patience, delegation and flexibility. Asking questions about past leadership abilities helps hiring managers assess your ability to articulate your thoughts and ideas clearly, listen actively to others and respond appropriately to feedback. It also lets them analyze how you perform in stressful situations and make decisions that align with the team's goals and values.

Related: 5 Types of Decision-Makers and How To Identify Them

How to answer "Tell me about a time you demonstrated leadership skills"

Here are the steps you can use to answer the question:

1. Identify the situation

It's important to define what leadership means to you and choose a specific example that highlights your leadership skills. You can start answering the question by discussing a specific situation where you demonstrated leadership skills. For instance, choose a situation where you led a team, solved a problem, or achieved a goal.

Related: 19 Ways To Identify Potential Leaders in the Workplace

2. Elaborate on your role

The next step is to explain your role in the past, where you demonstrated leadership skills. Mention your responsibilities to help the interviewer understand the scope of your leadership abilities. Next, state the challenge you faced and add context to the situation.

Related: How To Be a Good Leader (With Tips and Examples)

3. Detail your actions and the outcome

Detail the specific actions you took to address the challenge. You can structure your answer by using the situation, task, action and result (STAR) method. For instance, you can discuss how you guided your team during a product launch and elaborate on how you delegated tasks for them to learn more about the project. Next, you can explain the outcome of the situation, including any positive results, such as how your leadership led to a successful product launch or met client deadlines.

This helps the interviewer understand the impact of your leadership skills and the effectiveness of your actions.

Related: What Is an Action Plan and How To Make One

4. Reflect on what you learned

Elaborate on what you learned from the situation and how you applied those learnings in your subsequent experiences. For example, you could mention how your team missed a client deadline during the product launch and the steps you took to ensure timely delivery during subsequent releases. This shows your ability to learn from past experiences and take corrective action.

Example answers

When answering this interview question, it's important to describe situations that provide evidence for your leadership skills. These are some examples of effective responses:

Example 1

Here is an example of a project manager responsible for leading a team for a product launch:

"In my previous role as a project manager, I led a team of seven members to deliver a new software product for a client. I started by ensuring that all team members understood the project objectives and their responsibilities clearly. Next, I scheduled meetings to provide updates, gather feedback and address any issues that arose. I also delegated tasks based on their strengths and expertise, which helped me optimize the team's performance and productivity.

I made sure they received clear instructions and guidance to achieve project goals and meet collective expectations. I also motivated team members by creating a positive work environment and celebrating team successes and important milestones."

Example 2

Here is an example of a team leader who delegated tasks for a client presentation:

"In my last role, my team and I were responsible for giving a big presentation to a prospective client. I assigned different tasks to members of my team. Some of the new employees struggled in their roles and were nervous about the presentation. I had a few one-on-one meetings with them, along with practice sessions, to help them prepare. The team gave a successful presentation, answered the client's queries and negotiated timelines tactfully, resulting in positive feedback from the client along with a new contract."

Example 3

Here is an example of a marketing manager who managed a team under strict deadlines:

"As an email marketing manager in my previous role, I led a project to increase an email list by 40% in a quarter. With limited time, I re-evaluated the project timeline and identified areas we could expedite. I delegated some tasks to email marketing specialists to work on content upgrades focused on email subscriptions. I also scheduled regular meetings and hosted webinars with the marketing team to funnel interested users into the email list using email registrations. This helped us boost our email list within the deadline."

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