Competency questions on Leadership
As a leader, your impact on an organisation is profound. You inspire your team to achieve exceptional results. You encourage high performers to find better way of doing things and have difficult conversations with those who aren’t hitting the mark. You live the values of the company and lead from the front.
In any interview setting, you’ll be asked behavioural questions to get a sense of your leadership style. The hiring manager will need to see your alignment to their corporate culture and values. Putting the wrong leader in place has a ripple effect and can cost a company dearly.
What do companies expect when asking behavioural questions on leadership?
The hiring manager needs to get inside your head to understand the tools you use to lead teams in achieving exceptional results.
When framing your answer, consider showing evidence of the following:
- Creating a culture of psychological safety where people can speak their views.
- Living the values of company and leading from the front
- Keeping up to date with best practices to transform the way the business operates. Leading through on this transformation change
- Encouraging your team to innovate and challenge status quo
- Achieving exceptional performance through empowerment, feedback and coaching
- Embracing diversity in all its aspects
How can I answer a competency question on leadership?
When framing your question, it’s really useful to use the STAR technique. See my article on competency questions for guidelines
To give you an idea of what the answer could look like, and to help you come up with ideas, I’ve outlined an example below
Tell me about a time you showed your strong leadership skills
In my last company I was Country Manager. The number of new products we’d successfully launched had fallen over the previous 6 months and was badly impacting on profitability. My objective was to get to the root cause of this and turn the situation around.
The first thing I did was to engage with the Senior Management team to find out what was going on. It was really important for me to set the tone, to make sure everyone spoke candidly. I made sure everyone had a voice and each person’s view was respected and taken on board – every opinion was taken into account. It quickly became clear to me that the culture of our company was to punish mistakes, which was stifling innovation. I knew I had to change the culture.
Under my leadership the team came up with and led out on 3 initiatives including a cross functional initiative to solve customer problems and publish the results, regardless of the outcome. I introduced KPIs to measure innovation and introduced an award for managers who tried something bold and innovative even if it did not yield results. The lessons learnt were then publicised. A challenge for me throughout the process was to manage resistance from some functional heads to embracing the new “fail often, fail fast” culture. Through working closely with them, actively listening to their concerns and highlighting the benefits, I got their full support
Within 6 months I’d transformed the company culture through the initiatives I’d led out on. This fed directly through to bottom line results. The number of new products launched that year doubled contributing to a 10% increase in sales revenue.
Strong leadership is an essential quality in ensuring a company’s survival and ultimate long term success. Being able to demonstrate this skill effectively in an interview will give you the edge and ultimately put you in pole position for the role.
About the Author
Laura McGrath is a qualified executive coach, EMCC Certified with over 20 years’ experience in executive search and recruitment. She’s the owner of Interview Techniques, a leading provider of interview and career coaching services and has been a guest lecturer with Trinity College Dublin and TU Dublin. She’s given master interview classes with the Institute of Certified Public Accountants Ireland. For a consultation, please call 087 669 1192 or go to https://interviewtechniques.ie/contact/.