Leadership Interviews

Questions and Answers: Promoting the Right Leaders

Promoting the right leaders is crucial. When you’re doing leadership interviews questions and answers, how should you distinguish the best leaders. The interview process can be tricky – this is assuming that you do not already know this individual.

As an interviewer, you will have questions like:

  • What questions should you ask?
  • What answers do you want?
  • What are the criteria?

All these questions will be going through your mind when you’re interviewing. It’s a big decision you have to make, and it’s going to be tough either way.

Promoting the right leader is crucial
Promoting the right leader is crucial

Getting the right leader on board is crucial. Your staff morale and productivity depend on it. If a leader is incompetent or toxic, don’t be surprised to see poor results and high staff turnover.

People don’t leave their jobs. They quit their bosses. When you’re deciding on managers, you have to make a well-thought out choice because you’re entrusting your staff to them. You can’t afford to make mistakes here. When an unhappy staff leaves, they leave. They don’t come back even after you’ve fired the incompetent manager.

In the interview environment, you don’t have all the answers. All the things you know about this person is from heard only from one source: themselves. It is normal for most people to talk themselves up during the interview process. Ask them anything, and they’re going to tell you that they’re either good at it or will learn fast.  Truth or not, you would have to use other methods to verify.

If everyone looks great and talks a good game, how are you going to distinguish the good from the bad? How are you going to decide which is better? Many interviewers make the mistake of hiring the most articulate individual – the ones who know how to give you an answer you want.

Without well-defined criteria, many interviewers fall prey to the illusion of competence through articulate answers of the interviewees. However, there are still questions you can ask to suss out the good leaders from the bad.

Here are some useful points when interviewing people for leadership positions:

Test Their Humility

A good leader is humble. He is humble enough to learn something he does not know yet. Test the interviewee asking them about a crisis that has happened due to their personal error.

  • “Tell me about a time where you made a grave mistake and how you rectified it.”
  •  “Share a season of a crisis in the company and what you did to provide the solution.”

A humble person would share their part in the error. It seems counter-intuitive to ask someone to share a weakness. But this is humility – having a realistic view of their strengths and weaknesses.

Proud people tend to blame someone else, and then make themselves look good by talking up their role in solving the problem. Avoid such leaders – they will take all the credit for the good work and blame their staff for the mishaps.

Test their humility
Test their humility

Test Their Competence

Of course, a good leader needs to be competent. And you need to test them for it. Is this leader supposed to:

  • Do a lot of planning?
  • Work with people a lot?
  • Sell his proposals?

Put them on the spot by creating a scenario where these skills have to be practiced.  Leaders need to be good at what they’re doing – they can’t say ‘I don’t know this, but I’m going to learn fast.’ That’s a good answer for a fresh job-seeker, but not an appropriate one for a leader. After all, only competent leaders get respect.

Are They Likable?

You need a leader that people like. Most people want to competent AND likable people. I know, it sounds superficial, especially with all these eccentric tyrants like Steve Jobs that are held up as models for leadership today. Let’s put them as exceptions and look at what ‘normal’ leaders should be.

If the staff like their leader, they’re more likely to follow instructions with enthusiasm and complete their tasks. Conversely, they’ll find it hard to motivate themselves to work for someone they dislike.

To test for likability is an easier job.

Ask the interview panel if the interviewee is a likable person. Don’t just listen to your gut – hear the different perspectives. Sometimes, interviewers commit the mistake of hiring someone they can connect with – this means that there’s an inherent bias in the process. Consult a few others before deciding.

Probation As A Last Resort

These are criteria you use above and beyond the usual background checks. If you’re still not sure after the interview, consider putting the leader on probation. However, this is not recommended because instability in leadership causes discontentment among staff.

These questions should suffice in obtaining the responses you want. You should be able to tell if the leader will is likable, will do their job well and will bear the responsibility for the organization.

About the Author


Ethan Lin is the founder of www.leadershipgeeks.com and www.personality-central.com.sg. He has a passion to empower and develop people. Professionally, he is a corporate trainer focusing on sales training, leadership development and team building with his company Personality Central.

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