Situational leadership interview questions

What are situational leadership interview questions and how can you fit them into your interviews?

Job interviews are designed to give both employers and candidates a better idea of how to work with each other.

One of the best ways to learn more about your potential candidates is by seeing them in action. Unfortunately, this isn’t possible until they’ve already been hired.

To get an understanding of potential leaders, interviews are used to learn more about candidates. They’re also used to see how candidates' skills from the past can be used to predict future performance.


In this blog post, we will learn more about situational leadership interview questions. While addressing what you should be looking for in candidate answers.

What to look for in a leader?

The performance evaluation of an individual is mainly measured through their ability, likeability and drive. However, for successful leaders, there needs to be a broader spectrum of character traits.

This should include high levels of integrity and low levels of narcissism or psychopathy. - Two common negative traits that can accompany people in leadership roles.

One of the most important skills for leaders is to be constantly open to new ideas and new ways to improve. Great leaders succeed by learning how to constantly grow with their business.


How to find a great leader?

To find a great leader, you shouldn't only look at his past accolades. Instead, focus on where they can take your company in the future.

Every company must identify who they're going to put in positions of leadership as they move through growing complexity and uncertainty.

In a world full of challenges, growing a business is difficult if you don’t keep up with the ever-changing technologies.

They need to keep up with trends. The tactics that are currently successful may not work tomorrow because the way people behave could change at any time.

Companies need to start thinking outside the box.

A workforce is developed when people who think differently grow into leadership roles. Providing this opportunity will help with your leadership pipeline by developing diverse skill sets that are continuously expanding.

How to identify leaders in interviews

When creating your interview questions for leaders you should find out about their character traits, as well as asking about past experiences. The combination of the two can help determine the best leader for your role.

Traits and experiences to look out for:


A good leader should have the ability to be empathetic. Understanding human motivation and having empathy for their staff will separate extraordinary leaders from poor ones. Empathy allows for open communication and trust between a team. This helps managers understand and work towards solving problems that their employees face.

Validating what your team is experiencing unifies a strong unit working together towards a common goal.

Vision and foresight

A leader should be able to see the forest above the trees. This enables them to have a clear path to where they’re headed and effectively lead the team towards their mission. Being able to effectively demonstrate vision and foresight allows a leader to influence and motivate their team.


Communication skills are important. A good leader will need to be able to communicate with their team members, customers, investors and more. Effectively communicating with these relationships are key to maintaining positive relationships.

Effective listeners

Effective leaders are good listeners, so to win over your team, invest some time in getting to know them. Listening will help them feel important and give clarity on what you could do for them in the future.

Focus on developing others

Focusing on developing others is based on the principles of situational leadership theory. Situational leadership theory states that effective leaders adjust their style to match the needs of the group.

Strategic minded

Strategic leaders must be able to carefully combine internal factors with external factors and make strategic decisions on both.

What is situational leadership?

Situational leadership is a way in which the leader responds differently to different people and in different situations.

This theory is based on the understanding that there is no one best way to lead. The style of the leader varies depending on the situation and who they are leading.

Leaders must recognise when certain styles do not work for their teams. And therefore, switch it up by adapting their leadership style to the situation.

Models of situational leadership

Situational Leadership is a theory of leadership that has two main models. One is by Daniel Goleman, another is by Ken Blanchard and Paul Hershey.

The Goleman theory

There are six styles within Situational Leadership according to Daniel Goleman, the author of 'Emotional Intelligence'

1.    Coaching leaders

Coaching leaders help teams by working on personal development and job-related skills. With knowing the team on a more personal level, they provide coaching adaptable with knowing their limitations and ability to change.

2.    Pacesetting leaders

This is a more demanding leadership style that's typically best suited for highly motivated, self-starters. Leaders in this style endeavour to lead by example in order to inspire their team. This leadership can be a double-edged sword in which followers may burn out if it's used too often

3.    Democratic leaders

This style gives the team a vote in almost all decisions. When used in optimal conditions, it can help teach responsibility. This style does take a lot of time and effort though and is not ideal if you're up against a deadline.

4.    Affiliative leaders

Affiliator-style leadership, which places the team's needs before themselves. This style is often used in low morale periods where giving praise to your staff can help rebuild their confidence. It may be difficult to maintain high standards when in a situation where boosting morale is more important than meeting deadlines.

5.    Authoritative leaders

Leaders who are good at identifying challenges and solving problems. An important leadership style for an organisation that has lost its way. These leaders identify the problems but also let their followers contribute.

6.    Coercive leaders

Leaders who use coercion and order others around. They have a clear vision of the destination. They get there by giving very specific orders to their teams, which work well in an emergency or a company reorganisation.

The Blanchard and Hersey theory

Blanchard and Hersey's leadership theory is based on two concepts: leaders themselves, and followers' developmental level.

Blanchard and Hersey developed a matrix consisting of four styles:


1.    Telling leaders = S1

These leaders take the initiative and make decisions as the situation unfolds. They define roles and objectives as they go along, so it's often a very democratic process. Communication is usually two way. These leadership styles are most effective in high-speed/ high-risk environments or when constant multiple results are required.

2.    Selling = S2

Leaders create the roles and objectives for their colleagues, while also being open to listening to suggestions and ideas. They speak about their own ideas in a way that convinces others to work with them.

3.    Participating = S3

These leaders leave decisions to their followers. Although they may contribute to the decision-making process, the ultimate choice is left to employees.

4.    Delegating = S4

These leaders are responsible for the tasks assigned to their teams but are otherwise hands-off. They may have to help with making decisions on occasion.

Stages of employee development in Situational Leadership

Blanchard and Hersey defined four types of development for followers or employees along with leadership qualities, these are:

  1. Low Competence: High Commitment
  2. Some Competence: Low Commitment
  3. High Competence: Variable Commitment
  4. High Competence: High Commitment

What are situational leadership interview questions?

We think that situational interview questions are the best type for leadership roles. This is because they're the most telling and ask about skills specifically relevant to the role.

Situational leadership questions require candidates to answer how they would react in real-life work situations.

Asking behavioural-based interview questions

Asking situational interview questions can be tricky. However, with proper preparation, they will help you determine the real-life skills that you need for your leadership roles.

Some examples of questions include:

Q1. Name a time when you had an unmotivated team who were behind schedule. What was your leadership style? And how did you inspire and encourage them to work towards completing a project within the deadline?

In the candidate's answer, you should determine which of their qualities shone through to turn things around. Can this quality be replicable for any future scenarios?

You should aim to choose scenarios that best represent the current problems your company faces. This can help you determine which leadership style from candidates is the best to improve your company issue.

Q2. Describe when you’ve needed to approach new tasks outside of your typical responsibilities?

It is often the case that leaders have to adapt to new situations and take on new responsibilities. Often to keep up with the ever-changing challenges in the market. In this interview question, you’ll be looking to see how your candidates can handle unfamiliar situations.


Q3. Can you tell me of a time when you’ve handled conflict within your team?

The candidate should be focusing on what techniques and skills they demonstrated to solve team conflict while addressing their past experience. Did they improve the conflict? Was the team better for it? Or did they not improve conflict, but learn a valuable lesson from it in which to apply to future scenarios?

Hypothetical situational interview questions

Asking hypothetical situations to work through is a great way to determine leadership capability. You’ll also be able to identify which candidates have supporting soft skills such as communication, leadership and teamwork.

While it is useful to ask behavioural-based interview questions, interviewers should aim to ask questions that reveal thought processes too.

Q1. As a leader, how would you persuade people to do what you want?

You should easily be able to identify a leadership style within your candidate's answer. Based on your current team, their motivations and company culture you should select a candidate best matched to solve your current problems.

Sometimes selecting a completely new leadership approach and style can be what’s needed to push your company to new successes.

Often being direct is the best way to get the results you’re looking for.


Q2: Describe your decision-making process.

In this answer, you can best determine how competent the candidate is in their leadership skills. From their answer, you should be able to discover their thought and decision-making process clearly. You can easily apply this to real-life problems and give them examples to demonstrate their thought process when making a decision.


Q3:What would you do if the work of a subordinate or team member was not up to expectations?

How is the understanding and empathy of their answer? What character traits do they demonstrate? How do they balance the sensitivity of team management with performance?


Q4: If you felt a company policy was hurting one of your team members, how would you attempt to make changes in the process?

While you’ve not given an exact hypothetical situation, you should aim to look for the thinking and decision-making process used. How can the candidate balance the goals of the company with the feelings of the team? Do they enlist external help? Do they take charge of the situation?


Q5: How would you boost team morale after an unpopular decision was made?

This question highlights the leader's ability to motivate their team. Are they inspirational leaders? Can they impart the company vision in ways that involve the team? Are they empathetic?

Conclusion- Situational leadership interview questions

Situational leadership is a kind of leadership model that is used to deal with the changing demands and work environment.

By asking situational leadership interview questions, you can gain valuable insight into the quality of a candidate. This includes providing an insight into their personality, their ability to adapt, and how they think about their responsibilities as a leader.

Choosing the right leader for your team is directly proportional to the success of your company. The right leader will propel you in the right direction. Whereas, a poor leader will make you plummet.


If you enjoyed this post on situational leadership interview questions, then you’ll like our post on strategic interview questions to ask candidates.

Thanks for reading our post, we’ll see you next time!


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