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Leadership Interview Questions

30 Questions and Answers by

Rachelle Enns is an interview coach and job search expert. She works with candidates to perform their best in employment, medical, and post-secondary admission interviews.

Leadership was updated on June 11th, 2020. Learn more here.

Question 1 of 30

Tell me about a time when you took charge of a situation but the outcome was disappointing.

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Leadership Interview Questions & Answers

  1. 1.

    Tell me about a time when you took charge of a situation but the outcome was disappointing.

      How to Answer

      Interviewers understand that leaders will have failed efforts now and then. What they want to know is that you can recognize those failures, learn from them, and enthusiastically move on.

      Behavioral-based interview questions that begin with 'Tell me about a time...' are best answered using the STAR method. STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, Result. Organizing your response using this framework will ensure that you provide the interviewer with the right amount of information and detail to form a compelling answer.

      Think about a time when your leadership plan didn't go as desired. Be sure to tell the interviewer what you learned from the scenario, as well as what you would do the next time.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "(Situation) When I first joined my current company, the mandate was to focus on the professional growth of the team. (Task) I had big plans to overhaul the existing sales team and send them on a business development workshop weekend. (Action) Once I announced this plan, I lost of the employees ended up quitting because they didn't understand what this growth opportunity would have allowed them. Looking back, what I should have done was build a stronger rapport with my new team before sending them to a weekend workshop. They felt it was a punishment of some sort, which wasn't the case at all. (Result) I learned my lesson, hired some stellar sales staff, and forged ahead! My new team ended up gaining strong momentum and finished the year 124% above budget."

      Rachelle's Answer for an Admin Interview

      "(Situation) This year our HR Manager was on maternity leave, and someone needed to take control of the company's most recent hiring fair. (Task) As the HR Assistant, I was next in line to take over the event. (Action) I worked hard to plan and leverage the few connections that I had. I attempted to build excitement through social media posts and our company e-newsletter. (Result) In the end, the hiring fair was not as successful as previous hiring fairs and, despite my best efforts, I didn't see the results that I was hoping. I will continue to learn the recruiting field and won't give up despite this disappointment."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Manager Interview

      "(Situation) Last month, we had a last-minute order come through from a customer, but our production scheduling manager was out sick. (Task) Although out of my wheelhouse, I was next in line to answer the clients' needs. (Action) I tried to get the order in place for our client quickly, even putting in overtime and making urgent calls to other departments. (Result) Despite my best efforts, I missed the deadline. The client was upset with us, so I took the brunt of her disappointment and promised her that the company would work hard to make it right. I am currently collaborating on a fix with the production scheduling manner; however, I am confident that we will find a way to re-establish the clients' trust."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Marketing Interview

      "(Situation) A few months ago, my agency needed to change to a more reliable email marketing service provider. (Task) As the Digital Marketing Director, I was the right person to take charge of the project. (Action) I oversaw the migration of our email marketing provider to a new, much better one with more robust features and analytics. (Result) However, in the process, we lost one of our primary email lists in the migration. Luckily, the list was recovered by our IT team after about three weeks. This situation was a substantial disappointment initially, but it taught me to always back everything up and move extra carefully, even on a tight deadline."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Retail Interview

      "(Situation) The store where I work is known for its beautiful seasonal window displays. (Task) As the newest merchandiser, I was eager to learn and asked to take charge of the spring window display. (Action) I completely underestimated how challenging the job was and, despite my research and the tools offered to me, it was a flop. (Result) My boss was nice about the situation, and we worked together to make the display better. I was happy that I tried, and I learned a lot about visual merchandising along the way. I continue to learn more every day!"

      Rachelle's Answer for a Sales Interview

      "(Situation) Last year, I introduced the idea of 'lunch and learns' to boost team morale. (Task) As the Sales Manager, I noticed that the teams' energy had dwindled, and I wanted to encourage them. (Action) I put together a series of learning sessions, and they were well-received for the first few weeks. (Result) However, attendance in these sessions flopped after about six months. The team morale was so low that it became apparent that everyone needed to use their lunch breaks to disconnect from work so they could be more impactful overall. Looking back, I would have scheduled these meetings once every month rather than once each week to avoid this type of burnout."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Teacher Interview

      "(Situation) Every spring, our high school seniors have a 3-day camping trip. (Task) This year, I took charge of planning the event. (Action) Despite speaking with other teachers who had led this event in the past, I truly underestimated the scope of work and planning. Quickly falling behind, I recognized that I bit off more than I could chew and ended up recruiting another teacher to help me plan the trip. (Result) In the end, the trip was a success, and I'm glad that I decided to ask for help when I did."

      5+ Community Answers

      Anonymous Answer

      "I took charge of the machine shop in a previous role. The aim was to improve the output. The method was to use OEE as the driver. The shop was not ready for using a tool such as OEE, and the outcome was disappointing."

      Lauren's Answer

      It is great that provided a specific answer. It would be more-rounded if you explained why it was disappointing. Please fill in the blank below.

      "In a previous role, I was charged with improving output in a machine shop. I believed using OEE as a driver would enhance output, but disappointingly, it was not. The shop was not ready to implement a tool such as OEE because __________________."

      Was this answer helpful? Yes (2) or No (1)
      Anonymous Answer

      "When I interviewed for a job and did not get it. I learn from my failures and never give up on learning. Looking forward to opportunities."

      Marcie's Answer

      Good answer! It is definitely disappointing to interview for a job and not get it. Can you explain more about how you prepared for the interview and how you reacted after you discovered you hadn't gotten the job? It's great that you point out that you learn from your failures and don't give up, since these are the qualities of a leader.

      Was this answer helpful? Yes (1) or No (0)
      Anonymous Answer

      "As the coordinator of the Teacher of the Year program, there was an error with the awards. The spelling of a recipient's name was misspelled. I apologized and assured her that it would be corrected."

      Rachelle's Answer

      Oops! It happens to the best of us, and what is most important is that you owned the error and made the necessary corrections.

      Was this answer helpful? Yes (0) or No (0)
      Anonymous Answer

      "While working as a project manager at a bank, my team had to perform a category 1 change where the change had a potential impact on 100+ critical applications. My team and I prepared the change with detailed impact analysis and were ready to present it in a change board meeting to seek approval from the CTO. I took charge of presenting the change; however, I could not answer a couple of critical questions, and the change was rejected. I revisited the change with my team and was better prepared for a follow-up review meeting where the change was approved."

      Rachelle's Answer

      The original outcome would have been disappointing, indeed. It's wonderful that you revisited and were successful the second time around. This answer shows a lot of professionalism and determination.

      Was this answer helpful? Yes (0) or No (0)
      Anonymous Answer

      "Working in healthcare we have very disappointing outcomes sometimes. It's important to realize that even when everything was done sometimes we fail. Failure is a part of growing and learning."

      Cindy's Answer

      To build a robust answer, use the STAR format. Find a situation that you took charge of, the task at hand, and the action you took to get to a result. Describe what you learned from the disappointing result and how you'd do things differently.

      Was this answer helpful? Yes (0) or No (0)
      Anonymous Answer

      "I organized a very aggressive In-Person testing schedule for Virtual Learners. I also cleaned all of the classrooms and prepared the classroom for students implementing all of our COVID 19 protocols. Unfortunately, many students and families did not take advantage of students taking the tests in person."

      Stephanie's Answer

      It sounds like you put forth your best work in making in-person testing work during an unusually stressful time, and it's unfortunate that the outcome was disappointing. To strengthen your response, I suggest taking things one step further and adding a sentence or two explaining how you addressed this setback and how you moved forward from it.

      Was this answer helpful? Yes (0) or No (0)
      Anonymous Answer

      "In my position as a hospitalist np, I had a situation where a patient came to the ER with an Hgb of 4.0, he was septic, in severe liver failure. The pt was admitted at 2 pm, we started our shift at 7 pm, however, my supervisor went ahead and put a stat order for the nurses to initiate pt tx. 2 hours later I noticed that the tx was not started, so I stepped in to help, and I encouraged the nurse to start the tx. The tx was started however d/t hypovolemia the pt coded, and he was barely resuscitated and transferred to the ICU. When I got back the next morning I learned that we lost the pt. This news was very disappointing to me especially being a new np. Notwithstanding, I saw it as a learning point for me. I sat and ponder over what should have been done differently, and I realized that pt should have been transferred to the ICU in the first place, even though they said there was no bed initially."

      Stephanie's Answer

      You share an extremely difficult situation here; because of the intensity of this topic (the loss of a patient) I suggest adding an additional sentence or two sharing how you take care of yourself during challenging situations.

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      Anonymous Answer

      "I once volunteered to perform the tasks of a co-worker who was sick. There was a tight deadline approaching before month-end closing entries were due, and I believed I could handle the month-end closing entries in addition to my regular duties. However, I miscalculated how long it would take me to complete both. The morning month-end closing entries were due, I realized I would not make it in time and contacted my boss to explain the situation. I apologized, explained what happened, and asked for an extension, which he granted. I learned that I need to be honest with myself about the workload I can handle each day. I also learned that when accepting additional assignments, I need to include a time buffer to ensure that even if unforeseen events arise, I can meet deadlines."

      Rachelle's Answer

      It seems you gained a couple of valuable takeaways from this scenario. You jumped in to help, which speaks a lot about your work ethic as well.

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      Anonymous Answer

      "When I first started at the Analyst position the other analyst also received a new position within the first month I was there, so I took over the Resource Management of the technicians. I would route the technicians according to the home polygon but didn't quite understand when that polygon was full of orders what to do next. I ultimately routed the technicians in the wrong area sending them all over town instead of one specific polygon. After getting calls from dispatch, I was able to re-route the technicians correctly."

      Stephanie's Answer

      In this response, you do a good job of detailing a situation that did not go as planned. You could strengthen this response by adding a brief reflection about what you learned from this mistake and how it positively impacted your work going forward.

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      Anonymous Answer

      "• S: In my last role as a Tutor, I worked with a GCSE Mathematics student. I was using a presentation-based, standard teaching method. In his tests, he was not scoring well. • T: I needed to find an aspect of my training that wasn’t effective and improve his test scores. • A: I used created examples through storytelling that he would work through during class. • R: This allowed him to absorb information better, and his test scores improved drastically. This taught me the importance of keeping an open mind for alternate methods of working."

      Cindy's Answer

      Good. You're showing a disappointing result and also what you did to try to improve it, both important components of a solid answer.

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