5 Interview Questions That Instantly Reveal Leadership Potential

Finding your next manager doesn't have to be a guessing game. Let their potential do the talking.

Finding the right talent to take your business to the next level is tricky. While sometimes it can seem like no matter what questions you ask a candidate, you are always taking a big risk (don’t worry, that’s what probation periods are for), looking for leadership potential early on is crucial for the long-term success of any company. 

Even if you are hiring for the most junior position on your team, it is never too early to vet a candidate for leadership qualities that might make them a vital asset once their technical and task-based skills have developed.

Here are five questions I ask in every interview to instantly reveal untapped leadership potential. 

1. How do you measure your own performance at work?


While this is perhaps one of the most commonly used performance review questions, I personally love to use this as somewhat of an initial leadership barometer. Self-evaluation is a great tool to understand how an employee defines success, how they think they stack up against their co-workers, and areas where they believe they are the strongest and weakest. 

Alternatively, it is also a great tool to determine how they will view success as a manager. By revealing what workplace success means to them, you will find valuable insight into the criteria and scorecard they will use to evaluate others on the team. 

2. Tell me about a time you had to complete a task you’d never done before. 

Being a leader means finding creative solutions to problems that you have not only never dealt with before, but that you never knew existed. You have to be able to think on your feet, come up with creative solutions, and know who and when to ask for help when you need it. 

This question gets to the root of adaptability. If a candidate is able to come up with creative ideas by themselves or use out-of-the-box tools and strategies to problem solve, consider this test passed. If they immediately pestered their supervisors and asked them how to do every component of the task, it is probably time to move onto the next interview. 

3. What’s the most difficult decision you’ve had to make recently and how did you come to that decision? 

Being a leader means making the tough calls and being able to back them up with insight, reason, and evidence. Difficult decisions aren’t pretty or fun, but they’re part of the job and you have to know that a future leader on your team will be able to make them. 

Listen closely to the candidate’s answer for this one. Evaluating how a prospective employee handles tough choices will not only help you determine if they can make the difficult calls, but also if you trust their process and reasoning behind the decision. 

4. How do you come up with ideas?

Trust me when I say, creativity may be the single biggest asset when it comes to evaluating leadership potential. Whether it is finding innovative ways to solve a complex problem or clever motivation and team-building tactics, creativity is at the heart of good leadership. 

Use this question to find out how the candidate comes up with their (hopefully) brilliant ideas. Do they brainstorm with colleagues, look for inspiration around them, internalize the task, or lean on research and online resources? This will give you a better understanding of their creative process, and it gives you an opportunity to review their capability to find your company’s next big idea and inspire your team to do the same. 

5. Who was the best boss you ever had? 

We have all had people in our lives–whether it was a coach, mentor, or boss–who have gone the extra mile and inspired us to reach our greatest potential. These are the people who push us past the limit of what we thought we were capable of–and who became our biggest cheerleader, motivator, friend, and challenger. 

By asking this question, you will get a first-hand glimpse at what the candidate thinks is the pinnacle of great leadership and what they will likely base their own leadership style off of. It is also a great way to determine if the person would be a good culture fit, and if they are going to gel with and thrive under the current leadership team.