Close this search box.

Describe a Time You Demonstrated Leadership

Describe a Time You Demonstrated Leadership

Can you describe a time you demonstrated leadership? Regardless of the level of the position that you’re applying for, you can always expect these types of questions about leadership. It’s a common misconception that leadership questions are only asked during job interviews for management positions. Therefore, it’s important that you prepare several examples of how you demonstrated your leadership skills in the past, should this interview question arise.


Reflecting on a moment when you demonstrated leadership is not just about recounting an experience; it’s about delving into a pivotal instance where I steered a team towards a shared goal, navigated through challenges, and emerged stronger on the other side.

This question about times you demonstrated leadership is not merely a query—it’s an invitation to showcase your ability to inspire, motivate, and guide others. It’s about illustrating your leadership style, decision-making process, and how you embody the ethos of a leader in both action and spirit.

If you prepare for this interview question the right way, you can take advantage of the opportunity to demonstrate your leadership skills to convince the interviewer that you’re the right person for the job.

Other ways the interviewer can ask you about your leadership skills in the form of behavioral interview questions:

No matter how these questions are asked, the interviewer wants to hear concrete examples to understand your leadership skills or potential.

In this blog, we discuss why the interviewer asks you about times you demonstrated leadership. Also, we tell you what you should focus on when answering this question. Furthermore, read more about frequently asked job interview questions here and check our job interview preparation checklist.

Why The Interviewer Is Asking About Your Leadership Skills

When the interviewer asks you about a time when you demonstrated leadership, they care about your leadership abilities. They are more than likely to use your answer as a factor in deciding who to hire for the job. Questions such as ‘Describe a time you demonstrated leadership‘ are behavioral job interview questions.

Behavioral interview questions require you to give specific examples of how you demonstrated certain competencies in the past. These questions usually begin with:

  • Tell me about a time (..)
  • Describe a time when (..)
  • Give me an example of (..)

Learn more about behavioral questions and how to answer them.

The thought behind these behavioral job interview questions is to gain an understanding of your past job performance. For the interviewer, your past performance is the best way to predict your future performance on the job.

In this particular situation, the interviewer is interested in your experience in managing others, but also if you’re a strong example for your co-workers. Whether you are applying for a graduate or entry-level position at a company or a senior-level position, it’s always good to be able to show the interviewer that you have the skills and potential to move up the ranks into leadership positions. In order to do this, you need to understand what makes a great leader [[Harvard Business Review,]].

Employers are always looking for candidates who can motivate and inspire their teammates, even if they are not technically in a management position. Therefore, prepare strong answers that include actual work examples of times you demonstrated leadership. 

In short, leadership is not just about management and initiative. It’s also about the ability to spread ideas and passions to other people in your team. Therefore, no matter what position you’re applying, leadership skills are always desired.

Learn more about leadership skills and how to answer leadership interview questions.

Tips For Answering ‘Describe A Time You Demonstrated Leadership’

When the interviewer asks you about your leadership style or a time when you demonstrated leadership, it means that they care about your leadership ability and potential. They are not just interested in your ability to delegate but also in other skills that are needed to run a team, department, or organization in general. It’s therefore essential that you choose a suitable example to demonstrate your skills.

The examples you give about times you demonstrated leadership do not have to regard direct leadership. You can imagine that if a company hires you, they might want to give you a promotion within due time. Maybe the company wants to hire someone who can lead by example and mentor or coach new employees within a year, etc. In other words, go for an example of a time you demonstrated leadership that connects to the job requirements of the position you’re applying for.

There are all sorts of reasons for the interviewer to ask about your leadership skills. Whatever the reason may be, the interviewer is looking for an answer that demonstrates how you lead and how comfortable you are actually doing it.

When faced with questions about times you demonstrated leadership, selecting a story encapsulating the essence of leadership in action is crucial. This isn’t just about a title or a position; it’s about a moment where you took initiative, demonstrated foresight, and facilitated collaboration to achieve a common objective. Your story should highlight your ability to think strategically, communicate effectively, and adapt to changing circumstances—all key components of demonstrated leadership.

So, now that you know what the interviewer wants to hear, you can figure out what kind of answer you should give in your situation.

Focus Points To Answer ‘Tell Me About A Time You Demonstrated Leadership Skills’

Below, we discuss some important points you should consider when preparing answers to leadership interview questions.

  1. Focus on a (relatively) recent example

Mentioning a situation that occurred years ago will not impress the interviewer. This will also raise questions and could lead to follow-up questions. Instead of asking ‘Describe a time you demonstrated leadership’, The interviewer might ask, ‘what did you do to develop your leadership skills since that moment?

  1. Never say ‘I have never led anyone’

This is the worst answer you can give when you are asked about times when you demonstrated leadership. Think of your most impressive leadership experience, whether this was on a sports team, in a class project, or previous position. Avoid answers such as ‘I’m not the leader type of person,’ ‘I’m not sure if I possess any leadership skills,’ ‘I’ve never demonstrated leadership‘ or that ‘you’ve never led people in the past.’

  1. There’s no right or wrong answer

When you’re asked about times you have demonstrated your leadership skills, the interviewer is interested in your approach. In other words, tell them what works or has worked for you in the past. Make sure you come across as reasonable, easy to get along with, and effective.

  1. Use specific examples

You can start off by describing your general style of management and follow up with a specific situation. You can also ask the interviewer, ‘would you like to hear an example of a time when I applied this?’. The interviewer will probably say yes, and you can walk them through a specific example. Make sure you talk about how you have used your leadership skills to make a project successful in the past. Also, ensure that you talk about the results that followed your actions. If you can quantify these results, this is even better.

  1. Humanize your leadership

You’re not a robot. Give the interviewer insights into your authentic personality and style of leadership. Give a clear example of how you have had previous situations where you successfully demonstrated leadership.

  1. Demonstrate your ability to motivate

Show how you motivate others. What actions do you take to inspire others, and how are you involved?

  1. Avoid being too descriptive

Don’t tell the interviewer step by step with irrelevant details how you tell people what they should do and how they should do it. When talking about your leadership style and how you demonstrated leadership, it should be about inspiring team members, motivating them, and influencing them in the right way to achieve accomplishments as a team that cannot be done as individuals.

Examples Of Common Leadership Styles

Below, we discuss a couple of common leadership styles that you can incorporate into your answers when addressing the question, “How have you demonstrated leadership?” By understanding and exemplifying these styles, you can provide detailed and insightful responses during job interviews, effectively showcasing your leadership skills and experiences.

  1. Showing leadership by leading by example

Example answer:

‘Leading by example, has gotten me the best results with the teams that I worked with. Whenever a new project starts, I demonstrate leadership by taking the needed actions to kick the project off and demonstrating what must be done.

I make sure that I organize the team in such a way that everybody is on the same page. This way, everybody understands their responsibilities to contribute to the project equally.’

Learn more about leadership skills interview questions.

  1. Leadership by delegating tasks and making team members better

Example answer:

‘By clearly structuring my team, finding the strengths of all team members, and delegating tasks, we were able to bring the projects to success. A lot of projects were in collaboration with different departments, so members of teams would change.

At the start of each new project, I would review all backgrounds to ensure every member would get to do what they’re best at. Delegating tasks and combining the strengths of the team members to create a team effort resulted in us delivering results that were impossible to get when each department worked individually.’

Learn more about interview questions about delegating tasks.

  1. Showing leadership through the facilitation of communication

Example answer:

‘Clear communication is one of my main skills. During projects, I facilitate an open and accessible environment to make sure that there are clear expectations, and there is open communication. By demonstrating confidence in the team and their ability to complete the project, I try to get the best out of every member on the team and make them perform to the best of their abilities.’

Learn more about communication interview questions.

STAR Interview Technique – Situation, Task, Action & Result

The STAR interview technique helps you to provide a logically structured answer. It’s a way to give the interviewer an answer in the form of a story. STAR is an acronym for a Situation (S), your Task (T) in that situation, the actions (A) you took in that situation, and the Results (R) of your actions.

The STAR technique is perfect for answering behavioral interview questions that require you to provide the interviewer with a real-life work example. Therefore, use this interview technique to answer the interview question ‘describe a time you demonstrated leadership.’

Below, we discuss the STAR interview technique in more detail.


When you give your answer to the interviewer, start by setting the stage. Provide context around the situation in which you demonstrated leadership. Also, make sure to provide relevant details.

Sample situation:

‘In my previous job, where we ran behind on a new company-wide system upgrade that was going to fix issues we had with our online orders. The delay in implementation took longer than expected and caught us off guard.

We had the holidays coming up, which counts for almost 25% of our annual revenue. My team had to work double shifts to process all orders, and the outlook was that this was needed until the system upgrade was placed. This led to people being stressed and overworked, which caused the team morale to drop.’


What was your task, and what was your objective? In other words, what were you required to achieve in the situation where you demonstrated leadership?

Sample task:

‘As the team manager, it was my responsibility to get the team performance back to normal.’


What actions did you take to fulfill your task? Tell the interviewer what you did, why you took that action, and if you had any alternatives in the specific situation.

Sample action:

‘I gathered the team to discuss the situation. I expressed my appreciation for their effort during this challenging situation for the department and the company in general. During our meeting, I called upon their assistance to find a way for the team to work more efficiently, including myself, for however long the system update was not implemented yet.

I actively participated in the group’s brainstorming session and encouraged the team members to talk freely and discuss options. After an hour, we created a shortlist of options on which we voted. I created teams of two within the team to investigate further how we could implement the discussed options.’


Finally, discuss the results of your actions. What was the outcome of your actions, and did you reach your objective? It’s also a good idea to discuss what you learned from the experience and if you applied what you learned in other situations.

Sample of a result:

‘The reaction of the team to this approach was very positive. They appreciated being involved in such an important process to work on a solution that would benefit both the team and the company. By working together and focussing on a shared goal, the team worked productively and creatively to find a solution. Also, the fact that their ideas would be heard immediately helped to come up with several solutions that could be implemented right away.

These solutions saved us valuable time and energy. One of the ideas was to bring in temporary workers who could be trained on the job by the current team members for as long as the update was not implemented. This ultimately led to us hitting our marks for the holiday season. We were able to reach the needed levels of revenue.’

The learning: ‘Listening to team members and quickly taking action to follow up to their ideas really helped increase work efficiency and morale. Based on this positive experience, we decided to include such brainstorming and idea evaluations in our monthly meetings.

This way, team members would stay more engaged, and we would get more knowledge of what actually goes on in the heads of the team members. Also, there’s now a plan in place with the HR department in case such a situation occurs again in the future to make sure we always have enough people to perform up to our potential.’

Sample Answers To Demonstrate Your Leadership Skills

When faced with the interview question, “Describe a situation in which you had to step up and demonstrate leadership,” it’s essential to provide compelling examples that showcase your ability to lead effectively. Here are some sample answers to guide you in articulating your leadership experiences:

Sample 1 (demonstrating leadership):

‘When I worked at XYZ as a project manager, the company hit a rough patch which led to company-wide layoffs. My team consisted of ten team members, but after the layoffs, we remained with six, but we were still responsible for the duties of the four co-workers that left the company. As a result, we fell behind on production and team morale suffered as well. This, in turn, led to more errors on the work floor. As the project manager, I was ultimately responsible for team performance, so it was my duty to get the team back on track.

I got together with the team to discuss the problems they encountered and to discuss strategies on how we could work our way through these issues. First and foremost, I complimented them on their effort and dedication during this complex time for everyone. After hearing their challenges, I asked them to give suggestions on how we could solve them and how we could increase our effectiveness and efficiency. We brainstormed for over an hour in which every team member had his or her say, and wrote down ideas that could benefit us. After a team vote, we prioritized the ideas, and each team member got assigned a task.


The team reacted very positively after being included in the approach to solve the issues in this challenging time. They were able to present their own solutions and could immediately start research the feasibility. We came up with specific ideas that could be implemented fairly quickly and increase efficiency.

First off, we asked our team assistants to clean up the agendas of everybody on the team so that only important meetings remained. Then, we asked the team assistants to pick up some tasks that were burdens for the other team members. This way, the team could analyze the additional work needed to be done and share these tasks. This made the team more efficient and effective. Also, it boosted the morale again because even though it was a challenge and a lot of work, team members knew what they needed to do and their responsibilities. 

We got better results by actively involving the team in important decisions about team strategy. We decided to implement such brainstorming sessions into our monthly meetings.’

Sample 2 (taking up leadership unexpectedly):

‘At my previous job, I was a telemarketer for a large organization. My team’s overall sales figures were falling behind on our planning, and my manager asked everybody on the team to develop solutions to improve our sales. From my work experience at XYZ company, I had knowledge of structuring sales courses from which we could all benefit.

I created a presentation on a solution that might help the team change our sales training method and strategy. My manager appreciated my idea and allowed me to set up my own team to implement this solution in our team to test it out.

With a team of five, we went to work and developed and implemented a new training strategy that suited our markets and clients better. After the first quarter of implementing the new training, we saw sales figures were catching up, which led to increased skills and confidence in the sales team. My manager decided to implement this new sales training strategy in other teams as well.

I think my communication skills and ability to substantiate why I think an idea would work led to the successful outcome of this project.’

Sample 3 (taking up leadership unexpectedly):

‘At my current job, I was recently in charge of a project that was behind schedule. Because the project was behind schedule, I started out by assessing the situation, identifying areas for improvement, and devising a plan to get it back on track.

Upon presenting this plan to the team and rallying them around it, I assigned tasks to each member, provided resources and support, and held regular check-ins to ensure progress was kept up.

In order to deliver the project on time, we had to stay organized, focused, and accountable. My team and I successfully completed the tasks to get the project back on track which led to us finishing the project within the given timeframe.

I think my ability to take charge, set goals, and keep everyone motivated made a real difference during this project.’

Sample 4 Leadership Skills –  Student Example:

‘During my undergraduate studies at the university, I was chosen to lead a group project. The project required us to develop a program that would streamline certain processes for a non-profit organization.

To ensure we were staying on track and making progress, I divided up the tasks and held regular meetings with the group to ensure we were staying on track and making progress. As part of the project, I also developed a timeline and kept everyone updated on the progress.

Throughout the project, I made sure to remain organized, professional, and encouraging. My team and I successfully completed the project, and the organization was very pleased with our work after receiving feedback and constructive criticism when appropriate. I provided guidance when needed, delegated tasks fairly, and provided feedback and constructive criticism when appropriate.

Taking a proactive approach to a task can have a great impact, and I learned the importance of being a strong leader through this experience.’

Sample 5 Leadership Skills – Student Example:

‘Our student council organized a charity event for our local community recently, and I had the opportunity to demonstrate leadership. It was my responsibility as chair of the student council to oversee the event planning process and ensure that all tasks were completed on time.

To get started, I organized a volunteer team from the student body to help with the event. Each individual was assigned tasks, including developing promotional materials, developing a budget, and handling logistics. To ensure everyone knew what was expected of them and when I created a timeline of milestones leading up to the event. I also held regular meetings with my team to ensure everyone was on track and to address any issues or concerns.

On the day of the event, I was in charge of coordinating the efforts of the volunteers. I ensured that everyone was at the right place at the right time and that all tasks were completed as planned. As well as troubleshooting any last-minute issues that arose, I ensured the event ran smoothly.

I was proud to have played a role in this effort and to have demonstrated leadership skills. We raised over $1000 for our local community, and both organizers and participants were pleased with the results.’

Key Takeaways

Now that we’ve covered all the essentials on how to answer the interview question “Describe a time you demonstrated leadership,” let’s do a quick recap. The key to nailing this question lies in your ability to tell a compelling story that highlights your leadership skills in action. Choose an example that showcases your ability to lead by example, make tough decisions, and drive results as a team.

Emphasize the outcomes of your leadership and its positive impact on your team or project. Remember, the goal is to demonstrate not just that you were in charge but that you made a meaningful difference through your leadership. By articulating your story clearly, focusing on the results, and reflecting on your growth, you can effectively convey your leadership capabilities and leave a lasting impression on your interviewer.

Rate this article

0 / 5 reviews 1

Your page rank:

Step into the world of, where our dedicated team of career experts, job interview trainers, and seasoned career coaches collaborates to empower individuals on their professional journeys. With decades of combined experience across diverse HR fields, our team is committed to fostering positive and impactful career development.

Turn interviews into offers

Every other Tuesday, get our Chief Coach’s best job-seeking and interviewing tips to land your dream job. 5-minute read.

🤝 We’ll never spam you or sell your data