Leadership carries responsibility. You are the one who should decide about good things, but also about bad one. Leader should never let his emotions to get the better of him. If there is a need to fire a friend (if it is a good solution for the company), you should be able to do it without a blink of an eye (of course, with decent severance pay and clear explanation of your decision).
If you had a managerial role before, or had your own business, or faced some tough situations in life (who has not faced any?), you should be able to name at least few tough calls you had to make. But remember, the exact situation is not the most important thing for the interviewers. Your attitude is.
What do they try to find out?
- Were you able to take the tough decision, even if other people did not like it? Did it not take you too much time to make it?
- Did the decision somehow influence you in work? How did you handle it?
- Did it prove to be the correct decision in time?
- Did you decide based on personal preferences, or based on what was best for the organization?
All these things are observed once you answer the question. You should stand firm behind your decisions, be calm when speaking about it and give clear reasons why you decided as you did. It is good to talk about benefits for organization too. Let’s have a look at one sample answer:
When I was leading the financial department of an automotive company, I noticed that we struggled with cash flow, as well as with liquidity. I analyzed the situation and found out that operational manager had taken some bad decisions lately, or said in other words, he had not taken any decisions to adapt to the changing situation on the market. He was simply not doing his job well. I tried to talk to him and explain him the things, as he was a good friend of mine and we have been working together for a long time. But he blamed other people and did not admit any mistakes.
I gave him some time to get our finances back to normal. But he did not deliver, although he tried. So I decided to recruit new operational manager, a young and motivated guy, and my friend was dismissed. It was difficult for me to make the decision, but I did what was best for the organization. I always do it. The new operational manager took his role responsibly and made many adjustments. Our cash flow improved almost instantly.