Choosing the right person for the job
The Web is awash with articles explaining the difference between leadership and management. Many of these articles, although well intentioned, reinforce lazy stereotypes. Namely that leaders inspire people while managers boss them around. This is reductive. Leadership and management are distinct but overlapping areas, and both are vital to business success. In this post we argue that the key to building effective teams is celebrating nuance. By this we mean figuring out what personality type is best suited to your company culture and the demands of a particular role, and hiring accordingly.
Although it’s possible for a person to be both a leader and a manager, there are some important differentiators it’s worth outlining here. Management is about making things work today: planning, budgeting, assessing performance, and troubleshooting when things don’t go well. Leadership is about creating change: defining the vision, inspiring, influencing and motivating people towards a, sometimes distant goal. Well-run organisations have both working in tandem.
Popular culture has elevated leaders to quasi-mythical status. These heroes—think Steve Jobs or Winston Churchill—have become more than human in our imaginations. They achieve the impossible, overcome ridiculous odds, and then bask in eternal adulation. In a business context such thinking is unhelpful. How do you think these visionary figures would fare as project managers, elbows deep in the details? And while worshipping our idols we forget that people can learn to lead. It’s not a power bestowed from on high.
Challenging this exalted view of leadership is worthwhile because it reminds us there are real people with the skills your business needs, and concrete steps you can follow to find them. Rather than waiting for the Second Coming, you can take action right now by hiring suitable personalities for your team. An important aspect of this is partnering with an experienced recruitment firm. One whose consultants can identify employees based on cultural as well as technical fit. At Saxton Leigh, our recruitment process is designed to ensure you hire the right people, not just the right skills.
Live and breathe your values
As society lurches from one disruption to the next, we’re often reminded of the importance of leadership. Economic crises, the world order in flux, technological transformation — all are cited as challenges leadership can help us address. While this may be true, celebrating individual leaders too much clouds our judgement. Success is never achieved by one person on their own. Good leadership requires not just strategic thinking but listening and collaboration too. A good leader is not a dictator demanding unyielding obedience — they engage and empathise with their employees. Engagement is crucial at all times, but especially during a recruitment drive.
At C-Suite level, sympathetic leaders know how to create a vision that employees can buy into. A compelling vision guides existing employees as well as decisions about who to hire next. It is defined in a set of company values and goals that are clear, achievable, and widely communicated. But it goes further. The business culture must reflect the vision — it has to be alive within the company, not just a corporate exercise that exists only on paper. If this is not the case at your company, it’s a project well worth embarking on. If it is, you’re in a position to hire people who embody the values your company holds dear.
At department level, choosing the right person means engaging with teams, understanding their dynamics, and choosing an employee accordingly. A role that demands long-term thinking and creativity would suit someone who is influential and innovative. A hands-on and detail-focused position is ideal for a candidate who is efficient and good at project management. It’s possible to asses both existing and potential employees on specific skills and personality traits to find out what roles they’re best suited for.
Taking the time to think deeply about the type of person your team needs can pay huge dividends. Once you have this insight, how well you communicate it to your recruitment partner makes the difference between a time-consuming and fruitless process, and a swift and successful one. The understanding, or lack of, between you and your recruitment partner has a direct effect on your ability to hire the best person for your team.
Teach me and I will lead
Leadership is not about a person’s natural inclination to charge into a hail of enemy bullets. Or their innate ability to (apparently) single-handedly turn an idea into a billion-pound company. Leadership skills can be learned and practiced. Some of the most fundamental and important to look for in yourself or a new employee include the ability to:
- Set a clear direction — generally speaking people love being guided. Ambiguity is like Kryptonite to humans.
- Coach— helping people to improve, and recognising when they do
- Delegate — giving people responsibility and trusting them to get on with it
Employees with these skills can be hired of course, but you can also nurture potential leaders from within your organisation. Employees should be encouraged to learn leadership skills as soon as possible. No one should be expected to learn how to lead only once they arrive in a leadership position. They’ll be too busy. Mentoring and formal training can really help here. And the results are impressive. According to The Chartered Management Institute, 90% of managers say their qualification improved their performance at work.
To keep your teams staffed with high performers, you need both a nurturing programme and a hiring strategy. When you need to hire in, seek to cultivate a strong relationship with your recruiter. This will enable them to highlight people you should meet because they are a good fit personally and well as in terms of their experience and achievements. At Saxton Leigh, we build long-term relationships with financial services professionals, so we have a deep understanding of these softer skills. Our service is tailored to finding well-rounded candidates.
To summarise, it’s important for business leaders to recognise the value of both leadership and management. A well-defined business vision with clear values and goals will make it much easier to choose suitable recruits. As well as hiring from outside, future leaders should be trained and developed from within your organisation. Hiring based on personality, not just technical skills, is the key to building strong teams. Finally, partnering with a recruitment firm who understands the power of soft skills can make a real difference to your bottom line.
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