Leadership is hard to define. One might say, “I know it when I see it, but I can’t tell you exactly what it is.” We have all probably worked for good leaders — people who inspired us, excited us, or challenged us. We have also all worked for good managers — people who carefully directed us, followed the process, met the numbers, and always followed through. Both are good. Both are necessary. But different times require more of one type than of the other. We now need talent leaders at an unprecedented level.
Unfortunately, recruiting is full of managers. These are the people who run their recruiting organizations cautiously. They never adopt any technology or procedure until lots of other organizations have. They always stay within their budgets and hire traditional recruiters. They follow the crowd and are most comfortable when doing whatever has been proven to work. To most recruiting managers, the world changes in an evolutionary way, and there is no need to be an early adopter or to challenge the ways things are done. As long as the hiring managers aren’t complaining, they are happy. Hiring managers and CEOs, however, are more and more inclined to complain about their recruiting functions.
In a recent informal survey of CEOs and senior-level managers that I come into contact with all over the world, I heard the same complaints about how inadequate their talent functions are to meet the challenges these organizations face. Work is being redefined, skilled people are hard to find (and even harder to convince to come and work for you), generations are clashing, outsourcing is growing, and the world is shrinking. Most organizational leaders are now awake to the competitive advantage that having talented people can create. All of the traditional tools of recruiting are coming under scrutiny, and the entire function is close to being snatched out of the hands of traditional recruiters and put into new hands ó hands perceived as capable of meeting the challenges that organizations will face. This is why recruitment process outsourcing has exploded over the past three years and will continue to do so. If recruiting remains primarily an internal corporate function (an assumption that I think is seriously challenged) the new leadership will be folks with business acumen, with a global perspective, and with a belief that everything that has been done in recruiting up until now should be challenged and probably reinvented. Here are three of the most critical leadership traits that whoever heads up the talent function will have to possess. How many of these do you have?
Vision and the Courage to Act
Perhaps the most needed competency of recruiting leaders is the ability to create a vision of what recruiting could be. This means that they can create a verbal picture of how a successful recruiting function could improve the profits and success of the organization. Through their own creativity and their ability to see how future technologies, concepts, and emerging trends could be advantageously applied to meeting talent needs, they create excitement and rally folks to their cause. Many times these people are faced with skepticism and disapproval from their own staff and from senior management. They need to be able to build solid business reasons for what they think is right, and they have to overcome many petty obstacles. Patience and perseverance are vital, as is the ability to influence both senior management and one’s own team. If you look at strong leaders, whether of corporations, countries, or armies, you can see how all of these traits are requisite to success. You may throw up your hands at this and say, “I could never do this.” On the other hand, you might surprise yourself if you really believe that change is necessary. Almost everyone has some idea of what could be improved or where an experiment might work and make a difference. And even if you don’t, people on your team and outside your organization can provide ideas. It is the courage to act that begins to define leadership.
Creativity and an Innovative Mindset
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Guide: Practical Tips for Remote Hiring
You will have to find ways to clearly be perceived as different or better than everyone else if you want to attract the best people. Cisco had a philosophy a few years ago of attracting only the top 10 percent. To execute on this, it established leadership in sourcing creativity and actually invented many practices that are commonly used today. These include having an interactive website, a candidate profiler, and the use of technology and email. It will take continued and continuous experimentation and constant upgrading of technology to get the attention of the best. But few organizations that I am familiar with have even achieved recruiting parity, to say nothing about excellence, in their own industries. Most of the recruiting world is firmly embedded in 1970 or 1980 and is just beginning to realize the value of recruiting websites, online screening and assessment, recruiting image and brand development, and the need for integration of development and acquisition functions.
The Ability to Build an Integrated Team
A team made up of people with different but complimentary skills is essential for your success. You need to identify what kinds of people will aid your success and get your function to your vision, and then you need to focus on giving them the support and resources to succeed. Your job is to find and develop talent ó for yourself and for your organization. To the extent you do this well, you will be successful. The best-in-the-world firms will know that their core of highly talented, well-compensated employees will be able and willing to leverage technology, experiment with new approaches, and cast off what doesn’t produce results as a matter of course. You will need people who can be moved as needed because they have broad skills and are not tied to org charts and titles or even to a particular recruiting expertise. We are sorely in need of individuals who can be leaders — not managers — and take the risks, inspire their staff and creatively move us into this century.