The recruiting industry has been forced to transform and evolve with accelerants like the pandemic and all of the economic surprises as of late. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with the Hacking HR podcast to talk about HR Transformation. One of the key points in the discussion centered around the traits of a successful HR/Recruiting leader. I shared my top four traits of a successful recruiting leader.
Unafraid NOT to be the SMARTEST person in the room
Abraham Lincoln was no military general but was thrust into one of the most brutal wars of our nation’s history. He was known to have a pretty unruly cabinet of advisors who would argue over various policies while Lincoln sat and listened to all points. While many wrote him off as a simple-minded politician and leader, his approach was more of a thinker than a quick-witted, action-focused blow hard.
Successful recruiting leaders are ok with hiring beyond their own skillset. It’s almost an obsession to build a diverse team of talent representative of the organizational need as well as the skill deficiencies the leader may have. I’ve known great leaders who had incredible vision but lacked operational execution who always had a strong chief of staff to execute deliverables. There have been leaders who lacked tact but had a second in command who was great at rallying the troops to accomplish a goal. It’s a necessary trait of any successful recruiting leader.
Have an Intellectual Curiosity
One of the greatest minds of our time was known for questioning everything. Even the most simple wonders of the world would throw his mind into overdrive, attempting to better understand the world around him. His passion for curiosity led to theories that has transformed how we view time, the universe and physics.
Recruiting leaders who possess intellectual curiosity will never be satisfied with progress. Much to the dismay of their team, they will tend to briefly celebrate a success before setting another goal for the team to achieve. This trait is what helps successful organizations stay ahead of the War for Talent.
These leaders move to try to stay one step ahead of the market and will often spend time either away from the office or unplugged to ponder the obstacles they face. They’ll consume large amounts of information, even information outside of recruiting, to find better solutions. If you had to give this leader a nickname it would be: “What’s Next?”.
Give Cover Fire when needed
Recruiting teams sometimes need to break things to accomplish a goal, especially those led by great leaders. The path of transformation is a bumpy one so successful leaders are always ready to provide cover fire when needed.
One of the first questions I asked my soon-to-be boss when I was offered my current role was: will you give me cover fire when needed? I have worked for my leader previously so I already knew the answer but I wanted to hear the commitment before proceeding. Transformation takes work and most of that work involves untraining or unbinding people to long-held beliefs or practices. This is a tedious process and lined with mines along the way. You have to have a leader brave enough to give you the support you need to accomplish the task.
Recruiting leaders who have this trait tend to see the bigger picture. While many of their team members stand on the verge of full on FREAK OUT mode, the successful leader gives the necessary support not to be the hero but to accomplish the goal. There’s a peace at which they do this daunting task that not only impresses their team but calms them as well. There’s nothing like working for the kind of leader who knows what it will take to truly transform a recruiting organization.
Lead with Context NOT Control
In the book, No Rules Rule, the authors share first hand accounts of how Netflix transformed itself from the mail out DVD vendor to the powerhouse media company it is today.
Netflix is a culture where leaders “Lead with context, not control” and how they are “Highly aligned but loosely coupled.” What this means is that the leaders set the context/vision very clearly, and that is percolated well through the various layers of the “Netflix tree” where the CEO acts as the root (setting the vision and context). And each small branch is empowered to make decisions and get the job done.
Another tribute to President Lincoln, his guiding rule was: “My policy is to have no policy.” It was not that he was unprincipled; rather, he was a practical man, mentally nimble and flexible, and, if one action or decision proved unsatisfactory in practice, he was willing to experiment with another. This is a perfect example of leading with context versus control. His generals were given latitude to make the necessary decision to win the war. Someone as inexperienced as Lincoln attempting to lead with control during such a time in history would have almost certainly led to defeat.
If you would like to listen to the exchange, go to minute 9:18 using any of the links below.
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