As a recruitment leader are you inspiring your team to follow your lead?

People learn through observing others – how they act, how they react, how they make others feel.

They do it so they can work out how to be successful or how to survive in a fast-paced recruitment environment. They do it so they can emulate them or avoid their mistakes.

When we are leaders in recruitment, it means team members are observing us and making judgements about whether to be like us – or not.

So, what can we do to be the kind of leader people want to emulate? How can we be inspiring role models in our company and in the recruitment industry?

Firstly, we need to focus on what people are taking away from how we act and react. Do we behave consistently in line with what we’re saying is important? For example, do we say ‘the client is king’ and yet always choose the cheapest or quickest option when faced with a decision – regardless of the client’s needs?

What happens when we are under pressure? Here is a good test: if we look around in times of trouble and our teams have disappeared, perhaps we should take a look at ourselves. Are they hiding from us and what they expect our reaction to be?

What are we like when we are winning? Do our people feel like they are winning too? I observed a leader recently who had huge success recruiting for a number of key roles for a major client. I knew she had a team helping her, but the only information I saw her sharing was what she herself had achieved. Her team are now learning about where the credit for success goes, and where loyalty and hard work will (or won’t) take you.

The fabulous American poet and author Maya Angelou once said, “people will never forget how you made them feel”. This is particularly true for leaders in a high-pressure setting like recruitment.

I remember leading a team once when things weren’t going well. I was too focused on the outcome and not on the team, so people were stressed and defensive. Fortunately, someone put a mirror up to me. From that point on, I made sure we included time for the positives and celebrating our successes, no matter what the deadlines and challenges. It created a lighter mood and a much more energised team.

People have always used stories and fairy tales as a guide to how we should be. As leaders, we become characters in the stories that our people tell about us. Those stories are being written and rewritten as we act, react and engage with others. Our team will talk about those leaders they want to emulate, and they’ll share the horror stories of bad leaders they want to avoid.

As role models in recruitment, our behaviour and how we make others feel is what will determine the kind of character we are in their stories. Will we be the evil stepmother coming in and making everything worse? Will we be the evil rogue, making decisions out of self-interest and cheating others out of what they feel they deserve? Perhaps we will be the wise prince, sharing wisdom benevolently, or the fairy godmother, providing support and encouragement when it matters the most.
If we pay attention to the stories that are being crafted around us, those stories will live on. Our influence will have an impact on new recruits to our current organisations – even when we ourselves have moved on!

Jean Gamester is founder of Semaphora, which helps companies get the best from their people through leadership, communication and change management, as well as coaching and business simulation workshops.

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