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Why every MD should lead by example

Andrew Stocks, director of ESA Group


When recruiters don’t see their boss on the phone, speaking directly to candidates and clients, they may question whether those at the top are out of touch with what’s happening on the ground. While this is sometimes an unfair assumption, there are certainly plenty of MDs who, whether by accident or design, appear too remote.


It is not uncommon for consultancies to operate an old-school ‘them and us’ model with distinct hierarchies between senior management and consultants. Traditional structures, by their nature, often isolate directors – until murmurings that they no longer have their finger on the pulse become a self-fulfilling prophecy.


Nowhere is the need for hands-on MDs more important than recruiting for the tech industry, where demand for highly-specialist skills is always changing.


After all, someone who combines years of recruitment experience, with up-to-date tech industry knowledge, is well-placed to match a candidate’s unique skill-set to more niche positions. It is therefore essential that they speak the language of businesses they represent and be as confident interviewing a potential CEO as they are speaking to an entry-level developer.


Of course, a strong leader does not simply muscle in on tasks normally be carried out by more junior staff members. It is not about treading on anyone’s toes, but rather demonstrating a strong work ethic and close understanding of what clients need right now.


I have also found there is tremendous value in showing my team that I am still involved in billing, rolling up my sleeves and mucking in to generate new business. By breaking down hierarchies, we are able to ensure people feel better supported at every stage; we share in their frustrations but equally, never lose the sense of satisfaction that comes with a successful hire.


It goes without saying that junior consultants benefit from shadowing those who have been in the profession for longer, right up to director level. We should remember too that MDs can learn a lot from their younger colleagues, particularly when it comes to social media and emerging technologies such as AI. Fostering an open-door culture means senior managers are more likely to hear about the latest trends, while identifying members of the workforce best able to help capitalise on them – no matter where they are on the career ladder.


Recruitment, like other industries, has become an extremely social profession, but the most forward-thinking consultants and directors also use LinkedIn (and other platforms) to stay in touch with candidates beyond the initial hire. If a candidate you placed years ago drops you a message, this time as a client, it is an opportunity to build on a pre-existing relationship.


Having been in this position myself, I know I might not have been able to secure the client without being so involved in the operational side of the business.


Nobody is suggesting MDs take their eyes off the strategic direction of the company, but they must also keep the latest industry developments and insights at the forefront of their minds. Of the 40,000 or so recruitment consultancies operating in the UK today, the winners will be those who stay closest to their markets.


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