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Management vs. leadership: where is the line?

Ann Swain, CEO of APSCo

While the battle to become the next Prime Minister has gifted both Johnson and Hunt with column inches dedicated to everything from their romantic relationships to fashion sense, there is no doubt that the question of leadership style continues to play a major part in the in the rhetoric. As such, the qualities sought in those who lead the nation are currently a hot topic for debate – and the same rules can be applied in the business world.

The impact of great leadership on a recruitment business is undeniable. In fact, according to data shared by Smart CEO, at least nine per cent and possibly as much as 32 per cent of an organisation’s voluntary staff turnover can be avoided through better leadership skills. What’s more, less than optimal leadership practices cost the average organisation an amount equal to as much as seven per cent of their total annual sales.

In my line of work, I am lucky to be surrounded by highly effective business heads. However, the reality is that too many organisations are still over managed and under-led. The nature of recruitment sector, in particular, means that high-billing consultants and ambitious entrepreneurs often become accidental figureheads, without fully grasping the psychology between leader and follower. As a result, many recruitment firms report a failure in management and leadership skills. Even those who have the innate gift of leadership can always fine-tune and hone their natural ability to inspire and guide their teams. 

‘Three Ps’ of leadership

The most successful CEOs spend 80 per cent of their time managing and 20 per cent leading. As leadership expert, Rob Gee, highlights, a legitimate question that anyone claiming to be a leader in our sector should ask is ‘who are your followers, and where are you taking them?’

The ‘Three Ps’ of leadership: philosophy, psychology and practice should always be considered. That is, asking critical questions around why you lead, how to motivate and finally understanding that being a great recruitment leader is not just about being, but also doing.

It is widely accepted that there are six broad styles of leadership, and while each has its unique strengths some are considered more effective than others. Those which are viewed most favourably include: coaching leaders with a knack for developing others; democratic leaders who drive collaboration; affiliative leaders who succeed through building relationships; and authoritative leaders who act as a catalyst for change. Pace-setting leaders and coercive leaders, on the other hand, may have a drive to achieve – but their approach may have a negative impact on wider teams. 

Range of resources   

We all have a natural, de-fault style but can use different approaches depending on people and the situation. In today’s multi-generational, multi-cultural, ever dynamic environment, recruitment leaders must have a full toolkit of resources at their fingertips, including a range of different leadership styles to draw from. Having the ability to display qualities such as gratitude, forgiveness and compassion is crucial to elevating your position from manager to leader – and through building awareness of your current strengths and weaknesses, you can identify areas for improvement. 

Being accountable and demonstrating emotional resilience is key – and the best recruitment heads empower others in their team to demonstrate these qualities too. Managers have subordinates, but real leaders have followers, and business heads who demonstrate more optimism and less anxiety will soon find that they instil a confidence in their people that translates into greater organisational performance.  

As Winston Churchill famously said: “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” Yes, some people are born leaders, but even those who naturally manage their recruitment businesses from the front can benefit from reflecting on their default style, and elevating their communication skills accordingly. By understanding the philosophy and psychology of inter-team relationships, recruitment chiefs can develop their personal vision and practices in a way which enables them to lead effectively and authentically – and ultimately capitalise on the results.

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