4 Leadership Qualities That I Am Looking for in My Future Managers

Responsible business leadership is not just about ensuring that your business runs smoothly every day. It also and always means laying the foundations for success long after you leave. Here at Hays, the annual succession planning season has officially started. Every year, my management team and I carefully analyze how our company will be run in the future, and just as importantly by whom.

It is a process that we are all excited about, not only because we understand how important it is to have our future talent flow in order, but also because it always leads to interesting discussions.

Leadership qualities

Each year, we discuss which lessons we believe have been critical to Hays’s success, and which of the company’s rising stars have taken those lessons to heart.

This year I thought it would be valuable to share those lessons with you, so here are 4 key attributes we look for in our future leaders.

Traditional leadership qualities will always be important

After years of succession planning, the core skills we seek have largely stayed the same. The ability to communicate and inspire is still high on our list of traits for a potential candidate.

While that was already the case when I started my career, the world has changed. In my younger years, executives had limited resources to communicate with their staff, but today there are so many new digital ways to exchange information that it is increasingly critical to listen to everyone, senior or junior. It is therefore important for managers to make contact with employees in a way that matches their experiences and motivates them – face-to-face, in the boardroom or online.

The setting is almost everything

I am increasingly noticing that many of our emerging leaders are successful because of an entrepreneurial mindset.

There is a persistent misunderstanding that ambitious entrepreneurs can only thrive in a start-up or as their own boss. That’s bullshit. A global company can master nurturing entrepreneurial minds just as well as a start-up. I experienced that up close.

I am consistently impressed by the entrepreneurial spirit of Hays’s regional directors. Not only are they chasing this quarter’s targets, but they also have a business owner mindset and are focused on the bigger picture. They are concerned with what they can do to increase our sales over the next decade, by discovering new sources of income, deploying the latest technologies and building our own top teams. 

And this approach is not limited to senior management – many of our departments are designed in such a way that every consultant can think like an entrepreneur. They face intense competitive pressure and show tremendous entrepreneurial energy every day. They are challenged to think commercially in terms of expanding their market share, differentiate themselves from the competition and constantly strive to improve the customer experience. Rescue the recruiters who truly see themselves as the managing director of their own recruitment company – under the umbrella of a global group, with the brand and the systems, processes and support that go with it – and who can work day after day with such an attitude it usually also in the long run.

I am sure our future succession planning sessions will focus on the people who have the confidence to actually run their own businesses within my organization.

The best talent molds his own function

One of the things I’ve noticed recently is that the functions that are in motion and development are the ones that attract the most attention. These are often jobs for which there is no specific job description, but which naturally arose as a result of a proactive and investigative attitude.

For example, as our company adapted to technological developments, we saw the emergence of digital change managers, who have largely assumed this role naturally. These people are enthusiastic about the changes and are willing to think outside their job description. They often have a major impact on the success of new initiatives and when supported, these change agents often become the driving force behind new ideas – which they passionately promote to their colleagues.

These people believe that the status quo can always be improved and that change is nothing to fear. In doing so, they organize their functions in such a way that they match the direction of the company and their own skills.

As mentioned, their job profile has not been adjusted, and they have not been promoted. These employees have simply anticipated the needs of the company and adapted their own roles accordingly. In addition, when you have enough of these types of people in your organization, you can reach a tipping point, after which the developments will take place automatically and no longer need to be forced. An exciting, interesting prospect.

The best leaders work together

Finally, on a strategic level, we have always known that we cannot do everything alone. The ability to collaborate has always been hugely important to our company. From a strategic perspective, this means that we work with the best partners, even if we have to work with a party that is seen by some as an indirect competitor. This is how we ensure that we can offer our clients and candidates the best possible experience and outcome. But the focus on collaboration is not limited to achieving tangible business goals.

It is also a quality that I greatly appreciate in future leaders. Here at Hays, we actively strive for collaboration between all our breakthrough talents, both within their own team and with a partner organization. If you can bring out all the qualities that are present in your team, your result will always improve. In addition, it is motivating and inspiring to recognize what the individual strengths of your employees are – and how they can positively influence the results.

I am constantly trying to assess what is good for the whole group instead of a small part of it. It’s helpful when your most important executives look that way too, even if a solution might not work out for them personally. Not easy to do, but very valuable if it works.

Modern business is developing very quickly. In the years to come, our leaders will come from increasingly diverse teams, with a wide range of skills that are only just emerging today. Still, in my view, self-confidence, proactivity, and perseverance remain the basic characteristics of the future CEO – and above all, work very hard.

Felix Tammi

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