Leadership or management — what’s more important to a growing recruitment business?

6 min readJul 19, 2023


The recruitment industry has been going through tumultuous times post-pandemic. But let’s not focus on the pandemic. There have, indeed, been reports of doom and gloom in this era of war and economic strife with employment trends changing, but in the recent few years — despite the economic challenges — 2022 did start to see a substantial success rate in the recruitment industry.

There remain some tremendous opportunities for fledgling and growing recruitment businesses while employment trends fluctuate. The market has been depleted of candidates, but with many jobs available, those opportunities are there for the taking as long as they’re done correctly.

And to do that, you need the right people — the right leaders and management, their teams and a strategy they can work with.

The need for growth

If we want to build and grow recruitment businesses in the industry, the most obvious way to do that is to keep on top of our business, consolidate it with excellent, reliable service for our clients, and then add new business to our portfolio. But we need to add new business, so everyone benefits — the company, its staff, and especially clients looking for new employees or potential employees looking for new jobs.

One way or another?

To grow our businesses, of course, we need both managers and leaders. Managers can often be seen as the most prominent people in an organisation because “manager” is a word that naturally appears as part of a job title. Leaders are slightly trickier to identify on the organisational chart (unless they are the CEO), but there are people with natural leadership abilities you can tap into. And some of our managers must also be leaders — like a dual responsibility within an organisation.

There is a difference, however, which we will explore below — before we come to answering the big question of which role, out of leadership or management, is more critical to the success of a recruitment company in the fast-moving business world of 2023.

Let’s first examine the properties of leadership and management — and what makes a person good in both areas.

Get your recruitment right before helping others

To be a growing recruitment business, you need to have recruitment down to a fine art. As well as having the right systems and processes (people and tech), you need the right balance of skills and leadership in your business. For example, how about obtaining the proper spread of personality type from the the behavioural test set up by Raymond Belbin that teaches us how an individual behaves in a team environment? Belbin narrows us down to nine personality types, some of which — the Implementor or Completer Finisher — are for born managers, while others — the Plant and the Shaper, for instance — are for innovation and leadership.

Take time to examine this, asking yourself and your team which personality type you might have.

Looking after ‘Business as Usual’

With your team requirements set, let’s look at the skills needed for management. On the surface, it feels like a more grounded, day-to-day occupation. A good manager looks at their resources and optimises them to meet business targets. At the same time, they need to address the challenge of keeping the workforce happy and motivated, so they are continually producing good results. Great managers should care about getting their teams to perform in a way that gives them job satisfaction as employees — doing work in a way that motivates them. In the case of the recruitment business, a good manager will need to draw on the strengths and expertise of their staff, on their past experiences within the company and on using the techniques and methods they know will get results.

For example, they would know where to place the right advertisements, where the best qualifications are achieved, where the richest talent pools are, and where the best experiences can be found within the workforce — internally and externally. A good manager will be able to spot the gaps in the skillset of their team, they will know the company for which they are recruiting inside and out and know the square pegs and the round holes — and how to match them all up or pick them apart.

Facing the future

What, then, does leadership look like? Leadership is a role that can carry more inventiveness. Often managers will be tasked with tapping into their leadership properties, so they can innovate, think creatively, and anticipate future business trends before they even happen. Yet to be a good leader, you also, ideally, need the tenets of an excellent manager to provide reason to your arguments, caution and realism to your ideas, and the ability to think clearly under pressure. Authentic leadership comes to a manager both under pressure and at rest.

Leaders in a recruitment agency will anticipate new technological trends and embrace them rather than head them off at the pass — like the presence and use of AI, automation and all the things that are fast becoming prevalent in good business practice. They will actively seek new ways of making their work more efficient, getting creative thinkers into the company, and addressing any challenges that can demotivate the staff. A good leader will be looking at ways of influencing their staff to follow them, by getting them involved in the creative process, by tapping into people. This way, the team will continue to be motivated, contribute to their organisation’s success and acquire new skills.

In short, if you’re supporting organisations in their quest to find talent and ensure the process is smooth and inclusive, you must adopt these practices in a growing recruitment business.

What’s best for the business?

If you want your recruitment business to continue growing, you need both management and leadership to work side by side — and ideally, you’ll find it within one person, with the right support from a great team and available resources. That’s what’s called a chef’s kiss (a gesture and expression meant to show something is perfect or excellent!) A recruitment business will not grow under management alone. Sure, it will perform well and get results, with drive and ambition but with a lack of leadership, the changing business trends of the moment will be missed, and digital innovations will not be embraced.

Similarly, if your growing business is packed with strong leaders who don’t exhibit good target orientated management skills, it will have its head in the clouds. Leaders will be anticipating all the business developments coming up, burying themselves in new methods of recruitment and innovative technologies to get new candidates. Still, they are more likely to remember the present, the ‘business as usual’ that got the company where it is, and which has established its reputation.

What do we think?

The solution is ideally to have a combination of the two — but we’re a growing business, right? That means we need a management team with the balance tilted towards leadership. For every bit of ‘business as usual’ management, you need weightier resources pointing at innovative thinking, anticipating, and deciding how the business will go forward. Think of it as the ideal combination of the past, present, and future. Use the managers and their experience to add substance to what the leaders propose.

How will you benefit?

With your senior team of leaders and innovators — grounded and encouraged by the managers — your company will build on its foundation as a good recruitment agency, conducting everything it has promised to do to a consistently high standard. Alongside that, your company will show leadership and innovation in the sector, getting a reputation for finding those latest trends first, exploring ever more creative ways of securing the best candidates and getting them to the best employers quickly.

Everyone’s happy!

By including everyone in the process, you will find this translates to happy, motivated, and fulfilled employees. Your leaders will lead and innovate; your managers will back them with sound business acumen and task completion. Your business will surely grow even more as a result, and the businesses and talent you seek, and support will return to you repeatedly. And repeat business is the name of the game.

Originally published at https://www.proactive.it on July 19, 2023.




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