The Misunderstanding Between Leadership and Management in Recruitment

I once applied for a position where they were looking for a department head, but unfortunately, I was rejected before I even got an interview.

I followed up to find out why.

The response I got was that I lacked the technical expertise that they were looking for and I didn’t have enough experience in their particular market sectors.

However, on the job description, these were not the key skills they were looking for.

In the job advert, it said. ‘We’re looking for someone to come in and help turn this department around, someone who has excellent leadership skills, who can create a vision, which will inspire the team and re-ignite their passions’.

Reflecting on the key skills needed these are clearly leadership skills: The ability to create a vision; the ability to inspire and re-ignite passions; yet the reasons I was rejected without an interview were all management-related, not leadership related.

This isn’t the first time this has happened, nor am I the first person to experience it either, I have heard from friends and colleagues that this has happened to them too

Here we clearly have a company crying out for leadership, yet a recruitment agency that is filtering people out based on their ability to manage.

We all believe that leadership and management are two different, complementary and necessary skill sets.

But the key point here is that they are different and it’s not often that the same person possesses great strengths in both.

Look at Steve Jobs a great leader, a visionary leader, but I doubt that anyone would say he was a great manager where on-time and on-budget delivery are the key measures of success.

Could great leadership, although without relevant managerial experience in the area being led, be successful?

Personally, I believe so, I think some of the great leaders would be able to come in and inspire people in any area.

I have no doubt that Sir Alex Ferguson would be able to come into a department and turn it around, his sheer force of personality and will to win, would inspire and motivate.

Look at Sir Richard Branson, and how he has moved into so many different fields Music, Travel, Mobile, Telephony, Investments etc., etc., and been successful. This is because of his leadership, not because of his particular technical or managerial experience in all of these fields.

I believe that good leadership skills are portable, and can be successfully implemented in any industry or environment, yet time and time again I see good people rejected for roles, based on their lack of management experience in a particular industry sector or environment.

I think that this is because we have too many people who do not understand what leadership is, or the impact the great leadership can have.

The most important part of the journey is not the final step, it’s the first step.

Many would-be endeavours fail before they even start, rather than right at the end.

It’s leadership which gets things started; which precipitates the change in people’s attitudes and behaviours; which inspires and motivates people to try something new or look to make significant improvements, it’s not really management that does that.

We need to have people in recruitment organisations and in HR departments, who are supposedly recruiting leaders, who really understand what leadership is, what it can achieve and who also know what leadership isn’t.

Maybe that way we will start to see great leaders in leadership positions and not just a succession of successful managers, with limited leadership skills.

What are your thoughts and experiences on this, have you experienced the same?

Have you ever been promoted into a leadership position without the background technical skill? If so how did it go? I would be really interested to know.

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