The leaders of tomorrow, and how to find them

Simon BittlestoneSimon Bittlestone, Managing Director, writes on markets and economics

Very little has as much influence on the future of a company as recruitment, but for all that, it can be a curiously backward-looking process. Managers follow the processes that worked in the past, some even recruit the candidates most like them, and few resist the temptation to recruit for the needs of today, when they should be doing so for the needs of the next decade at least.

At Metapraxis we are continually looking for new answers to this challenge, as we, ourselves, continue our graduate and other recruitment to keep pace with increasing demand for our services. That’s why we made the topic the focus of our latest Financial Focus dinner. Financial Focus is our long-running series of dinner events, which brings together people of talent and achievement from across the business world, to determine and discuss the opportunities and challenges ahead.

The attendees at our latest event included head hunters, academics and business leaders from board and executive positions in a variety of industries. However, there were some clear conclusions drawn about what those recruiting the leaders of tomorrow ought to look for. Top of the list was the ability to deal with change.

One of the biggest changes in business of recent years has been the narrowing of the gap between customer and corporation, and a customer-centric attitude was identified as a key trait for leaders of a modern enterprise. Related to this point were twin priorities of faultless commercial awareness and strong principles. The modern consumer is ever-alert to the inauthentic, and companies are vulnerable to changes in consumer sentiment as never before. Modern business leaders must have an intimate understanding of both why sentiment can change, and what the potential impact of that could be.

On the question of how business leaders could find and recruit such candidates, our guests had two prescriptions. The first was to communicate with absolute clarity the business goals of the organisation, as well as its guiding principles, and the opportunities available for new joiners. The second follows from the first, and it was to give equal weight during the recruitment process to both a candidate’s capability and their ‘fit’ for the organisation. That means asking them about their goals, and making sure that the company is able to help them achieve those – not just verifying that they are able to do the job.

The matter of how to retain a potential leader long enough for them to become an actual leader is just as challenging, but our group were able to settle on three principles. These were opportunity (for advancement, experience and autonomy), investment (in training and coaching) and communication (on the business strategy and the contribution they make to it).

As with so much in business, there is no one correct strategy for future-proof recruitment, but there are certainly good principles, and those are what we use as the basis of our graduate recruitment and wider recruitment strategy, as we expand the team here at Metapraxis.


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