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Recruiting Leadership in a Time of Chaos


Future of Talent Institute Weekly

July 8 · Issue #69 · View online
Weekly Trends and Ideas that Make a Difference

Recruiting Leadership in a Time of Chaos
Imagine being in a ship in the midst of a hurricane. The wind shifts quickly, strong currents push you toward cliffs or the shore. Sometimes the ship does not respond to your commands and you are at the mercy of the sea. Every decision you make could sink the ship. It is hard to be heard above the noise of the storm.
Leading a recruiting function inside an organization is now in many cases more like navigating this ship.
Some organizations are shifting recruitment to external vendors and reducing or eliminating internal functions. Some have let recruiters go. A few are adding recruiters, but maybe only temporarily. And some are just trying to keep everything stable until there is some cure or control over the pandemic. But nowhere is there any certainty and needs and demands are changing weekly.
Some hiring managers are as uncertain as everyone else and are hesitant to add staff. Others may want to add people and perhaps some they have never hired before. Recruiters may need to find people with special skills who are willing and available to solve a problem, do a specific piece of work, maintain a process or website, for example, create content, or offer advice. They may need to renege on offers made or bring on temporary workers with a contract or agreement on the deliverables they will provide. 
Candidates are also uncertain. Will they get an offer? Will the organization survive? What should they do if they have been laid off? Should they seek temporary or contract employment?
How do you lead in times like these? What do you tell your recruiters and your candidates?
It may be wise to take lessons from leaders, even those who had nothing to do with corporations or recruiting, who were confronted with chaos and crisis. Whether it was during war or another pandemic, each time some successful leaders led their people through it.
Leaders such as Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt led their countries through wars and economic depression. Other leaders such as Angela Merkel of Germany or Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand have led their countries wisely and firmly through this pandemic.
How did they do it?
While recruiting leaders are not faced with the complex and political issues these leaders faced, they still need to confront the uncertainty, fear, and changing circumstances their teams are organizations are dealing with.
Here are six lessons we can learn from them.
#1. Act
The first step in taking charge in a chaotic time is to act. By giving direction and instruction, good leaders calm fears and bring order to what is a messy, uncertain, and fearful time. They act without certainty that what they are doing is right because action is what people need. Churchill declared unequivocal war against Germany which was a much better prepared and more powerful, Angela Merkel brought the independent states of Germany together through her ability to influence and her confidence even though she lacked legal authority.
#2, Be decisive
To act requires being able to make tough decisions without reliable data or facts. During this pandemic, for example, leaders have had to require us to shelter-in-place, wear masks, and do other things that are controversial and not completely agreed upon by the medical profession. Good leaders have demonstrated their ability to influence and their strength and conviction.
#3. Show Strength and Confidence
You must be courageous enough to make tough decisions and face the push back that is sure to come. Every crisis leader is criticized and often unliked because of their need to make decisions and act quickly without everyone’s consent. Many vocal members of the government disagreed with Churchill’s defiance and were considering surrender.
#4. Influence
You must be able to influence and convince people to act using humor, examples, empathy, and modeling the behavior you want to see. Influence is far more effective than instruction or preaching.
#5. Be agile
And you must be able and willing to change direction as often as new data shows you that another approach might be more effective. Being able to change direction as the wind blows and keep the direction moving positively, is a key sign of good leadership.
#6. Reimagine what could be.
Get your recruiters and others involved in inventing a strategy that is flexible and able to respond to whatever the needs of your organization may be. Challenge past assumptions and practices to reflect the new future.
Recruiting will not be the same after this pandemic. Those who led bravely made decisions by anticipating the future needs of their organization influenced managers and recruiters, and who built the infrastructure for an agile and quick response to changing needs will be the leaders who survive and thrive.
Special thanks to everyone who mentioned our newsletter or recommended others to sign up. It is much appreciated. Welcome and thanks as well to all our new subscribers. Special thanks to so many who liked, retweeted, or shared this newsletter including Willeke Meijer, Chris Lemmens, Joey NK Koksai, Olaf van der Putten, Matthieu van Delisse, Vladimir Ploshay, Gemma Bakldock, Max Boadie, Anne Winters, Lucy Williams, Susanne Tiggelaar, Steven Daha and many more…
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Related & Interesting Links
Look to Military History for Lessons in Crisis Leadership
Crisis Leadership In Real Time: 8 Pandemic Best Practices
Blog: Leadership in crisis: Lessons from the past — People Matters
About This Newsletter
Hand curated articles, videos, podcasts, and other media on the future of work, talent, recruitment, and learning. If you find this useful, please share on Twitter. You can always reach me at
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