May 6, 2009
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

DETROIT — General Motors Corporation Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner will step down immediately at the request of the White House. — Finance

I always liked Rick Wagoner. He is the quintessential Boy Scout. Probably makes a great neighbor and a wonderful friend, so I take no glee in his departure. On the other hand, he was not the right person for the job and hasn’t been for endless years. GM made cars few wanted and it hemorrhaged cash. (This should bother you just a tad, as it is your cash they are currently hemorrhaging.)

As an example, rumor has it that when GM unveiled the Aztek in 2001, there was only a gasp and then dead silence; an unspeakably ugly car instantly hated by one and all. (John Sullivan’s Aztec is for sale by way; e-mail him on pricing.) How, in all that is holy, could Wagoner allow a car like this to see the light of day? He should have laid his body in front of it sooner then having it hit the press.

As you can see, poor leadership devastates us all. But wait: put down that latte and read on. I am not at the good part yet.

It appears that he was forced out by the Obama administration. Is that not as embarrassing as it gets? It took an act of government to do what a board of directors should have done a decade ago. The fact that his board did not remove this sadly ineffective CEO is a glaring example of leadership that has failed miserably. This board had a moral as well as a fiduciary responsibility to do what was in General Motors’ best interest, and it proved to be absolutely worthless. If you think it gives a damn about GM, I suggest you smarten up. (If you think they care one iota about your bailout money, you need your head examined.)

So how does this little tirade relate to the emerging role of tomorrow’s recruiter? (See A Return to Recruiting: Notes, Thoughts, and Commentary.) Glad you asked. The future of recruiting is all about leadership and doing what is right for the clients you represent. For recruiting as a profession and for recruiters as individuals to thrive, it must add far more value. Recruiting, both individually as well as collectively, must develop the vision and the courage to act as leaders. We must move way from the concerns of politics, the pathological need to be liked and, as Jeremy Eskenazi put it, the “at your service” mentality that hurts us more then it helps. We must insert our opinion and thoughts where reinvention is required and lead through example. We must be willing to be unpopular. Please consider the following:

  • Be a leader. Going along to get along is a sadly compromised existence. It kills careers, companies, and, apparently, economies. The opportunity to lead — to make a real difference in your future and the futures of those around you — has never been better. The world of business has been decimated and needs individuals with the courage and creativity to do what is right. If we worry less about what is popular and more about the actionable items that have real meaning in terms of supporting organizational objectives, we will become leaders and we will be great!
  • Give them what they need: Yes; what they need, not what they want. Everyone knows what they want but few know what they need. (I want a Maserati Bora, but that’s not happening.) The difference between what they need as opposed to what they want is the sweet spot of leadership’s value. Take hiring managers as an example. They can be unspeakably inept in terms of how they handle candidates and conduct interviews. Become a quick study as it relates to their strengths and weaknesses. Give them positive reinforcement for what they do well (ranking candidates, for example.) Coach and carry them for the things they do not do well (making hiring decisions, for example). Short of shooting someone, do whatever it takes to provide the type of support they really need.
  • Innovate big time/question everything. The future of recruiting belongs to those who are willing to invent it. (See Recruiting, Innovation, and Thinking Differently.) I am not sure how things will look down the road, but I have a strong feeling they are not going to look like they did before the world came to an end. I suggest that all of us need to rethink what we do and how we do it. Are the best practices of the future the same as the best practices of the past? Do we really need to hire the best candidate every single time for every single position? Does diversity really create a better final product and how is that measured? Get my drift?
  • Don’t hire your friends. Like to spend time with your friends? Take them bowling. Recruiting is not a profession that lends itself well to cronyism as it colors one’s judgment. (Unless you work for the government, of course, because when you hire people with no brains and little experience, they better be your friends.) I can assure you that there is nothing I would enjoy more then doing a big project and hiring all of my friends. Sadly, some of my friends are not very good at what they do and to hire them would only demonstrate poor leadership. Think of your job as a recruiter to build a company one brick at a time with each brick being important. You wouldn’t use a brick that had a big crack in it because you liked the color, would you? Of course not. Think of your friends in that same way. If you have a friend that you think fits the job, toss them into the hat and have them evaluated along with the others. Do not push to have them hired because it goes against your role and mission.

As we enter the second quarter of 2009, I believe this country is in a financial mess that will not end anytime soon. The future is up for grabs and those individuals who demonstrate the ability to create significant value through courageous leadership will be on the road to real and meaningful success.

This article is part of a series called Opinion.
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