It’s obvious when you think about it – different people are good at different things. Just as a football player may not make a great manager, and vice versa, business leaders have skills relevant for different environments.

So when you are thinking about who to appoint into a critical position, it’s essential to consider not just who has preceded them but what they will be dealing with.

The phase the business is going through is generally a good place to start, as there are a few characteristics that are shared. Start-ups are generally chaotic places with a thousand things needing to be done immediately. Visionaries are needed at the helm, people who can communicate the big idea to their teams and their clients, who get on and do things themselves, with ideas and energy in abundance but able to move on quickly if an idea isn't working and try something else. When a business is more established, processes and procedures are needed to create some structure around the chaos, while still focusing on growth and diversification. This calls for a leader with experience of larger companies where they have learned about world class management systems, but who enjoy and thrive in rapidly evolving, fast paced cultures. They need to be inspiring, creative and hands-on, good at getting the best out of their teams who may not always be in the right jobs as the company has evolved. In a steady-state business, the need is entirely different again. Delegators, strategists, big picture, long term thinkers are the priority. People who can lead teams of leaders where the detailed work is being done several layers below.

Of course, these are sweeping generalisations and there are many more types of business and people than we can talk about in one small blog post. We haven’t talked about supporting teams, levels of profit and loss, the international framework, differences between market sectors and so on. We haven’t discussed how essential it is to be honest with yourself and your prospective candidates about the warts-and-all analysis of your business, rather than hoping that they won’t find out until after they've joined you and it’s too late for them to change their mind. But the theory is robust – think carefully about the whole business environment before beginning to identify likely places that your next MD is currently working and your search process will be a lot more productive and a lot shorter. 

By Lucy James

Lucy James is a Director of Quarsh, a leading UK based provider of Recruitment Process Outsourcing and HR Solutions

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Tags: Executive, MD, Recruitment, Search

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