At Mission Talent, it’s our job to ask questions. We want to find out from our clients exactly what kind of leaders they are looking for, and we ask our candidates to tell us about their careers and goals for the future. This time, we thought we would turn the tables, and have our team members Katja, Sarah, Spencer, Emily, Lin, Priya and Tim answer the questions.
1) What trends do you see in international development that make you hopeful?
I see a greater realisation of the importance of citizen participation. NGOs used to be closed entities where it was difficult to get in and participate. This has changed drastically and NGOs are increasingly acknowledging the importance of everyone’s input to drive change.
I recruit for many campaigning roles, and I previously worked for an advocacy organization, so I think a lot about how to create popular demand for change. While many of the causes we are working on are so huge, I am encouraged to see campaigning organizations take on specific targets that are winnable, such as changing the purchasing policy of one company. I am also glad to see NGOs increasingly use online multi-media in creative ways to engage people in making change.
What makes me hopeful is the fact that many stakeholders, political and economic ones, take NGOs more and more seriously. But also society as a whole increasingly acknowledges that NGOs fulfil an important regulatory role in the international political system.
2) How do you see the recruitment or search process changing?
There’s been a lot of talk on using Big Data and algorithms for search — including a much-quoted hoax claiming that users of Internet Explorer are not worth hiring! However these indirect approaches are not great ways of finding leadership talent. While the web allows us to contact far more people than we ever could 10 or 15 years ago, I think that getting to know people and understanding who they are, what their strengths are and what they are likely to be able to contribute is far more valuable than weeding through thousands of applicants using keywords and metrics.
I think the process has become more structured. NGOs now see the need for using external agencies to bring more diversity to senior management. In the field, it’s still a case of getting the best experience and relevant skillset, but more emphasis is placed on management and long-term strategy. In the last 10 years, the sector has professionalized.
We are seeing a greater emphasis placed on recruiting talent from the global South and East. Most NGOs are embarking on this path, but it is not easy. This means that it is really no longer about advertising and waiting for the people to apply, but actively engaging with candidates and make them interested in a role.
Hiring managers need to understand that this changes the nature of the recruitment process. It is no longer about: I desperately want to work for you because of your mission and vision. It is also about: we (the organisation) desperately want your talent, so may we invite you to get to know us?
3) What do you like about recruiting and executive search?
I like seeing the trends and needs of NGOs and how they are changing. Through my research I come into contact with many people with diverse skill sets that I learn from personally. I always learn a lot from interviews that can help me support my clients in the future.
I enjoy getting to know various organisations on a much deeper level. One becomes the outsider who is allowed for a brief moment to enter the organisation and get to know it like only employees would. I like the networking, and hearing from top professionals in the NGO sector about what defines leadership and what they do to achieve their mission.
I like discovering the web of networks out there in the world. I find searching to be a highly creative process. It is hard, and it requires determination and patience to follow lead after lead, but I enjoy the challenge. While we are often reaching out to strangers, I find the process an affirmation of the goodness in people. Many people want to help us by suggesting candidates. There is a lot of goodwill in the international development community; we are all working for the same goal.
What I like is that I am constantly in touch with very interesting personalities. It can be really rewarding to talk to people with so much work and life experience from various parts of the world. I also appreciate that it allows us to get fairly deep insights into organisations and the way they work.
4) What do you think defines leadership? What qualities do you look for in a leader?
I look for leaders who are charismatic, who understand people and are good at communicating. A genuine leader should be extremely passionate and committed to the cause, and have a progressive record of engagement that shows that they put the topics they are passionate about before themselves.
A good leader gives the team the feeling that they are in the driver’s seat, especially when credit is due. Someone who can take a backseat and steers the ship from there.
Someone who can motivate teams, take on challenges, be fair, innovate and think big.
Vision is very important, with the desire to aim high and be resilient when failure occurs. Because it will, especially when the stakes are high. That leads us to the next important factor: delivery. Delivery requires a leader to inspire and motivate people throughout an organisation, to be demanding but also to be visible and above all to lead by example.
I think leaders have to be willing to learn from any source. I once explained to a 14-year old that respect should be earned and she quickly countered by saying that respect is a starting-point; disrespect should be ‘earned’! She was right, and it marked a subtle but important change in my thinking.
5) What leader (alive or historically) inspires you and why?
Joko Widodo, the Governor of Jakarta, Indonesia. Before he was elected governor, he was mayor of Solo in Central Java for four years. He has proven himself to be honest and popular among the poor in Solo, and he continues to shows his integrity to the poor as the Governor of Jakarta. He visits all slum areas in Jakarta and talks to the people before implementing any new programs. He makes sure that the programs will benefit the people and not just the rich. He also created open access to the internet. He also rejected a loan from World Bank as he proved that the city have enough budget to implement the programs.
William Wilberforce is a hero of mine because he was key to abolishing the slave trade and had to fight against total political odds to achieve this.
I am a big admirer of José Mourinho, the Portuguese manager of Chelsea FC in England. Consider that this is a man who can successfully blend a diverse team of people (his first team squad of 25 players has 14 different nationalities from four continents; including Brits, Senegalese, Brazilians, Czechs and an Egyptian) and provide with them with the belief to take on and overcome other teams. A lot stems from the strategies he designs for each match, but also his willingness to tweak tactics, systems and personnel as a match evolves.
Mahatma Gandhi because he wanted Indians to realize that we have within us as human beings the ability to make change. We are self sufficient. ‘We have to be the change we want to see in the world.’ He helped a lot of Indians see their own potential and not be dependent on others. He brought people together, he never had fear, and he led by example. He really taught people to help themselves.