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The Recruitment COO | Ole's At The Wheel: Leadership Traits Of Man United's New Man In Charge

James Kenealey Morson

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THE RECRUITMENT COO | EXPLORING THE FRONTIERS OF RECRUITMENT, LEADERSHIP & STRATEGY with Adrian Adair

Adrian Adair is our Chief Operating Officer and has spearheaded significant market expansion, positioning Morson Group as the go-to strategic recruitment partner of choice across all sectors, both in the UK and overseas. Adrian’s leadership style places inclusivity at the heart of how the business acts and thinks. By identifying a future leadership team which is diverse and future facing, Adrian has curated a pipeline of talent which will strengthen the Morson Group's reputation as one of the most forward-thinking and ambitious recruiters. In The Recruitment COO, Adrian writes about leadership, talent and inclusivity as well as mistakes and motivation. From recruiter to the c-suite, Adrian is not a ‘thought leader’ – he’s an action taker, a change maker and an innovator.


I was away with our senior leadership team on a development programme talking about planning for the future and the development of young talent when some highly appropriate news came through.

Ole’s at the wheel.

Despite Morson’s extensive recruitment connections with Manchester United, including our onsite RPO team that overlooks the Old Trafford pitch, we sadly can’t take the credit for this particular perm placement!

That said, it seemed like a bit of a recruitment no brainer. Solskjaer passed his apprenticeship with flying colours, winning all but two of his 14 league games in charge, picking up more points than any other top-flight side in the process.

But the really revealing success story was the incredible comeback victory over PSG, when an injury-ridden team overcame a 2-0 first leg defeat to beat the French side 3-1 at their own stadium to progress to the Champions League Quarter Finals. The very embodiment of everything that Manchester United – particularly under Sir Alex Ferguson – stood for, the result was – literally - unprecedented.

It was becoming clear something had changed behind the scenes at Old Trafford. With no major additions to the same squad that was rolling limply through the 2018/19 campaign under Jose Mourinho, Solskjaer has galvanised the team, bought the best out of under-performing players and given United fans a togetherness not seen since Sir Alex bowed out in 2013.

Visiting our site office at Old Trafford, along with our senior management development programme last week, gave me food for thought regarding leadership styles in business. I think Ole has demonstrated excellent leadership traits and shows examples of the kind of philosophy I like to try to adopt myself. Here are four key things I’ve noted:

Understanding the Culture

Solskjaer completed the ultimate comeback with his Treble-winning last-minute goal in the 1999 Champions League final. This match – and indeed the whole 98/99 season – perhaps best encapsulated the culture of the Ferguson era. Buccaneering. Brave. Attacking. Never giving up. To their detriment, this is something that Sir Alex’s successors have largely failed to grasp or emulate. Perseverance is inseparable from the United culture. Ole gets this because Ole was this.

If you understand the culture of a business, you understand what drives its people and what will get the best out of them. It allows you to make decisions – and hires – that best suit this environment.   

Believing in Youth

Two great Scotsmen best epitomised this undeniably Manchester United trait - Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson. While the Busby Babes side were tragically cut down before their prime, Matt’s rebuild and eventual success from the ashes of Munich perhaps best encapsulated the ‘never give up’ mentality that would be re-forged and re-defined much later by Sir Alex.

At Morson, we have a lot of young teams coming through who will be helping to take the business into its next 50 years. Having belief in these teams and nurturing their talents to get the best out of them is vital for a sustainable business with an eye on the future. If you understand how to get the best out of people and provide the resources and culture they need they’ll always surprise you with innovation. This is vital as our business adapts to changing markets and enters entirely new ones.

You really get the sense Ole understands this. His bold selection of the excellent 22 year old Scott McTominay in the heart of midfield during their crucial game against Liverpool at Old Trafford is a great example of this.

Foster Relationships

At the tail end of the Mourinho era, several key players in the squad started to look depressed and disinterested. News of unrest within the dressing room circulated incessantly in the media with training ground photos of reported bust-ups doing little to quell the flames. It was clear Mourinho was losing control and was beginning to sound increasingly aloof, regularly calling out players in the press. Much like during his time with Real Madrid, Jose was falling out with big names, something that was to ultimately cost him.

Solskjaer on the other hand has fostered excellent relationships with his squad. Paul Pogba, potentially a troublesome character, is firing on close to all cylinders again. Sir Alex was hailed as an excellent man-manager and you can see Ole is harnessing some of this.

The same thing is key within business. As a leader it’s important to spend time building strong relationships at all levels, to be available and open. Learning how to deal with individuals and how to get the best out of people is just as important as having a grand idea of where you want to take the business.

Enjoy Yourself

“I’m going to enjoy this job, no matter how long I’ve got it.” – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, post-PSG press conference

Love your job and you’ll be better at it. It’s as simple as that.

As soon as Solskjaer stepped into the interim position in December 2018, you could see that he was enjoying it. While his predecessor(s) struggled to break a smile even at the best of times, the ‘Baby-Faced Assassin’ hides nothing and his enthusiastic demeanour seems a welcome and stark contrast to the more pragmatic, moody and arrogant style of those before him.

This almost child-like giddiness will rub off on others. Even if Ole ultimately comes up short in the job, you know it won’t be for lack of enthusiasm, care or effort.

He loves the club and the club loves him. A match made in recruitment heaven, surely?

If you don’t love what you do, Morson can help, search the latest jobs with us >