Servant Leader, 25 years in Recruitment

This month, Darren Robinson our Managing Partner, Anderson Wise, celebrates his 25 years in the Recruitment Industry.

Recruiter: “Have you ever considered working as a recruitment consultant?”
Me: “No, what do you do?”

At the time, I was interviewing for a Graduate Sales role for a pharmaceutical company in the North of England and this question led to a lifetime in the industry. I met my wife in the first recruitment company I worked for in London. Then, the industry took us both to Sydney, where we married, then to Luxembourg, where we started our family.

Fortunately for me, Robert Walters, the first firm I worked for, found my quirky 2-page CV funny enough to want to meet me. I had small sketches of my interests presented on my CV. My university housemate created my cartoon stick-man persona showing me running and reading. There was even one depicting us socialising at a bar …what was I thinking!?

For a fresh graduate, it was a perfect start! It was hard work with a lot of pressure, but a place where I had the most fun and support, surrounded by great managers and mentors. I have made every effort to create a similar environment for all the teams I have either created or inherited.

Not realising at the time, these were my formative years in developing my Leadership style.

I was a late graduate in UK terms and wholeheartedly believed I did not have an option to fail. The fear of failure is something that I have carried with me for most of my life – it can be both suffocating and motivating at the same time. I started work early and finished late, that was the culture: we worked hard and played hard.

When I took on my first management role, one of the directors of the firm once told me: “Remember, you do not have to be liked as a leader, but you have to be respected. If you manage both, that’s great but being respected always trumps being liked”.

I never realised you could have so much fun at work and I was fortunate that my first manager created such an environment that we hardly noticed the rough days. You know, those days when it seems nothing goes right, they would always be put into perspective with a dose of good humour. Surrounded by Antipodeans who had come to London for their 2-4 years overseas experience and just like the way they play their sport they applied to their work – they were so hungry to win, and their competitive spirit was infectious!

On my route, 10 years ago, I had the pleasure of working with an amazing Global Fortune 500 CEO. He was insightful, tough, fair and incredibly motivational. His group speeches were inspirational and delivered from the heart, the sort of speeches that gave you goosebumps.

In my last corporate role, I managed 7 countries, I learned more from my direct reports across the Benelux and the Nordics in 3 years than during the previous 10.

I have been fortunate to have experienced the very best managers, and some of the very worst ones. But all of them provided valuable lessons. The leadership style I have developed did not have a name until I came across Simon Sinek describing it: Servant Leadership.


It’s me
I became my very best when I felt comfortable being myself, not the self I thought everyone expected me to be.

Change is good
Fear of change forced me to work for a terrible boss. It made me miserable and was incredibly hard to filter so as not to negatively affect my team and my family.

A wise choice
Today, there are so many better opportunities that far outweigh the risks of staying with a bad boss! When I was fired 5 days before Christmas in 2018, it came as a huge surprise and at the time I felt let down and betrayed. I then came to realise it was the best decision I NEVER made. I now only wish I had decided to leave much earlier.

What can I do for you?
I heard this at the ending of every meeting I had with one of my favourite managers. Not only did he ask, but he also listened intensely and we both uncovered solutions to challenges. I remember he came into a senior management meeting with a pair of huge plastic ears on to emphasise he was always there to listen and his sense of humour! (I would have walked over hot coals for him.)


Thankful to the Wise and Anderson Wise!
I’m thankful to those leaders, direct and indirect, who inspired me along the journey: Jon Davies, Robyn Howard, Jeremy Tipper, Ben Anderson, Craig Michilis, Wayman Chapman, Lee Dempster, Neil Wilson, Mark De Smedt, Martin Alonso and Patrick De Maeseneire.

I have had the privilege to have managed some of the best employees in the industry from all over the world. Today I’m blessed to be working with an amazing group of individuals who I have known on average for over 10 years. We work hard, we play hard, we like to win, we respect, and, for all our foibles, we like each other.

To quote Simon Sinek: “The genius at the top doesn’t make the team look good. A good team makes the person at the top look like a genius” … today I feel like Einstein!

The industry has given me so many wonderful opportunities in many different countries and cultures. The journey did not always go smoothly, and I received many Lemons along the way and with them, I’m now making the tastiest Lemonade ever!

Darren Robinson

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