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  • April 22, 2021
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Bernadette Clarke Discusses Leadership in Recruitment


We sat down with Bernadette Clarke, Director – Evolution NHS, to discuss her approach to leadership and her 17 year tenure in recruitment.

Describe Your Leadership Philosophy

So when I read the question, I was like, do I have one, I don’t know if I actually have a philosophy.

But if we link it, and put it into the context of leadership, my current leadership style would be a democratic leader.

But I also believe very firmly in the fact that leadership must be situational. So what might apply in one setting won’t apply in another. So as a leader, you must almost sort of, I suppose a bit of a chameleon and change to suit the situation rather than expect others to change to suit you.

How Do You Apply That Philosophy to Your Leadership?

I believe in the importance of being authentic, and it’s not something I’ve always been able to do, I’ve definitely learned to be more authentic.

And as I’ve opened up and be more authentic, I’ve seen the benefits of doing that with the team. I’ve always thought that I get the best results when I’m my most authentic self. And I suppose another part of that is about transparency. So where possible, including the team in decision making, including the team in, in things that are happening, and making sure that they’re all aligned to the vision and the values of the business. For me, that’s very, very important when you’re supposed to apply your philosophy to leadership.

Did Leadership Come Naturally to You?

Absolutely not. So we are in a recruitment environment where the best salespeople are promoted to management. But it’s well known in recruitment that just because you’re a good salesperson doesn’t mean you’re going to be a good manager.

The leap you need to take into management and from sales is huge. So you’re kind of just put with people and told to lead them. So you make a lot of mistakes at the start. And the people that I would have led, in my very early career would have had a very different experience of me, then the people that I’m leading now.

I’m not ashamed to say that I have learned a lot along the way, I think one of the most significant changes for me was becoming a mum, and your children teach you more patience, more tolerance. And you understand that someone’s not deliberately doing something wrong, they just don’t know how yet.

Leading with patience and understanding rather than thinking: ‘why are they not meeting the standards i’ve set?’. So for me, motherhood has taught me a lot about how to manage people.

What’s the Biggest Change You’ve Seen to Recruitment Over Your 17 Year Tenure?

When I joined a very dynamic recruitment company in the early 2000s. It was very much you know, hire and fire and churn. We focused less on the individual and focused more on the outcomes. I found that a successful, but sometimes unpleasant way to do things.

Now, i believe, we look after the people around us and I believe that people will do their best when they are cared for and happy in the workplace. So, for me, I think leadership styles in recruitment had to change. I think companies attitudes towards their people had to change becayse very talented people were leaving in droves.

So I think the whole of the recruitment industry has changed and evolved and I’m glad to say that it needed to change and it has done.

Could You Share Some of the Secrets to Your Success?

I think it’s down to consistency. Just trying to be the best that you can be each day, and breaking it down in that way.

People can have a good month or a quarter, maybe a couple of quarters – keeping that up over a career is hard. Sometimes not beating yourself up when things dont go your way can be incredibly valuable.

As you become sort of more mature, understanding that you’re only human, you’re not completely infallible, we all need regular breaks, we need to treat ourselves, we need to almost understand why we’re working that hard. And when you focus on the why, and what it’s for, it all becomes a little bit easier.

What’s are some of the Biggest Challenges You’ve Faced over Your Career?

Over the course of the 17 years in various different companies, I’ve started a number of new teams, new offices, new divisions, and at the start of each one of those, you have to take a breath because it’s daunting.

It can be hard at the start to get something off the ground that doesn’t exist carving something out that your competitors are doing perfectly well and you need to take market share. So I always at the start of something new, I always find it quite daunting roll on a couple of months, and you know, you’re in the flow and you’re able to achieve it. And I know that my sensible rational self knows that, give it a month or two and it will be second nature. But at the very start of something I do find that that word daunting presents itself.

What Makes Evolution Home For You?

For me, it’s the people I I the visions and values that the leadership team have a definitely resonate with me i think it’s it’s about relationships. And and I enjoy, I think, you know, we’re all aligned in terms of the way that we work together where we’re aligned towards the common goal. It’s a shared value system. And I think that you know, fairness and parity is at the heart of the decision making. So for me, it is home and it’s a great place to work.

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