What a true HR leader looks like, according to HR


After another fantastic HR Hour on Twitter this week, we explored what qualities we would look for in a HR leader.

As you can imagine, this really generated a constructive conversation and it appears that many HR professionals like to see the same qualities in a leader, albeit in different ways. In this post I’ve picked some of my favourite tweets from the evening, so a huge thank you to the contributors who made the session so informative, we learn something new every week!

Having been fortunate throughout my career, I have worked with a couple of inspirational and positive HR leaders, but many involved in this week’s HR hour were convinced that a HR leader honing these desirable qualities is hard to find.

@fdoug23 tweeted “In all honesty – I would have a hard time naming 5 inspirational HRD’s”.

Empathetic, role model, commercially aware, motivational, inspiring, active listener and not being afraid to challenge were all suggested in the conversation as being some of the most desirable traits that HR professionals would like to see in a leader.

@hrbloggergail tweeted her thoughts on what qualities make a great HR leader; “Social leadership, emotional intelligence, curious nature to ask all those questions that don’t get asked, the want for everyone to succeed to where they want to be , commercially focused and most important….. a good healthy sense of humour”.

One of my favourite tweets came from @philwillcox who stated the importance of a leader being  present; “undivided attention – to others. When interacting with anyone, they are wholly present; being fallible – they make mistakes, admit to and learn from them, and lastly someone who takes a second look – there is always more going on than you think”.

Throughout the mountains of tweets, one particular word came up a lot in the conversation; resilience.

@mustard1973 simply put “Resilience, commercial awareness, change evangelist, communicator. Did I say resilience?” Yes Andy, indeed you did!

Resilience is defined as the ability to effectively respond to challenges and move forward in a positive way. Today more than ever, resilience is a skill that is needed in the workplace. Highly resilient people cope well with adversity and learn valuable lessons from challenging experiences.

So why is resilience so important to HR professionals? Right now it’s vital for the changing work environment, many HR professionals are required to work reactively which leaves very little room for innovation, creativity and most importantly, the ability to work proactively. We often find this frustrating; a constant battle with managers who want advice but don’t take it, senior figures that fail to understand the complexities of people processes, but cannot see past the end goal, and employee dissatisfaction as a result of two aforementioned reasons. It’s a difficult job being in HR as you can often feel like the middle person; this is where resilience can really shine through.

“HR don’t HR, HR very well”, is a way someone put it to me recently and I couldn’t agree more, we are brilliant at advising best practice approaches; are passionate about what the profession stands for, and yet when it comes down to dealing with ourselves, we are notoriously bad at practicing what we preach. Do as I say, not as I do!

@brightstarlisa tweeted “There’s huge irony that as managers, we know we need to focus on employees’ wellbeing and mental health more than ever, but yet we are being the worst role models by ignoring our own”.

In my mind, this is where we need some reflective practice and to invest in our CPD. Recently I realised just how important this is to be a truly effective HR practitioner.

Looking back on my various years of HR and there are some times that have really helped me become more resilient such as the time I supported in the wind up of Woolworths, the occasions I was made redundant, when managers didn’t see the value in the HR department, when a potentially great idea (or 20) were dismissed as not being the right fit/time for the business. The list goes on, and it’s only when we take stock of these experiences that we begin to appreciate them and look at them with a positive rather than as the times we felt like throwing in the towel.

Taking time to acknowledge the true purpose of our profession enables us to do exactly what our functions are designed to do; support our people and drive the business forward; embrace the challenges we are presented with, and treat them as continued learning.

HR Hour happens every Thursday at 20:00pm GMT over on Twitter, I hope to see you there next week!





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