I spend a lot of time talking about what makes HR professionals fail, but I have strong opinions on the key attributes that make human resources leaders successful.
Here are four.
Great HR leaders are dependable and reliable.
Everybody wants innovative and disruptive until you actually give them innovative and disruptive. Then they want steady and trustworthy. I say — don’t discount mature and competent leaders who talk about boring things like administration and compliance. Dependable and reliable HR professionals know the law, know the by-laws of a company, and usually do the right thing for shareholders and employees alike.
Successful HR leaders don’t grab the limelight.
I’m currently away at a conference with a few hundred executives who are responsible for the HR function in the restaurant industry. (This industry employs nearly 10% of all workers in America.) You’ve heard of Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffet, right? That’s great, but you don’t know the name of the man who runs a personnel and ops department for one of the largest fast food chains in America. That guy has a budget bigger than your company’s revenue. He is all about service, integrity, and achieving greater revenue and enhanced margins by elevating the work of others. If he grabs the stage, it’s to salute someone else.
The best human resources leaders don’t get too political.
I always tell aspiring HR professionals to watch the State of the Union and have a political opinion. However, working with leaders and employees means being politically savvy enough to know when to express an opinion and when to hold back. Great HR professionals don’t hold their colleagues hostage to a specific political point-of-view.
Exceptional HR leaders embrace diversity.
You can’t be a human resources leader if you have a chip on your shoulder or malice in your heart. You don’t have to like it. You don’t have to love it. You have to get on the bus. Otherwise, it’s leaving without you.
Being successful in HR isn’t all that difficult. I think great HR leaders embody balance in their personal and professional lives. Nobody likes the guy who takes himself too seriously, especially when he adds SCP or SPHR after his last name. Unless you’re a doctor, drop the fake credentials and stop pretending like what you’re doing is science.
Human Resources professionals do important work, but great leaders know that HR is less of a science and more of an art.
A messy, messy art.