Article: What makes a great future HR leader?


What makes a great future HR leader?

A successful future HR leader is one who has ears on the ground while having a good view of the bigger business objectives
What makes a great future HR leader?

A true HR leader demonstrates earnest beliefs in people and resources and it should reflect every time an HR professional talks with people within or outside the organisation


An HR leader should not only believe in the business and its values but also the need to have the strength in character to be an advocate of people and their beliefs


For far too long, the need for a structured learning process for HR competencies has been ignored. Most of HR’s knowledge and competencies were built through trial and experience, often by accident or chance. It was not uncommon for an organization to employ people from roles, which either got redundant or had stalled career paths, in HR. Consequently, many HR professionals had moved to the role from radically different posts like the executive assistant to the MD or a person back from maternity leave etc. In the past 10 years, organizations have realized the criticality of human capital maximization for future business outcomes and hence the outlook towards the HR profession has changed. The discipline will continue to remain in a state of flux and evolution.

In its quest to define the changing parameters for today’s HR professionals, People Matters had launched its flagship special initiative, Are You In the List?, last year. The ‘Are you in the List’ awards aim to identify HR professionals who demonstrate competent abilities through their thoughts and actions. HR leaders from some of the largest business corporations in India were invited to participate in a series of roundtables conducted in three cities – New Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru – across a span of two months. The aim of these roundtables was to discuss and deliberate on what traits and characters are most required by future leaders in India to be successful. The panels were chosen across a spectrum of industries and organizational sizes to maintain balance and make the assessment process fair and robust.

The discussions were chaired by People Matters and assessment partner DDI International. What emerged from the roundtables were a comprehensive set of competencies on which the candidates applying for the awards will be adjudged against. The Are You In The List? jury will be on the lookout for the traits mentioned below and will assess the applicants through several lenses to adjudge their personality and competencies.

Here are some pointers on critical competencies future HR leaders in India will have to develop:

1. A balancer of business and people needs

An HR professional’s job this year will not be different from any other business leader, and therefore s/he would require the acumen to think of human resources as a capital investment. In the previous year, companies were singularly focused on growth and profitability, thereby triggering the HR leader’s competency as a champion of work efficiency and identification of star talent. The present slowdown in the economy has compelled an HR professional to think in terms of how to balance profitability with people needs.

2. Custodian of culture

Culture is the foundation on which the human resource of the company operates and a strong HR leader sees through the effective management of organizational culture. A passionate leader will be always on the lookout to strengthen the points of weakness in organisation culture across the employee lifecycle, starting from hiring to exit.

3. Seller of ideas

While many speak about the HR leader thinking like a business leader, it is the HR leader’s passion for people that should determine which initiatives to pursue and sell. An HR leader should think along the lines of how people initiatives translate into business outcomes and sell them effectively.

4. Personal orientation to leadership/coaching

The business expects the HR leader to stop being an order-taker and start leading the organization on the several hard and soft aspects of people, including leadership and coaching. The future HR leader needs to possess the skills to become proactive about developing leaders in the company and ensuring that the organization is always prepared for a succession plan. For this, a good HR leader thinks and approaches everyday issues significantly differently from an average HR professional.

5. Champion of values

While mostly overlooked, it is an HR leader’s primary role to drive the values that the business operates on among the people. This means that the HR leader truly believes in the values of the business and lives them at every step.

6. Strong beliefs

Belief drives actions and it holds true for an HR leader as well. This is a personality attribute of an HR leader and this helps him/her become a driver of actions and initiatives. A true HR leader demonstrates earnest beliefs in people and resources and it should reflect every time an HR professional talks with people within or outside the organization.

7. Witty head

Intellectual capacity to change your focus depending on the current needs and requirements of the environment and the business.

8. Inspiring

An HR leader needs to demonstrate qualities that inspire colleagues to believe in people aspects that create the cultural fabric of the organization. Too often, in the absence of an influential and inspiring HR leader, the organization loses track of the larger picture of the values, objectives, and goals of the business and operates with short-term horizons in mind.

9. Consulting skills

In the future, most HR activities will be a responsibility of line management of a function and a team, while the HR professional’s role will migrate to that of a consultant. A future HR leader, therefore, should have the competency to consult the line management on how to manage the people aspects of the business.

10. Building customer value

Building customer value through people will be a complex and challenging target for all HR leaders of the future and HR professionals who demonstrate this capability currently will greatly increase their chances of succeeding as a leader in the future. This will also be one of the defining indicators of business acumen and strategic thinking capabilities in an HR leader that many talk about. The ability to build customer value through people initiatives within the company will become a necessary condition for a professional to become a leader in the future enterprise.

11. Advocacy and relationships

An HR leader should not only believe in the business and its values but also the need to have the strength in character to be an advocate of people and their beliefs. This means that the future HR leader needs great relationship building skills to understand the voice of the people within the enterprise and translate them into positive business and people outcomes.

In conclusion, future HR leaders will need to develop these competencies in order to keep up with the changing economy and to be agile enough to react to the ever evolving workforce. HR leaders need to go beyond knowing the business requirements and at the same time not forget their core responsibility towards the core element of any organization, the people.

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Topics: Leadership, #AreyouintheList?, #Excellence, #HRInsights

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