Top-tier HR leadership talent is in relatively short supply.

Top Characteristics of a Successful HR Leader

Within the human resources arena, top-tier talent is in relatively short supply. Organizations need innovative, resourceful leadership to guide top-down HR initiatives, such as improved applicant tracking and onboarding, leadership training, regulatory compliance and talent acquisition. For those looking to hire strong leadership, here is a guide to some of the qualities and habits found in the most successful HR managers:

“Organizations need innovative, resourceful leadership.”


The level of experience required depends largely upon the number and types of employees and the organizational structure. It is rare for an inexperienced HR manager to successfully grow into the job, so finding an HR leader with the requisite experience is key. Furthermore, experience should be relevant to your industry and its unique staffing challenges and best practices. This will help them identify strong candidates for hire and promotion as well as foster the skills needed for your enterprise to succeed. Keep in mind as well that a diversity of experience may also mean a broader skillset and a fresh perspective. Look at a HR leader candidate’s credentials and make sure that the breadth and depth of his or her experience is relevant to your business.


Caring about people and their experiences is an essential quality of top-tier HR leadership. The HR manager is positioned as the advocate for workers facing personal and workplace challenges, and he or she must occasionally intervene in potentially contentious and emotionally charged disputes between employees or between an employee and management. This means an HR leader needs to be able to exhibit a high degree of emotional intelligence, sensitivity and responsiveness to situations with a strong personal element. This includes listening and acknowledging the feelings of all involved parties. It also requires a counselor’s skill in guiding people to their own solutions. “You may indeed be able to solve the problem at hand, but the voice they need to hear is their own,” explained John Schierer , a senior Human Resources Consultant with over 25 years’ experience. “If they solve their own problem, it is not only likely to be an enduring solution, but it builds their confidence and self-esteem. If you solve it for them, they now have a crutch—and an easy person to blame if the solution does not work.”


Being sensitive to the feelings of others doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing with or even being sympathetic to negative expressions or bad attitudes. If an employee is clearly in the wrong, the HR manager must honestly assess the situation and advise the employee accordingly. Likewise, if the HR leader doesn’t have time in a moment to fully address the issue, they have an obligation to be honest with the employee about their limitations, as well as their commitment to a resolution. “Be straightforward and say, ‘Your situation deserves my full and undivided attention. Let’s pick a time when I can give you the time you need,'” wrote Schierer. “You will be surprised at the positive reaction you get from such a practice.”


To be effective, the HR leader must enjoy the confidence of everyone in the organization in his or her strict observance of confidentiality and personal integrity. Neither management nor workforce will confide in the HR manager who does not inspire trust. Discretion when it comes to information told in confidence must guide the HR professional in his or her divulgence of that information, and restrict access to that information to those persons with an absolute need to know. Messages about behavior that needs to be modified must be delivered clearly and with conviction for the messages to stick. At the same time, HR leaders must recognize that there are “gray areas” when it comes to complex issues like discrimination or harassment. Some circumstances may expose the leader’s personal inability to impartially handle the situation, requiring the use of outside counsel like attorneys and mental health professionals to intervene. Recognizing when one is out of one’s depth and deferring to a more qualified professional is a strong sign of integrity and humility, as well as respect for the gravity of the situation. When it comes to hiring, organizing employee structure, or leadership training, finding the best person for the job is key to the success of your enterprise. For additional insight, contact HRNext today.  

free ebook improve hr through technology

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply