What CEOs are looking for in HR leaders

by Human Capital30 Apr 2014
Recent surveys have shown organisations are experiencing increasing anxiety over gaps in their leadership pipelines, but what exactly are those at the top looking for in leaders? Three CEOs share the attributes they believe are key for good leadership.

Kristie Buchanan, CEO, RedBalloon

Be human: Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. People appreciate knowing that you experience the same doubts and challenges as they do. Your direct reports (and indeed the rest of the organisation) will have greater respect for you and more trust in your direction if you show them you are real.

Promote a culture of enquiry: Encourage everyone in the business to look for new insights, test assumptions and undertake rigorous analysis. Search for the lessons in any key initiatives, regardless of whether the outcomes are successful or unsuccessful. The collective learning of the organisation can keep it progressing with a sharper axe.

Make recognition a priority: I am a big believer in ‘what gets recognised gets repeated’. Recognition is a powerful tool for two reasons; firstly, it drives productivity by reinforcing positive behaviours and, secondly, it plays a key role in making someone feel valued. If we don’t feel valued in any relationship, we rarely operate at our best.

Listen: Try to listen more than you speak. People will not always say something to you directly – sometimes the key is in what they are not saying. And if you’re not listening, you’ll miss the hints.

Corrie McLeod, managing director, Espresso Communications

Tell it straight/ask it straight: Whether you are an employee or the MD, not knowing where you stand can be incredibly draining and unproductive. This means that communication needs to be open and clear, and it has to be two-way. Issues need to be addressed as they arise.

Have vision: Having a medium- and long-term vision is incredibly important. To attract and retain good people, it is really important to communicate this vision to the people around. They need to know how the company is growing and changing, and how they fit into the bigger picture.

Kate Burleigh, managing director, Intel Australia

Promote others: Great leaders look to promote others around them – nurturing and promoting talent is a key part of the leader’s role. I feel that good leaders shouldn’t just aspire to have people following them but rather work towards having people run alongside them and ideally even run out in front. 

Create an environment of trust in which people feel they can disagree with you without negative repercussions: Creating an environment in which people can disagree with you is hard, as people need to be confident that there will be no negative repercussions should they disagree. At present I am actively encouraging constructive conflict and counter opinions in meetings with my staff, and making sure I am positively reinforcing the merit of people stepping forward with counter views and new cuts of data that I may not have considered. 

Be self-aware: Great leaders need to be self-aware, market aware, customer aware, staff aware… You name it; you need to be always on, always alert and always aware of what’s taking place in the environment. You don’t have to work in the IT industry to know that technology should be the friend of the leader because it allows us to pulse sentiment and react more quickly than at any other time in history. Flipping the lid on that, others can also make a call on you or your company at the flick of a switch. So self-awareness is absolutely critical. You simply can’t underestimate the micro and macro signals you send every day as a leader. If you’re being effective as a leader, it means that others are watching you and looking for signals from you, so be aware of this and make sure you’re sending the signals you intend.

This article was originally published in the March Edition of HRD Magazine. To read more from the magazine click here.


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