What CEOs are looking for in HR leaders

No one said leadership is easy. Getting to the big office requires a special mix of talent, ability and drive. Three CEOs share the attributes they think are required for a good leader with HRM.

Recent surveys have shown organizations 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

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.

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. 

HRD will bring readers opinions from Canadian CEOs on this topic in the May edition.

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