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How To Become A Successful HR Leader: A Definitive Guide


It seems like it was a lifetime ago, but in mid-2019, the entire industry was buzzing about digitizing human resource practices. A few months later, HR leaders found themselves suddenly on the frontlines of a rapidly evolving (and highly virtualized) employee experience. This presented unexpected challenges in recognition, engagement, and retention.

2020 was a year that highlighted the importance of HR in motivating people and keeping them engaged, productive, and motivated. HR Leaders rose to the occasion, offering support, communication, and structural changes to help organizations navigate through the new normal. Fast forward to today, The HR leaders have a dominant seat at the table. They can influence how companies attract and develop talent, invest in company culture, and ensure employee happiness. The HR leaders of today have a significant impact on companies and their people. They act as strategic partners for everyone, from managers to C-levels to new hires.

HR professionals act as liaisons between employees and department heads, as well as CEOs. They are responsible for coordinating tasks between different departments and people. It's a tough job but often goes unnoticed and is even considered one of the most thankless jobs( after IT).

Many people choose to work in HR because they are motivated to help people. However, they soon realize that HR's true purpose is more. Many of these people would have been more successful as counselors or social workers since that is what they wanted to do - help people solve their problems but being a successful HR Leader takes more.

Importance of developing leadership skills In HR

Leadership skills and qualities are essential to excel in HR. Analytical skills can help develop employee benefits packages. Communication and conflict management skills are crucial in managing teams and dealing with workplace and employee problems. These skills can make everyone feel secure and taken care of at work. You want everyone to feel safe and secure when conflicts occur, which they are bound to.

To take your HR Career to the next level, you need to develop a variety of skills that not many people think about. Their unique personal qualities distinguish human resources leaders. They have some natural talents that can develop through focus and training but most of it is through careful planning.

Strategy is what makes the difference between a leader in human resources and a leader in HR.

Planning is long-term strategy. It's about taking a look at where you are now and visualizing what the future holds. It's important to keep an eye on the landscape and anticipate changes to stay ahead.


HR leaders must be bold and assertive to help organizations recognize the value of developing and hiring talent in forward-looking ways. Here are five practical leadership skills that contribute to success in the careers of HR Leaders:

1) Natural Leader

A great HR leader is more than just a people person. A great HR professional has the unique combination of technological know-how, compassion, legal knowledge, and business acumen. These traits allow an HR professional to make better decisions and influence key decision-makers in an organization.

Human resources leaders oversee the operation of their department and coordinate with other managers.

Leaders should be present emotionally, but they also have to enforce the policy. Therefore, it is crucial to be able to toggle between friendship, leadership, and management. Natural HR Leaders can identify the "Leadership Zone" so that they can choose to enter it when necessary. They put others' needs before their own. They use influencing techniques instead of managerial practices when they are in the leadership zone.

2) Embrace Data Analytics

People analytics are probably the most critical assets an HR team has. These insights can be used by HR to improve decision-making, productivity and streamline work processes. What can an HR Leader learn from mining data? All things, from professional development to absenteeism rates, productivity trends, and quality of hire. Top HR Leaders embrace data in today's highly competitive market to find the right talent and keep them motivated.

3) A Good Communicator

Reaching out to people and ensuring everyone can be their best selves is a quality of a True HR Leader. The leader must communicate effectively with employees and the management and encourage open communication within the company.

Good HR leaders openly communicate with their employees and the entire company. An HR leader must work effectively with all employees at all company levels, from employees at entry-level to CEOs and senior managers. This requires an ability to communicate effectively with all levels of employees and provide the guidance, support, and advice that they need.

4) Innovative and Technologically Agile

What does agile mean? It is essential to stay up-to-date with technological developments. An HR Leader that does not implement time-saving benefits is bound to be behind its fellow competitors.

Human Resources must embrace technological advances in internal communication, information sharing, and onboarding. HR tech provides a constant feedback loop between managers and team members crucial for employees' continued development. The organization's expectations are clarified by metrics-driven feedback, which improves people's trust.

It will be difficult for HR leaders to attract and retain the best and brightest if they stick with spreadsheets and avoid technological innovation.

Digital Transformation for that matter, has changed the life of an HR for good & when implemented correctly, organizations profited with a greater control over data helping them make quicker & more efficient decisions.

It also gives a simpler access to business intelligence insights and a further developed team commitment, engagement & satisfaction.

5) Ability to Navigate the Grey Areas

It is simple to follow a step-by-step policy. But, what happens when problems arise that are not easily solved by pre-determined policies and rules? Every day an HR Leader deals with issues that are simply up to their judgment. These must be done with poise.

Grey areas do not require canned solutions. They need innovative solutions. Many HR leaders will resort to the employee handbook when confronted with inevitable grey areas. Or they require compliance with company policy.

Each employee issue is unique, and every situation requires a unique solution that protects both the employee's interests and the company's.

Why should emotional intelligence be a concern for HR leaders?

EQ affects every aspect of human existence, enabling people to feel confident, resilient, motivated, and compassionate. HR leaders rely upon EQ to manage and collaborate with employees. Leaders, however, require EQ to instill engagement, motivation, and retention. Employees can thrive in a positive work environment by having a high EQ and allow employees to:

  • Form Healthy Relationships
  • Improve and grow
  • Communicate & Collaborate Efficiently.
  • Achieve Goals

Building Cultural Fluency: A Crucial Role For HR Leaders

Cultural fluency is a skill that allows managers to maximize the talents of people from different backgrounds, thereby enabling them to increase productivity, innovation, and overall financial performance.

Leaders sometimes sacrifice their cultural intelligence in the name of efficiency. They don't realize that the former is directly linked to the latter. While others understand the importance and know-how to develop it, they don't know where to start.

Implicit communication ceases to work when companies expand internationally. If the requirement of a budget breakdown is not requested, it wouldn't be generated. With more people in far-flung locations across different cultures collaborating, there is lesser focus on the subtle leading to misunderstanding and inefficiency.These insights will help you to build cultural fluency and better understand other cultures:

  • Observe First - React Later
  • Don't Over Evaluate your cultural expertise
  • Try Understanding Emotions Beyond Words
  • Do Not Assume

Do You Have What it Takes?

Having a successful career as an HR Leader requires consistent efforts & learning. HR credentials are beneficial both from career advancement and pay perspective as well.

An HR certification can positively impact an HR professional's career trajectory and compensation. Although certifications are most important in the early stages of an HR professional's career - this holds at all levels. For an excellent and established career in human resources or recruitment, you need to check out these certifications:

The benefits of HR certifications are quantifiable and clear. HR Certifications can impact HR professionals' pay and career advancement, including all job levels, geography, and industries. If you are an HR professional, consider getting an HR certification to kickstart your career in HR or give a boost to your career.