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What makes an effective HR leader?

The next generation will push the boundaries of leadership as we plan for more agile and flexible leadership, suggests The HR Lounge CEO, Angela O Connor.

Angela shares her thoughts on leadership and how HR can evolve in the challenging times ahead in Part Two of a recent interview with Public Service Review.  

Q: What makes a good leader?

A: The best leaders I have worked for had a few things in common: 

  • They made decisions – rightly or wrongly, they got on and made them;
  • They took risks and trusted their instincts:
  • They stood between their staff and a bullet when necessary;
  • They did not tolerate sloppiness or laziness but they forgave mistakes when people were pushing the boundaries;
  • They had integrity and were honest about themselves as well as others;
  • They had a sense of humour, and working hard and having a life was part of their vision.

They came in all shapes, sizes, and personalities. Some introvert, some extrovert; some male, some female; different ages, background and experiences – they all inspired me to try harder to make a difference and I am grateful to them all.

Q: In your opinion how important is good leadership to progress?
A: You can't do without it – a bad leader will destroy people and organisations, and I have left a number of places where I did not have faith in the leadership. There is always a time when it's better to get your coat and move on than work for people that you don't respect.

Q: Is there a difference between leadership patterns from the past and now?
A: There is less emphasis on command and control. People want to understand why they are asked to do things, they want more autonomy and more control over their own work environment; they are less used to just obeying orders without question, and that's a great thing. The next generations will push the boundaries even more and we need to be ready and planning for more flexible and agile types of leadership, particularly where we are working in remote technology enabled organisations.

Q: How can HR stand up in the current climate and evolve with the times?
A: Start with the focus on 'Why': why do we exist as an organisation? Who are we here to serve? HR needs to get away from getting obsessed with the 'How', such as how many policies do we have and how complicated can we make things.

HR leaders also need a lot of backbone and integrity, and need to be courageous enough to speak out when things are not going right. Whether it's in a hospital or a bank, I expect HR to be constantly striving for excellence in all areas and ensuring the integrity of the organisation through its people.

Q: In what way can the next generation of leaders make a difference?
A: There are a few key areas that will be really important:

  • Creating a culture of collaboration, moving from rewarding individual success to concentrating on what teams and whole organisations can achieve:
  • Driving and sustaining real accountability at all levels – they need to own the problems they must solve and put their hands up for failures;
  • Finally, by being human, they need to reward emotional intelligence, people management and self-awareness; if they can crack these areas they will do really well. 


You can read Part One of the interview here. 




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