The role of HR in leadership

Josje Hoek

How can HR help ensure harmonious leadership within an organisation?  

HR’s role in leadership

Organisational vs Individual leadership

Leadership facilitates high performance, by enabling individuals to perform well within a defined playing field.

Additionally, leadership can be further defined as organisational leadership (providing direction for the organisation as a whole) and personal leadership (providing direction to the employees through proper guidance and counselling).

The ideal HR manager

Good leadership

What we’ve learnt from our research is that good leadership entails several different aspects. On the one hand good leadership differs and is adaptable. There is no one leadership style that fits all and varying leadership styles are required to handle different people and situations. The best leaders are able to recognise which style is needed and when.

On the other hand, good leadership is about creating inclusive environments. When people are good leaders they make you feel like you fit in. A good example of this was explained to me in a conversation I had in an interview with a potential candidate. After some time we began discussing why he left his previous position and he stated to me that he hated the hands on leadership style that was in his team. Clearly a talent in his field, it became increasingly clear to me that he only left because the leadership style made him feel like an outsider.

Supporting research

Our latest European research also supports the notion that there is a link between feeling included (fitting in) and leadership. Using correlation analysis, we were able to uncover which employee survey statements have the biggest influence on leadership. The two statements with the most significant influence are:

  1. I feel that I fit in at my organisation
  2. I am proud of my organisation

The first employee statement clearly supports the notion of a link between leadership and inclusivity. I would also argue that the second statement compliments the first, as when employees feel that they fit in at an organisation they are more likely to be proud of it. To put it in another perspective, employees that don’t fit it at an organisation are highly unlikely to feel a sense of pride working for it.     

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The role of HR

Our experience shows us that good leadership begins with HR. As a department, they have a key role to play in helping the organisation to avoid situation where leadership styles are alienating employees and are counterproductive.

To help achieve this, the following three points are helpful for HR to consider:

  • The different leadership styles within an organisation and how these styles fit into and compliment the organisation’s overall leadership. Keeping track of the synergy between the overall leadership style and individual styles is vital to ensure harmony.
  • How each leadership style compliments and matches the organisation’s culture. It’s important to also look at the bigger picture and think about what leadership styles are needed to create the culture you either want to maintain, or create.
  • Which leadership style that each team requires. Every leadership style differs and it’s essential to avoid a situation where the leadership style alienates and divides a team.