“Great leaders don’t see themselves as great; they see themselves as human.” – Simon Sinek
I recently read an article on the topic, “The New Kind of HR Leader CEOs Want” and I immediately thought that we should flip that question the other way around. Why? Because I don’t think it’s as challenging to find the ideal HR Leader compared to finding the ideal CEO. Before you start rolling your eyes, give me a chance to explain.
In all my 20+ years working for and partnering with a variety of CEOs and Business Owners, it has been my experience and belief that everything starts from the top. I have seen it time and time again when, as the HR Leader, I would work together with the CEO to implement an initiative, believing we are on the same page and are aligned, and then watch the individual behave in a conflicting manner. It’s not all of the Senior Leaders I have worked with but definitely the majority.
So while our roles as HR Leaders is to work together with the CEO to create the best workplace experience, as much as the HR Leader can be and is influential, the team will always be watching the CEO’s every move. That’s just the way it is.
Keeping that fact in mind, I thought to share a list of what we – anyone in a role that influences people and culture strategies – are both looking for and not looking for in an ideal CEO.
1. CEOs who are looking for a transactional or task oriented HR Leader. While we do many tasks, to only require an HR Leader to do the administrative duties like benefits, HRIS, payroll, hiring and firing, is not enough. CEOs who believe the HR function is merely an administrative one do not understand what our role is and how we can support their business strategy.
2. CEOs who cannot let go. We have all heard of the Founder’s syndrome. CEOs, Founders, and Business Owners who are afraid to let go and empower their teams and Leaders will always be controlling. Trust doesn’t exist in a controlling mindset. Without trust, there is no partnership.
3. CEOs who have a fixed mindset. When a CEO feels they are the smartest person in the room, that’s very dangerous and limiting. The other Leaders and potential Leaders will end up holding back their true and authentic selves. Creativity and innovation will be stifled and these CEOs will not have the ability to create psychological safety.
4. CEOs who are authoritative. The command and control way of leading will not work in today’s workplace. People no longer respond to being told what to do and prefer having a voice. CEOs who take over meetings and conversations, who are always directing versus listening, and wanting it their way or the highway, will only attract individuals who can thrive in that type of environment, which in these days, is a slim minority.
5. CEOs who are too serious. Working hard is good but keeping it light and fun is also what people are looking for in a Leader. If the CEO is the first one in and the last one out, it creates a culture that it’s all work and no play. Teams want to be inspired and come to a place where they can contribute, learn and grow, and feed off positive energy.
1. CEOs who are already a Culture Leader. To these CEOs, HR is not an afterthought or a nice-to-have. Instead, HR is top of mind from the start and people and culture are the #1 priority. They also understand how HR Leaders can be a strategic partner and their go-to person when developing an effective business strategy.
2. CEOs who are looking to partner and grow other Culture Leaders. They realize that HR is everyone’s responsibility and want the entire leadership team to make people their focus. They understand that by growing other leaders who are integrating a people and culture strategy with their business objectives, the bottom line results will naturally be achieved. In a recent Harvard Business Review article by Rebecca Newton on HR Can’t Change Company Culture by Itself, she wrote, “It is really only successful and powerful when business leaders see it as their responsibility, and see HR as a resource for helping them achieve it.”
3. CEOs who have a growth mindset. These individuals are extremely self aware, curious and open to learning. They are confident enough to know they don’t always have the answers. Their leadership style is commonly described as empowering and inspiring. They are not afraid to admit when they are wrong and they would rather fail than not try. They are also great listeners, generally the last person to speak, and they create the space for others to shine.
4. CEOs who ask for help. These CEOs believe asking for help makes them stronger. They believe that surrounding themselves with a diverse group of individuals will build a more effective and enriching team experience. They truly believe that vulnerability is a strength and is the key to creating meaningful human connections.
5. CEOs who are compassionate. This type of CEO looks beyond the role and responsibilities and genuinely cares for the human being. They are empathetic and caring, and lead with love. These CEOs have a collaborative mindset and are always inclusive and welcoming. They also inspire you to be better everyday and to lead and live on purpose.
Which of these challenging and appealing qualities do you embody the most?
There’s always room to grow and become the ideal CEO that HR Leaders are looking for. Here are 3 simple ways to get started:
1. Learn more about yourself. The more self aware you are, the better. Knowing what your strengths are and what traits may be holding you back, is the first step to becoming the ideal Leader you want to be. To get you started, complete this Leadership Profile.
2. Find another CEO mentor. Being open to learning from another CEO creates opportunities for new growth and development. It also gives you a chance to strengthen your growth mindset and vulnerability.
3. Start listening and partnering with other Culture Leaders. Find others in your organization who are passionate about elevating the life experience at your workplace. Leverage these culture champions and work together to make people and culture a business strategy.
Which one of the above three ways will you start with today?
Share in the comments below and connect with me today!