What Separates Great HR Leaders from the Rest

March 04, 2023

What Separates Great HR Leaders from the Rest

How to be a great HR leader in the new world of work in 2023

Great HR leaders are those who possess a unique combination of skills, knowledge, and traits that enable them to excel in their role.  Based on the latest research by Harvard Business School the 3 biggest challenges HR leaders faces includes:

Focusing internally rather than externally.

When comparing HR leaders to all other leaders in our database, they were rated significantly more negatively on their ability to understand the needs and concerns of customers. In many ways the function of HR is focused on internal problems, but the lack of understanding of the external environment often caused others to view some HR leaders as not in touch with the issues facing the organization. HR leaders were also rated more negatively on their ability to represent the organization to key groups.

Lacking strategic perspective.

In general, HR leaders were rated significantly less positively on their ability to have a clear perspective between the big picture strategy and the details. Many were viewed as so focused on the “day-to-day” work that they lost perspective on the longer term broader business issues. HR leaders often complain that they “want a seat at the table” to engage more fully with other executives, but without clear strategy and focus they will never have that seat.

Not anticipating and responding quickly to problems.

HR leaders were rated significantly more negatively on their ability to anticipate and respond quickly to problems. A number of items noted a general lack of speed and urgency to respond and react quickly.

Here are some key factors that separate great HR leaders from the rest. As an HR leader, you need a combination of soft skills and technical skills to excel in your role. Here are some key skills which Great HR Leaders needed.

Business acumen Skills

HR leaders must have a strong understanding of the business and its financials to make informed decisions and provide strategic HR guidance.

Strategic thinking: Great HR leaders have a deep understanding of their organization’s goals and vision and can align their HR strategies with these objectives.

Strong leadership skills: Great HR leaders must possess strong leadership skills, including the ability to inspire, motivate, and develop their HR teams

Interpersonal Skills for Leading changes

Strong communication skills: HR leaders must be able to communicate effectively with employees, managers, and executives. They must be able to articulate complex HR policies and procedures in a clear and concise manner.

Interpersonal skills: HR leaders need to build relationships with employees, managers, and other stakeholders. This includes being empathetic, diplomatic, and approachable.

Emotional intelligence: Great HR leaders possess high levels of emotional intelligence and empathy, which enables them to understand the needs and motivations of employees and respond to them effectively.

Leadership skills: HR leaders need to lead by example and inspire others to do their best work. This includes setting clear goals, providing feedback, and motivating employees.

Conflict resolution skills: HR leaders need to be able to manage conflicts between employees or between employees and management. This includes identifying the root cause of the conflict, listening to all parties involved, and finding a solution that works for everyone.

Flexibility and adaptability: HR leaders must be able to adapt to changing circumstances and new challenges. They must be able to pivot their HR strategies to meet the evolving needs of the organization and its employees.

Time management skills: HR leaders need to be able to manage their time effectively and prioritize their tasks. This includes setting deadlines, delegating tasks, and staying organized.

Technical Competency skills to ensure compliance:

Technological savvy: In today’s digital age, great HR leaders must be comfortable with technology and data analytics. They must be able to use HR technologies to streamline processes, automate tasks, and improve efficiency.

HR regulations and compliance: HR leaders need to have a solid understanding of the legal and regulatory requirements related to employment, such as anti-discrimination laws and labor laws.

Recruitment and selection: HR leaders need to know how to attract, screen, and select candidates for job openings. This includes creating job descriptions, conducting interviews, and negotiating job offers.

Training and development: HR leaders need to be able to design and deliver training programs that help employees improve their skills and knowledge.

Performance management: HR leaders need to be able to manage employee performance, including setting goals, providing feedback, and conducting performance evaluations.

Data analysis: HR leaders need to be able to analyze data related to employee performance, turnover rates, and other HR metrics. This includes using software tools to collect and analyze data and presenting findings to management.

Learning New Skills to Stay ahead 

HR leaders must learn new skills to stay relevant and effective in their role. The field of HR is constantly evolving, and HR leaders need to keep pace with the changing trends, technologies, and best practices to provide strategic guidance to their organization and drive positive change within it. Here are some reasons why HR leaders must learn new skills: HR Leaders can learn new skills in various ways, including:

Job shadowing: Job shadowing allows HR managers to observe and learn from colleagues who have expertise in areas where they want to develop their skills.

Professional development programs: Attending professional development programs, such as workshops, conferences, and seminars, can provide HR managers with opportunities to learn new skills and knowledge from experts in the field.

Earn a Postgraduate Qualification:  Upgrading your skills including IHRP (Singapore) Accredited courses such as Masters in Global HR Management, Graduate Diploma in Organizational Psychology or Graduate Diploma in Human Capital Management can significantly enhance their knowledge, network and credentials since they have the opportunity to learn from like minded professionals

Self-paced Online courses: Taking online courses can be a convenient way for HR managers to learn new skills and gain knowledge in specific areas of HR.

Mentoring and coaching: Seeking out a mentor or coach who has expertise in areas where the HR manager wants to develop can be an effective way to learn new skills and receive guidance and support.

Cross-functional projects: Participating in cross-functional projects can provide HR managers with opportunities to work with colleagues from other departments and learn new skills from them.

Self-directed learning: HR managers can also learn new skills through self-directed learning, such as reading books, articles, and blogs related to HR and taking online tutorials.

Overall, HR managers can learn new skills through a combination of formal and informal learning opportunities. It’s important for HR managers to take ownership of their own professional development and seek out opportunities to continuously learn and grow in their role.


Overall, great HR leaders possess a unique blend of skills, knowledge, and traits that enable them to excel in their role and drive positive change within their organization.

About Aventis Graduate School

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