Are you an HR leader or an HR Manager?

HR Leader vs Boss

Photo via Olivier Carré-Delisle, Flickr

Elizabeth Dukes, author of Wide Open Workspace, and cofounder of software provider and consultancy iOffice addresses that question in “10 Things HR Managers Must Do to Rise as Leaders,” at

Leadership is a skill that can only be gained in the field, not through school, she asserts.

“While the top leaders’ instincts are much of what helped them rise to the top, many of their most valuable tools are learned skills,” she writes. 

If you’re an HR leader, you do these 10 things daily, according to Dukes. If you want to advance to top HR leadership, learn to do them:

  1. Connect with your people—Get to know them as individuals with their own strengths and weaknesses. A mere manager sees them as numbers and titles.
  2. Keep your eyes on the prize—Focus on long-term goals, and create short-term goals that work toward big-picture objectives. Don’t get caught up in the daily grind.
  3. Lead by example—Practice what you preach. You’ll earn respect and others will follow.
  4. Never stop teaching—Be a continuous learner and share your learnings. This leads to worker satisfaction—and more valuable employees.
  5. Reward others’ successes—Look for and reward great work. You’re more likely to retain your top performers, and their success is your success.
  6. Accept responsibility—It’s the other side of the coin. The team’s failure is your failure. Blame others and you’ll lose respect and trust. Hold yourself accountable and your team will work even harder toward your common goals.
  7. Foster two-way communications—Set clear expectations, share all information with your team and ensure that workers feel free to be open and honest with you.
  8. Make informed but quick decisions—Keep momentum going, shift gears as needed, and give workers the tools they need to make decisions independently—including your support when they make mistakes.
  9. Never stop asking questions—Top leaders seek others’ counsel to ensure better decisions and continued learning.
  10. Enjoy your work—Your job as a leader is to serve the needs of others—employees, customers, bosses, your community–which requires loving what you do.

Dukes quotes Steve Jobs:

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

Bill Murphy Jr., Inc. columnist, founder of Nonfiction Partners, and former Washington Post reporter, shares top leadership lessons learned from serving in and reporting on the United States Army in “23 Things Great Leaders Always Do” and “7 Things Great Leaders Always Do (But Mere Managers Always Fear).”

He names several of the same practices Dukes does, but also:

  • Identify clear, worthy objectives employees can articulate.
  • Gather intelligence about your market and your competition.
  • Work backward from your goal and identify the steps to reach it successfully.
  • Check progress regularly and adapt your plan as needed.
  • Take time off to rejuvenate so your staff will do so too.

Dukes made this point, as well, but it bears repeating:

“A real leader is thrilled when team members achieve great things. A mere manager is threatened.”

As Dukes’ post concludes:

“True success … comes from increasing your company’s value while maximizing ROI. A true leader lifts up those around them, bringing out each colleagues’ strengths and talents to paint the bigger picture. While many are natural-born leaders, anyone can rise to the leading position with the right drive and commanding skills in their repertoire.”

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