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Article No.: 18-12, December 1, 2018

Article Title: Challenges in HR Leadership in 2019

Author: Linda Gravett, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, CEQC

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In order to successfully navigate the complex role of HR leadership in 2019 and beyond, I believe that we must develop new ways of thinking and responding to workplace challenges.  This articleDr. Linda Gravett photo will offer some suggestions for ways to be a leader in balance, balancing between collaboration and authority to achieve results.
I believe that leaders are built from the inside out.  How we think, our world view, and our perspectives towards the world around us guide our leadership behaviors.  If you haven’t taken time recently to reflect on your world view and how you want that to shape your approach towards leadership, I encourage you to take that time…soon.  One of my favorite quotes along these lines is from educator, John Dewey:

            “We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.”

My challenge is for you to expand your sources of knowledge and people who influence you.  Read widely…talk with leaders at all levels and get to know how they think.  Ask questions constantly, from people with all levels of experience.
In the world of HR leadership, we’re faced daily with a push-pull from our organization in many aspects of our work.  Questions arise daily about how we should make decisions.  Do we recruit associates who identify with the company Mission, or do we focus on skills that bring in the revenue?  Should we encourage our staff to stay the course with tried and true methods, or should we try to change processes and approaches frequently?  Do we encourage team collaboration or individual effort?  Should we tell people what steps to take, based on our experience, or do we let them learn by trial and error?  These may seem to be paradoxical in nature, as though we must choose one approach over the other.  However, I believe each day we must find balance between these (seeming) paradoxes.  This balance isn’t 50 – 50 for each decision.  The decisions we make are situational; for example, aren’t there times when we’re trying to follow the law and only one decision is appropriate?  Conversely, handling employee relations issues across the organization doesn’t demand a cookie cutter approach.
In my interviews with 50 CEO’s of Fortune 100 and 500 companies during the course of the last five years, I found a pattern in responses about what they expect from their HR leaders today:

  • The ability to articulate and execute the company’s Vision
  • Emotional Intelligence 
  • Calm in the face of internal or external adversity 
  • Absolute, unwavering integrity 
  • Humility

As you’re developing your leadership thinking, this is a great starting point!
I’ve found that leaders in balance approach leadership as a relationship.  A leader in balance embodies the company’s brand promise.  A leader in balance spreads authority and responsibility.  A leader in balance is comfortable with diverse perspective and talents.

You have an opportunity in this challenging and complex world of HR leadership to serve as a strong guide and beacon for collaboration.  May the force be with you in 2019!

If you have any questions or need more information about this article, please contact Dr. Gravett by email at

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