HR Executive’s “Traits Leaders Need” Needs More

Josh Bersin is an excellent columnist for HR Executive, and the publication’s recent article, 8 Traits HR Leaders Need to Succeed Today, is worth reading, not just for HR leadership positions but all leadership positions in all companies. Bersin met with a dozen industry leaders to discuss HR business partnership, and the article summarizes their consensus as to which competencies are crucial for HR leaders and their companies to stay agile.

Bersin’s 8 traits are actually 10 (he combined a couple): intellectual curiosity and empathy, problem solving, risk taking and courage, digital acumen, business-language knowledge, networking skills, change-management skills, and discretion.

I’d like to add 3 leadership traits, based on the close to 30,000 executive assessments conducted by two hiring consultancies – Topgrading and ghSMART.

Resourcefulness. This is the “uber-competency.” Resourcefulness means figuring out how to get over, around, and through barriers to success.  Resourcefulness is a combo trait that includes crisp decision making, persistence, creative thinking, energy, drive, and taking initiative. When we assess candidates and conclude they are A Players, our reports consistently include high ratings on resourcefulness. “Good” performers are only “so-so” on resourcefulness.

Achieves Excellence. This means consistently performing at the A Player level — setting high performance accountabilities and achieving them. In 2020, A Player HR performance might include furloughing 20% of the workforce while maintaining productivity. Or it might include exceptionally high retention of remote employees as a result of launching innovative apps for building morale and loyalty. Or, excellence might include achieving exceptionally high quality of hire.

Builds and Leads a Strong Team. A leader, no matter how great, is only as effective as their team. In order to truly succeed, grow, and stay agile, the leader needs a team of top talent. HR typically sets goals for hiring effectiveness: speed to hire, cost to hire, and candidate experience. The 2020 Conference Report Survey of global CEOs showed their #1 concern (prior to the pandemic) to be talent, and our surveys of CEOs clarify that concern: “too few high performers hired.” Despite its importance, quality of hire is commonly measured against a low standard – a “good hire” is someone not fired for cause. Companies who set the bar higher and implement practices to achieve excellent quality of hire reap the benefits through their revenue and profit growth, and their high performing culture.

Bersin would likely agree that for HR managers to perform at an Excellent level, a lot more than 13 characteristics must be demonstrated at a high level. But as a start, these 13 perhaps qualify as key competencies for HR and other leadership positions.

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