When people mention human resources, what do they think of?
People may traditionally picture HR professionals as denizens of a back-office department that purely focuses on the mundane tasks of every workplace: handling disputes, sorting out payroll, working through repetitive administrative projects, or making sure benefits are up to scratch.
And you may well be forgiven for thinking that once someone reaches the role of chief human resources officer (CHRO), they have finally stepped onto the last rung of the career ladder—with no further milestones to achieve and little influence in the C-suite.
In the modern business world, nothing could be further from the truth.
Today, CHROs play an integral role in the upper echelons of the business structure. In fact, a CHRO often serves as a key adviser to the CEO—a trusted right hand that will make presentations to the board and focus on leadership and strategy implementation. But when it comes to the aspirations of CHROs, the main question is—why stop there?
High-performing CEOs have more in common with high-performing CHROs than most other high-level members of the executive team. CHROs are regularly emerging as business leaders that can easily transition to the next level and even get to the very top.
But why exactly do CHROs make such great CEOs?
The key skills of successful CEOs
Being a successful CEO is no easy task. CEOs act as the face of the company to external and internal stakeholders. They interact with management and are often in the eye of the public. All in all, CEOs have the ultimate responsibility for leading the company and implementing a strong long-term strategy.
To understand why the transition from CHRO to CEO is an easier step than some may think, we have to look at the qualities of what makes a great CEO.
The CEO role demands flexibility and versatility. The business world is constantly changing and evolving. CEOs have to be ready to make difficult decisions at the right time and adapt their role to suit whatever is best for the company.
The ability to drive yourself and your team towards a common goal and instill a strong, honest high-growth company culture is a key attribute of any good CEO.
To get the best out of a business, you need to get the best out of your people. People led by a strong, respectable leader tend to work harder and have more passion for their work.
CEOs must have a clear and strong vision of where they want to steer their business. It’s almost impossible to achieve your vision if you can’t inspire others to buy into what you’re trying to achieve. That’s why it’s important for CEOs (and aspiring CEOs) to believe in their vision and have the ability to get others to believe in it, too.
Being able to listen to those around you is vital to running a business. A good CEO must allow themselves to rely on the sage advice of others and be open to criticism and change. As the saying goes: No man is an island.
Showing that you have good listening skills and a genuine interest in the concerns of those around you will make you a better leader, improve your understanding of your team, and allow you to make educated and informed business decisions.
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It’s a people thing
Modern businesses must be forward-thinking. To succeed and thrive in today’s evolving economy, they need someone at the helm who can efficiently navigate the many moving parts of the modern workplace.
Since the recent boom in hybrid and remote workforces, businesses have adopted a more people-led approach that focuses on creating agile, multi-national, and dispersed teams. This has been mixed with introducing progressive benefits that place a lot of value on health and wellbeing, schedule flexibility, and other mental health-driven practices.
Modern-day, talented working professionals place a lot of value on work-life balance. The people-first approach and culture of care and compassion progressive CHROs champion allow businesses to focus on recruiting and retaining top talent.
From CHRO to CEO—a career move that just makes sense
In the past, a background in marketing or finance was considered vital to becoming a CEO. But to succeed in the modern business world, you need to have a broader set of people-focused skills balanced with more technical skills—something that CHROs typically have in abundance.
CHROs are team developers who are well versed in both business and people strategy. They have the perfect combination of skills and experience needed to curate strong, people-first company cultures that put the welfare of their people at the heart of their business strategy and lay the foundation of successful, modern businesses. All we need now is for more CHROs to take the leap up to the helm of company leadership.