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Home > News > What makes a great HR leader?

May 28, 2024

What makes a great HR leader?

Balancing the demands of daily working life is undeniably challenging but the skill in being able to do so is a measure of any successful leader. And nowhere are there greater, nor more complicated, demands in a company than in the Human Resources department.

The HR department is often the central hub of a business, its driving force. A great HR leader will have a good working knowledge of all departments in a company, and, through successful strategies and effective communication, they will be able to ensure a business will run smoothly and effectively.

Here are some of the qualities which make a great HR leader:

People matter

A company is only as good as its staff and to retain and develop employees, it must understand how to keep them happy; a good HR leader will be key to this. They need to be emotionally intelligent, a good communicator and have the ability to empathise with every member of staff from the company’s long-serving Chief Executive to its newest recruit.
Every employee deserves attention, support and compassion and even if there are 100 things to do a day, a great HR leader will find the time to listen and help to find a solution.

There will, however, be times when employees may ask for the impossible or the unreasonable and this is where a good HR leader proves their worth. They understand how to balance conflicting demands and walk the line of supporting colleagues whilst upholding company policies to ensure fairness to everyone.

Great HR leaders will also be innovative, be adept at finding alternative solutions and skilled at encouraging the personal development of every member of staff. They should also be able to spot and attract new talent to ensure the future long-term success of the business.

Leading by example

An outstanding HR manager will lead not just by words but deeds. They will have a strong moral and ethical compass and demonstrate, on a daily basis, that they practise what they preach. Human Resources experts are also problem solvers and they will be able to make difficult and strong decisions despite the daily challenges.

Knowledge is power

An HR leader must know and understand the legal implications of everything affecting a business, from Health and Safety regulations through to salaries, equality, inclusion and diversity – and is responsible for ensuring all regulations are implemented. A sound knowledge of company rules and policies is also fundamental for success, however, there are often grey areas where discretion, common sense and good judgement are called into play. A great HR leader will have an inherent ability to employ these skills to achieve successful outcomes.

Learning never stops

It is vital for an HR leader to keep up to date with the ever-changing legal landscape which impacts all aspects of working life. They must ensure to know and understand changes to the law – ignorance is not a defence. A good HR leader will also understand their company’s business and have a good knowledge of industry trends so it can help to plan strategies as well as taking a holistic approach to the wellbeing of the company and its staff. Technology is another area which is forever moving on apace. However, an HR leader must keep at the cutting edge of programmes to ensure the maximum efficiency.

It’s not an easy role… but one which is so important and with so many rewards.

For more advice about HR roles, what you need to succeed as an HR leader, or assistance if you’re recruiting for HR roles within your business, get in touch with the Waddington Brown team on 01473 359159 or via