Learn to lead the leaders

Taking a pop at the quality of HR directors is a favourite preoccupation for
many associated with the profession. It’s the simplest thing in the world to do
because HR has such as poor image, although it is improving.

But it becomes a more emotive issue when a former HR director, now chief
executive, has a go and is courageous enough to say what he really thinks (page

Colin Povey’s problems in recruiting a new HR director are all the more
surprising given that it is a board position that’s on offer. The company is
Carlsberg UK and, because of his background, he is clearer than most about the
impact good HR can have on the business. Anyone taking on that role with the
leading brewer would have a head start in working with a co-operative top team
keen to deliver change.

Most industry leaders haven’t a clue about the compelling evidence linking
effective people management with strategies to improve bottom line performance.
And senior HR executives must take some of the blame for the continued
ignorance and shallow view of people issues at the top.

Why is it that chief executives and chief finance officers still know less
about the thing they spend the most on?

The main fault lies with a succession of HR directors who have failed to
champion their cause by not demonstrating the value of strong HR in a language
the board understands and struggling to show how HR works in the organisation.

Pockets of outstanding leadership clearly do exist and more must be made of
their success but real change cannot be achieved with just a small pool of
dynamic HR directors.

Our coverage shows a lot of mixed views and possibly a split in the
profession about whether Povey’s criticisms are justified. But he is certainly
on the profession’s side and is a perfect advocate having climbed the ladder
from HR director to commercial director and then chief executive status.

Povey isn’t just moaning and sitting on the case. He is now on the speaker
circuit campaigning for HR directors to maximise their influence and he is
demanding "a bit more attitude". Povey believes HR directors should
be leading the culture change and by that he means knowing how to lead the

By Jane King, editor

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