Rising star: Leanne Harris

 What is your current role?

I am head of HR for the Phones International Group.

What qualifications do you hold?

I have a BA (Hons) in business with HR management and a postgraduate diploma in personnel management. I am also MCIPD qualified.

Why did you get into HR?

I had an A-level teacher who used to be a personnel manager, and when she told me about it, I knew it was for me. The minute I started work I realised that this was where my career needed to go. It was instinctive.

How did you get into HR?

I managed a trainee scheme for Travel Automation Services (TAS) – part of British Airways – and was situated in the HR office. I was studying for my degree part time and based my assignments on the activities of the HR department. The company was then taken over by Galileo International and I moved into a training role with them as a result. The rest, as they say, is history.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

I see myself in a role where I continue to add business value through structured HR activity and aligning HR strategy to the business. There is so much that HR can do to help the business to be successful, and I want to carry on as an ambassador of that.

What has been your biggest career high so far?

Being appointed as head of HR for the Phones International Group at the age of 27. It means I’ll be able to create and drive the strategy in support of the business goals and be a direct part of that success.

What do you think it takes to succeed in HR?

Business savvy, passion, foresight and intuition. Gone are the days when HR could justify its existence just by doing policies, disciplinaries and grievances. We now have to be business partners and be knowledgeable about how and what is needed to drive the business forward.
How do you manage relationships with senior executives?

By building the relationship with them, showing them that you are there to support them, to help them be successful, and delivering on your promises. You need to get to know their role, their challenges and their teams. Then the suggestions you make regarding improvement really make a difference. When they see results, they trust you to deliver again.

Who is your biggest professional inspiration?

Ruth Marsden – my manager at Galileo. She was the best manager I ever had. She developed me and gave me the ability to be as successful as I am today.

What are today’s big challenges for HR professionals?

Proving our value to the board. It is so difficult to show a return on investment for HR activity. We have to constantly remind management of our achievements to get recognition for our contributions. Another challenge is moving away from the traditional ‘personnel operations’ to become a ‘business-focused partner’. Everything we do should add value to the business. If it doesn’t, then we shouldn’t
be doing it.

What advice would you give to graduates considering a career in HR?

HR professionals have to prove their worth and be prepared to take responsibility for ensuring that management sees this. It’s a hard job and HR can be a thankless task. Graduates need to be ready for that. However, when it all goes well, it makes the hard work worthwhile.

Describe yourself in three words

A passionate, playful Tasmanian devil.


2005 – present
Head of HR, Phones International Group

2003 – 2005
HR manager, Maritz Europa

2000 – 2003
HR officer, EMEA, Galileo International, Langley

Senior HR co-ordinator, EMEA, Galileo International

Trainee co-ordinator, global training and development, Galileo International

1999 – 2000
Management trainee programme co-ordinator, TAS/British Airways

1997 – 1999
Management trainee, TAS/British Airways

About your top job…
Have you just landed a fantastic new job? E-mail georgina.fuller@rbi.co.uk with all the details.

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