The Road Less Travelled – Can HR Head Become CEO?

Read this awesome prelude by Patrick Mullarkey at his Mentoring blog  who is hosting the next HR carnival. Looking at his high spirits, I must say its going to be bigger and better this time. I read the cover story ” The CEO Path” published in the last month edition of the famous HR magazine called “People Matters“. I thought it would be an interesting & a good career advice for us. The story revolves around a survey conducted to know whether HR would be keen take up a business role in future. Surprisingly, out of the total 71 respondents, only half of them had a desire to aim for the Top Job.

What can be the reason for such a response?

Does the HR scared to take up the TOP role in an organization? OR 

Does the HR fully equipped to carry out the responsibility at such a senior level?

What knowledge (apart from people management) will help in the transition to the TOP Job?

The cover story had thoughts shared by eminent HR leaders and what attribute they think an HR person need to have so as to graduate to the top position. I present to you my summary of the thoughts that I liked on what it takes for a HR Head to become the Top Executive in an organization?

can hr become ceo

1. Ganesh Chella – Founder, Totus Consulting

  • HR should build on their knowledge of finance and must be focussed on execution
  • HR must get acquainted with the line function
  • Knowing the customer requirement, both internal as well as external
  • Should get exposure to Business Development
  • HR to work under business performance pressure (quarter-to-quarter review based)
  • Understanding how business makes money
  • Be a part of the active committees within the organization

2. John Hofmeister – former President Shell Oil & founder and CEO – Affordable Energy Consulting

  • Keep learning new skills
  • Get multi-functional experience
  • Learning how the business operates, margins and costs

3. Dr. Santrupt Misra – Director, Group HR – Aditya Birla Group & CEO – Black Carbon Business

  • Don’t shy away from reaching out to people for help
  • Get yourself a mentor or coach who knows all about the business
  • Get help and build on knowledge from friends and collegues who are part of the line function
  • Get yourself acquainted with the financial mambo-jambo
  • Get a 360 degree view of the business

4. Pratik Kumar – President – Wipro Infrastructure Engineering & EVP HR

  • Think beyond your role
  • Ask all your questions, no matter how trivial
  • Be humble and acknowledge the fact that you don’t know however have the willingness to learn

5. Pankaj Bansal – Co-founder & CEO People Strong

  • HR professionals must work in sales function
  • They should get out of their comfort zone
  • Should try to streamline transactional operations as it eats up most their time
  • Develop risk taking abilities

6. Rajeev Dubey – President (Group HR, Corporate Services, and Aftermarket) Mahindra & Mahindra

  • Do not get lost in the wonderland of HR
  • Always get connected to the strategic and transactional requiremnt of the business
  • Learn on adding value to business processes that can enhance innovation and productivity
  • Go out in the field, work on the shop floor and try to understand business

I am thankful for the valuable insights that were shared by people who themselves have risen to the top position. However, there are some inherent qualities which an HR professional already possess which helps in building a good leader for the TOP job. So…

What are the inherent strengths that an HR professional already bring to the table?

  • Gives an overview of the entire organization which is not function or role specific
  • Understanding the people side of the business
  • High emotional intelligence and strong people connect
  • Good in team working
  • Energise people passionately
  • Helping people succeed in a business environment

Do you aspire to take up a senior role in your organization?

Do you think your current knowledge and exposure will help you climb up the ladder? 

Is the HR BRAVE enough to take up this challenge?

  • Deep Maniar says:

    After reading at the guidance provided by HR veterans, getting into the Financial touch and having a 360 degree view point are the essentials for any HR.

  • Thomas says:

    Hi Amit,
    I’m one of your teeming audience on Younghrmanager.com; great stuff as always.

    Please Amit i would be glad if you could help me make enquiries about good Indian Varsities offering M.Sc/MA in Public Policy and Governance or better still Public Administration.

    The quality of literatures coming from Indian Authors in this field influenced my choice of an Indian University for my Academic Masters.
    Would appreciate your efforts in this regard.

    Can’t get enough of your insightful posts on younghrmanager.com, please do keep it up.

    Hoping to hear from you soonest.
    Thanks Man!

    THOMAS, Adeyemi James.

  • Samuel says:

    Hey Amit!

    In my own wisdom, I think an HR Leader can become a CEO. Once you can manage people, you are capable of leading an organization. You are going to do your work through people and supervise them, while they are carrying on the task.


  • Mercy says:

    Hie Amie,

    I think its possible for the HR head to take up a higher post. Given that she is eqquiped with vast knowledge in managing a business, business codes of conduct and a lot of experience. There’s a nid to be brave even though myself m a bit timid on such aspects.


  • Sijaona Dadi says:

    Hi Amit,
    That’s a very interesting subject to discuss.

    For the present trends of changing HR role in the modern organizations, HR can be CEO.

    Ideally, if HR plays a major role in strategic planning of the organization then he/she only need to be more aggressive with business so as to achieve the desired goals.Aggressiveness comes in when looking at organization culture that tend to consider HR as cost centre or rubber Stamper. To leverage the role of HR agressiveness is needed.

    Sijaona Dadi

  • SOTHINI MOYO says:

    Its quite true an HR person can become a CEO.

    Why, as he Develops a Career in HR, he learns several courses, as a result he acquires broad experiences how to run an organization efficiently and effectively. Including managing resources in accordance with policies, employment of the right people, planning, organizing, influencing, and controlling, Besides he attains and adopts a corporate strategy of the organization is. These knowledge, expartism and skills achieved, l don’t think he can fail to make and perform duties of CEO.

    Thank you,

  • Hi Amit,
    I think a HR can be a CEO for the several reasons advanced by the other correspondents already.
    As to whether I am well equipped for my present level I’ll say no. I still need more counseling and capacity development.

  • Comfort says:

    HR manage human being and available resources in order to achieve the organization goals and objectives. I think HR can sure do his or her best as CEO if opportunity is given.

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