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Will Hutton

Will Hutton

Principal, Hertford College, Oxford University and chair of the Big Innovation Centre

Monday 18 Mar 2013
Leadership is changing...are you taking the opportunity?

Leadership is changing...are you taking the opportunity?

In our business we are lucky enough to meet with many top HR professionals. One topic I have heard more mention of recently is Values-Based Leadership, that is, really connecting organisational goals to colleagues' and customers' personal values .

Old world macho dictatorships are being ousted in a quiet revolution by caring, ethical, open and honest team leaders apparently. The reasons are of course obvious, with the fall of so many established figureheads, organisations, institutions and even countries. The rise in information and intelligence now available through massively changed communication methods means that there are fewer and fewer places to hide for the selfish or unethical.

There is a recognition that the customers of today, and increasingly so, going forward, will not place their trust and business with organisations that do not display their values proudly, and live these in an authentic way. It's a movement which is far more significant than the weakening "corporate and social responsibility" drive, which seemed to stall at the first recession.

This is just great news of course, and it appears to be happening all around us.

"Does this give HR and its profession an opportunity to display its real value?" is the question I have. It must do, it has to, provided the right type of HR leader steps up to the plate.

The opportunity for HR to lead in the evolution of open, honest, truthful and yet still powerfully commercial leadership is unprecedented. Every modern leadership team worth its salt is striving to find a progressive style in its articulation of itself. Once found, the second challenge is to internalise that style, live it, and magnetically draw others along that path.

A variety of previously "softer" aspects of organisational management are suddenly hardening up faster than ever before. Step forward diversity, engagement, human capital values, listening, generational change.

What an opportunity for HR to lead, to collect together its current thinking on what is good in business and organisations, and to present this in a way which provides an obviously strong foundation for values-based leadership. Thankfully technology, tools and analytics are helping to turn hunch and belief into clear commercial impact.

The value of people and now the value of their values have their day. This is substantially a different language and vocabulary from that of a decade ago. The first business or organisation to directly correlate its performance to its values will claim a big prize. I suspect the leader within that successful organisation will have their roots in HR.

Doug Sawers, managing director, Ceridian