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Do CHROs make good CEOs?
Prajjal Saha | HRKatha | New Delhi | Wednesday, 29 April 2015

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CHROs becoming CEOs is not a traditional choice but evidences point out several advantages.

Nishchae Suri, partner and head of people and change advisory, KPMG

CHROs looking to lead organisations must also build on a number of other critical skills essential for success in a CEO’s role.

Nishchae Suri

With the changed business anatomy, a CHRO for the CEO role is ever more relevant. Emergent change, mergers and acquisitions, the parallel of an organisation to a brand, and post-recession austerity measures, all characterise the new ecosystem. In this conjectural economy, envisaging the relevant organisational structure, envisioning the complementary culture, equipping the organisation with the right talent and building an innovation-centric ethos is essential for impacting the bottom line. In fact, these are the nuances that can bolster sustainable growth and help distinguish organisations in the sea of similar businesses. CHROs, therefore, have the right perspective whilst navigating this new world order.

Stewardship, coaching, people leadership and emotional intelligence (EQ) are all vital traits often observed in successful CHROs, who are experienced in creating the optimal synergy between the people and the business agenda. They have the capability to act as the conscience keepers of the organisation and possess the ability to nurture talent, help teams realise their full potential and build on key relationships.

It is, however, important to remember that CHROs looking to lead organisations must also build on a number of other critical skills essential for success in a CEO’s role. A grass root understanding of the business, the industry it operates in, the economy it speaks to and the benefits of technology in driving business goals is a necessary precondition to the CEO’s role.

Shailesh Singh, chief people officer and director of Max Life Insurance

 CEOs and CHROs are natural partners on a lot of agendas especially for organisations that want to do well in the long run.

Shailesh Singh

CHROs can make good CEOs if they put in the effort to truly understand the business well in terms of how values are being generated. I will also say that the other reason — and this is a kind of prerequisite in succeeding in a CEO role— is that a CEO is also the CHRO of an organisation in many ways. Therefore, there is a natural overlap.

A CEO’s role primarily— and I look at Jack Welch or Jeffery Immelt, the current chairman— is the capacity to hire good leaders, the ability to have a higher mission and a vision to create the right culture. These are key skills as the system starts from top to down, from the CEO. Therefore, CEOs and CHROs are natural partners on a lot of agendas especially for organisations that want to do well in the long run.

They also may not work as sometimes I read about and hear about CFOs as natural choices but I would have a slightly different view there – it works only in the short term. If you truly want to create an institution for the long term, the people skill is central to the role of a CEO, and therefore, CHROs – having done that – are very well placed to take those roles. They understand the other roles of the business.

Aparna Sharma, ex-country head, HR, Lafarge India

 Orientation towards business and financial aspects, greater risk-taking ability and staying away from the ‘HR functional hat’ at all times will be of great help.

Aparna Sharma

CHROs too would make good CEOs – period! I would not want to add the caveat ‘in people-oriented businesses’.

Just as any other person with functional skills and general management exposure, HR folk can be very successful as CEOs. The case in point could be that we do not have very many live examples. However, a beginning has been made and more will follow.

A few things, such as orientation towards business and financial aspects, greater risk-taking ability and staying away from the ‘HR functional hat’ at all times will be of great help.

Also, these are easily doable for the aspiring competent CHROs.

More power to our tribe!

© 2016 HR Katha

2 comments

  • Comment Link Rajani Athreya Monday, 04 May 2015 posted by Rajani Athreya

    A very relevant topic with rich perspectives. Thank you.
    I firmly believe and reaffirm the key points in the discussion - about natural overlaps in CEO/CHRO job asks and the need for business relevance/acumen

  • Comment Link Kanvika Vishnoi Srisri Thursday, 30 April 2015 posted by Kanvika Vishnoi Srisri

    Agreed, the people skills knowledge and management is a must have. You need to first have the relation build, like any sweet can be recommended best when it has been tasted.

    The HR's plays an important role in keeping the employee happy and working with the topping of sweetness.

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