HR’s Role in Leadership and Management Development

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Creating effective leadership in organisations is by no means a new topic, however, it is a topic of increasing importance. While more and more research shows that leadership drives organisational performance, health and effectiveness, ensuring successful leadership has never been easy, as clearly seen in many previous failures. However today, organisations are beginning to wake up to the fact that the modern fast-paced world makes more significant, and often unpredictable, demands on their leaders and therefore they need leaders who are capable of performing under these highly challenging circumstances. Those that don’t respond to these challenges, run the risk that their organisations may ultimately fail.

The ultimate goal of the Human Resource function is to help the organisation achieve its goals by attracting the best people and motivating them to perform at their best. To fulfill this mission, HR must first focus on leadership development. This focus on developing effective and dynamic leadership provides an opportunity for HR to transition from only being administrative and functional departments to being proactive business partners that really make a difference within organizations.

A few key considerations HR must be mindful of when establishing effective leadership within their organization include the following:

1. Defining what effective leadership is

HR needs to define what effective leadership means within their specific organisational context and should aim to create a standardized model of leadership across all regions the company operates within. This can include a set of behavioral indicators/descriptors that set clear expectations and provides a common language about leadership within the organisation. This definition of what good leadership is can also clarify that leadership is not solely the responsibility of the executives but can be found across the entire organization. Standardisation will ensure that leaders from different regions will have a consistent leadership language to effectively communicate with each other and they will therefore be able to leverage of each other’s skills and experiences. The leadership model must however be flexible enough to allow leaders in different regions to make adjustments based on cultural differences, different regulatory and economic environments, available talent, and other factors that may influence the way business is conducted in that region.

2. Developing leadership skills

Another major problem with leadership is that people are often promoted into leadership roles but aren’t given the support and development they need to effectively fulfill their responsibilities as a leader. HR can address this leadership skills deficit by creating a leadership development program that builds the skills of people already in leadership roles as well as the future leaders of the organisation. However for these leadership development programs to achieve sustained change in the leadership of the organisation it needs to be focused on a long term approach that not only builds skills but also develops individual leadership identity within each leader. This means an in depth approach which includes mentorship, coaching and support over an extended time period will be required to ensure success.

3. Creating systems, processes and policies that support effective leadership

Learning and development is just one of the many systems that supports effective leadership within organisations. HR needs to use processes such as recruitment, promotions and performance appraisals to embed positive leadership throughout the whole organisation. For example, recruitment and promotion systems can ensure that only those employees with the capability/potential to be leaders are put into positions that involve leading others. Those who are more technically inclined, but don’t have the people skills required to become an effective leader can be given more technically inclined career paths within the organization so as not to compromise the organisation’s leadership but still maintain the overall employee morale and job satisfaction.

4. Internal, external and cultural alignment of the leadership model

Finally, HR must ensure that the organisation’s leadership model is fully aligned with other internal HR processes, the organisation’s overall strategy and goals, and the type of culture the organisation values. For internal alignment it means that the organisation’s leadership model must be designed in a way that supports the organisation’s rewards and recognition program, the talent management strategy, and the training programs, for example. To ensure external alignment, HR should look at the organisation’s strategy and make sure the leadership model works in conjunction with that strategy to ensure the organisation’s long term health and success. Finally, the organisation’s leadership model should complement and add to the culture that the organisation wishes for its employees, clients, recruits and the stakeholders.

In conclusion, when HR is successful in developing a strong leadership model, the results can be significant and HR suddenly becomes instrumental to securing the future of an effectively function workforce and a healthy organization.

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