Wednesday, April 14, 2010

If I take an HR course, will I ever become a CEO?

I'm not a fortune teller, but I can answer this one without gazing into a crystal ball. My take is that if you have the right skills, attitude, and direction, you can very well become a CEO with an HR background. And if you lack on these fronts, even with a top-notch MBA degree, you won't go too far up that ladder.

Some of the stalwarts who branched out from other streams of management into HR are:

1. James Strong: ex-CEO, Qantas

2. Anne Sherry: CEO, Westpac

3. Geoff Plummer: MD and CEO, OneSteel

4. Mohandas Pai: Head of HR, Infosys

5. Peter F. Drucker, Management Guru

Some experts feel that it is actually easier for HR folks to move into a CEO's role because:
1. There’s no reason that the HR director of a large company could not step into the role of CEO if they have that full understanding of the business.
2. Being a HR practitioner can provide useful insights into being a CEO because of the knowledge gained around how the people in the organisation really work and the processes around it.
3. An HR person applying for the CEO position can make an ordinary business really successful business through understanding what motivates people.

To quote James Strong, "The biggest task for any CEO is to build a team of people around them because I think we all know that you’re not going to be able to do everything yourself at any stage. So it’s about building a terrific team of people. And if you’ve been a HR specialist, that should be something that you’re very familiar with – watching people, evaluating people, identifying the qualities that you think are outstanding or vital.”

P.S. To sum it up, I'd say that HR folks do become CEOs, if they choose to take that path. Even if not many go in that direction, so what? Gives us the chance to be trendsetters, doesn't it? Like I'm quoting Mr. Strong, someone could be quoting your words here, 15 years hence.