(Posted on SHRM Blog 4/27/22: https://blog.shrm.org/blog/shrm22-to-cause-the-effect-we-must-lead)
Appropriately, the theme for the 2022 SHRM Annual Conference & Expo is “Cause the Effect.” While this phrase may have a different meaning for everyone, for me it means “bringing about positive change to your workplace through your individual actions.” Further, I believe that it means to be proactive rather than solely reactive to the countless challenges that we as HR professionals face on an ongoing basis. Most importantly, I feel that if we want to “cause the effect,” we must lead.
Leadership is often a touchy subject, especially within HR circles, as frequently those working in an HR role will sometimes defer leadership to only managers, directors, or those working in the C-suite. In my opinion, this can result in many missed opportunities. In the bestselling book, “HR Rising!!,” authored by Steve Browne, Steve talks a great deal about leadership in HR and even addresses the fact that “HR practitioners are reluctant to lead because we’ve believed the misconception that ‘leadership’ takes some monumental effort.” Steve then continues to demonstrate, through many personal stories, of how leadership can come in many shapes and forms, starting with integrity, putting people first, and many times just simply leading by example.
As I look back on both my career and personal life, I can think of numerous examples where I felt that I was able to “cause the effect” in a number of ways through many of the same leadership principles that Steve Browne shared within “HR Rising!!.” I would best describe my leadership philosophy as one of “servant leadership,” which has often produced amazing results and personal fulfillment for me.
Robert K. Greenleaf identified the concept of “servant leadership” in the 1970’s which he defined as follows: “The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.”
As one considers Greenleaf’s concept, it seems to have a great fit for the effective human resources professional. As HR professionals, we should be serving our employees, managers, and the organization as a whole. By serving these constituencies, we are oftentimes “leading” as well. Leading with positive change, leading employee engagement, and by leading new initiatives, these are just a few examples of how many of us “cause the effect” every day within our organizations.
Within our HR roles, I think that we should help dispel the myth that “individuals can only lead when they have a title.” While it is certainly an expectation that those that do hold a “leadership title” should be effective leaders, this does not mean that a title is a requirement to lead. Some of my proudest leadership accomplishments have come while working as an individual contributor within an organization. These have included: leading by example, putting ideas and concepts in place to create a better workplace, coaching managers to become better leaders, and by taking difficult stands for what is right when many others chose not to. In each instance, it was my leadership that helped me to “cause the effect.”
I hope that each of you that are attending the 2022 SHRM Annual Conference & Expo will take this valuable opportunity to listen to leaders that will be sharing their leadership examples for us throughout the conference. Whether it is hearing from a former U.S. President describing how he led a nation after tragedy, to an innovative author and businesswoman who helped build a Pulitzer Prize winning digital media publication, to a Chief People Officer who compassionately helped his employees and his organization thrive and survive through a pandemic; we all can take away from these leaders, and many more, their leadership examples of how we too can lead within our own environments and be the catalyst to “Cause the Effect.”