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Development In The Role Of Human Resources Leadership

By David Shoemaker I.

In order to be recognized as a successful HR leader, there are three roles you must manage. The first is the ability to implement organizational strategy. The second is controlling the strategic planning process by sorting through the positive and negative outcomes associated with making a decision. Lastly, one must manage the formulation of a strategy to protect against the negative effects caused by unexpected outcomes.

Working to obtain a human resources certificate, you will learn what it takes to become an efficient manager. You will be able to understand and explain the three major roles of HR. Additionally, you will learn how to control business strategy and make alterations to current strategy. This will lead to more successful business activity. As an HR leader, it is important to be able to be conversant about issues that may delay positive decision making and develop solutions ‘on the fly’ to these problems. This agility is a common benchmark of successful human resources leadership.

Human resources leadership as a theory has been changing and reinventing itself over the past 30 years. HR started as a very conformed and structured area of business and has developed into a strategic and open-ended one. In circumstances of constant change, it is crucial to understand what HR leadership means right now, at this very minute, and what it means to be a successful HR leader today. Being a good strategist and leader are the first steps toward becoming a role model of human resources leadership.


These days we hear a lot about the concept of human resources leadership and many are unsure what it actually entails. In order to understand how HR has developed, we will take a look back through the history books. During the 1970s, the job of an HR leader was to act like a police officer and make sure the managers did not make illegal or discriminatory decisions. This was in response to the equal-employment opportunity legislation of the 1960s. It was during the 1970s that the Supreme Court was deciding what was legal within the employment context, especially with regard to employment discrimination.

Around 1980, the recession in the US forced many companies to cut back and lay off employees. Traditionally, HR had been one of the first groups to get downsized. HR leaders were forced to decide what role they should be playing and what changes had to be made in order to ensure that next time a downsizing came along that they would not be the first ones cut off. Their job role had to be viewed by others as important and necessary to the running of a business. Therefore, the idea of strategy in HR was developed and put into action. Originally, strategic HR was heavily based on functionality. Every role and job related to HR had to somehow work into the overall strategy of the business model.

Once 1990 came along, another recession occurred which led to yet another rethinking of the role of HR. Dave Aldrich wrote two books entitled Organizational Capability and Human Resource Champions. These books became models that would redirect HR thinking during the 1990s. Within these examples was the idea of a strategic partner; this meant that HR should partner with business leaders to help the company develop its strategy. Additionally, Aldrich recommended restructuring HR to make it more effective and efficient through the three-legged-stool concept. The first leg was the HR manager out working with the businesses in the field. The second leg was the corporate centers for excellence, which consisted of the training function, the staffing function etc., located largely in the corporate headquarters. The third leg was the transactional aspect of the employee relations, and the handling of day-to-day transactions that take place within HR.

Another global recession and rethinking of the role of HR occurred during the beginning of the 21st century. During this time, the three roles of HR leaders were determined: implementer, controller, and manager. From this point on, future HR leaders will learn what it takes to be an ultimate director in the field by completing a human resources certificate training.

About the Author: David Shoemaker is Vice President of Learning Solutions and Innovation at eCornell. For more information on

human resources certificate


human resources leadership

, or eCornell, please visit


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