Embracing Courageous HR Leadership

More and more, HR is being asked to step in, step up and stand out.

By Johnny C. Taylor Jr. Dec 15, 2017

Johnny C. Taylor Jr.

​As this issue of HR Magazine reaches your desk, I will be settling into mine at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). My professional journey has included time as an HR strategist and a CEO, so I feel incredibly privileged to have been appointed to lead SHRM, where I can be both.

Since my days on the SHRM Board of Directors a decade ago, almost everything about our profession has changed. Our ideas have transformed regarding diversity, talent acquisition, analytics and the workplace itself. HR is much more dynamic than ever before. It requires strategy, creativity, flexibility and the capacity to anticipate the future. It is an art as much as a science, and our work at SHRM is both a mission and a movement. We are leading the changes taking place in business and, by extension, the lives of people and their families.

When I was on the board, I spoke about “courageous HR leadership.” By that, I meant that we needed more leaders who could prove that HR plays a lead role in today’s workplace. I believe HR requires even more courage today. Not only is the profession expected to contribute to bottom-line results, but it serves as the organization’s stronghold for ethics, equity, inclusion and career support—even as the world around us struggles with these issues. More and more, we are being asked to step in, step up and stand out. 

I have been thinking a lot about the unselfish acts of people like SHRM member Lenora Olson, HR director of the Sonoma, Calif., Hilton Hotel that burned to the ground in the wildfires this past fall. Her position gone, she nevertheless continued to practice courageous HR, helping her fellow employees find new jobs, collect emergency benefits and find temporary housing—even as she faced having to search for a job of her own. This wasn’t necessarily her role, but she believed it was her responsibility. 

Stories like these remind me of the power of HR to impact the world. Our profession matters—to the U.S. and global economies, to the future of business, and to every worker and family. 

These days, being courageous means taking the profession itself into new spaces, breaking down any remaining boundaries that would constrain what HR can be and achieve. A decade from now, I believe our work will have expanded beyond what we can imagine.

I want to thank Hank Jackson, who has capably navigated and prepared SHRM for the future through the past 12 years—eight of them as CEO. Hank left me in the enviable position of leading an organization with a solid foundation on which to build. 

I am excited about the opportunities ahead as we begin a new year. And I am honored to take up the mantle of leadership from those who have led from this desk before me. No matter what challenges they encountered, they rallied this Society around serving you and advancing the profession. That is what I will be doing each and every day. 

Johnny C. Taylor Jr. is the CEO of SHRM.

Photograph by Delane Rouse for HR Magazine.

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