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Why selflessness has become a prime trait for HR heads

HR TrendsellispinesComment

Brad Power's blog at Harvard Business Reviewhas the kind of writing that seems especially helpful for HR, marketing, branding, and operational improvement leaders of all kinds. It reminds me of the best quality thinking of 20 years ago, when I had the opportunity to interview leaders in total quality management for Aviation Week & Space Technology and found my supplement text naturally slipping into spiritual metaphors: gurus, paths, commitment, the Zen concentration and cooperation of Japanese society, etc. Power's takes a similar if more sophisticated approach at HBR, e.g. showing the unity of the major "quality religions," too often seen at odds to each other (ditto any management philosophy, pursued as a singular truth). In his most recent blog, he tackles the value of selflessness and service to others for the HR leader. And less you think Mr. Powers is writing an ethereal philosophy, he backs up the notion with proof of how organizations like Broadridge, a $2 billion, 6,000-employee global financial solutions company, want an  HR leader like Lily Benjamin, their VP of organizational development and chief diversity officer:

According to Powers, while Benjamin and Broadridge have been honored for diversity efforts, Benjamin "consistently deflects any personal credit for their accomplishments." Instead she told Powers, "I develop people and the culture to support the accomplishment of business goals." And she adds,"But I don't do it alone; my approach is to partner and collaborate. It is very important to me that my team gets the recognition. Without them and their collective intelligence, the breadth and reach of my contribution would be limited. Hence my biggest reward is to attribute the success to my team, even if I am the accountable leader."

That's no small feat. Getting such team versus personal recognition has been one of the long-term obstacles to achieving genuine, lasting approaches to quality improvement.