The Consultant's Desk

The Consultant's Desk
Poring over the details on your behalf

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Earning Letters to Be a Leader

A recent community discussion was raised about the need for a degree and/or certification in order to be eligible for hire as a Human Resource professional. Many perspectives are offered in that discussion. Most lean toward experience and skill plus certification. I remember a lecture from my undergrad Management instructor about being a leader and the qualifications for that role. He set forth the concept that you don't need to have a degree nor a background in the business nor industry that you're leading. What you do need is a knowledge of how to run a business and how to lead. The other details can be delegated to trusted advisers and consultants who are experts in that particular area and who do not have some hidden agenda for power grabbing of their own.

A university degree says the individual has been taught how to think and reason through issues. They have been exposed to the latest principles and concepts. They have managed to pass the academic tests structured to evaluate how well they grasped those concepts. Unfortunately, it became vogue during the '80s and '90s to negotiate an A in whatever course was taken so that the true value of the grade was watered down. Even having a 4.0 academic standing now leaves room for speculation.

Certifications are good milestone checks for how well a person has gained a good understanding of the principles. To the extent they are required at periodic intervals and evaluate new practices and concepts in addition to the basics, they are very useful. But certifications are expensive propositions. In this economy, they are for those who have the funds to take them or work for an employer who is willing to sponsor taking the test.

Which brings me back to the qualifications of a leader. The person has proven experience from many situations and venues. They understand the importance of continued education and endeavor to stay abreast of technology and practices. They look to case studies for guidance where they have no direct experience of their own.

To the extent they demonstrate the essential characteristics of a professional in deportment, demeanor, appearance, and respect for others, in addition to using good judgment, the person without all the letters but with a great amount of experience is just as qualified in many respects.

As a closing thought, some years ago a woman who was a practicing lawyer talked with me at a networking function for recruiters and HR pros. She wanted to transition from law to HR but was getting a lot of resistance and being told she didn't have the necessary qualifications. What I interpreted was that HR folk are extremely territorial. Even though she had the advantages of being a professional from another industry as well as the necessary knowledge of the law as it would apply in essentially all of the situations that would present to her, the established population didn't want an outsider to infiltrate the ranks. Incidentally, I've checked her LinkedIn profile and it appears she finally broke through.


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1 comment:

CharityR said...

I agree with you. Attending college does not endow a person with the traits or experience necessary to be a good leader.

Having said that, attending college can be beneficial to those who are changing careers. In my case, attending college has not only exposed me to new principles and practices, but it has also forced me to refer to the case studies that will help guide my future decisions and provided me with the foundation I need so that I know where to find those case studies.

However, as you pointed out, an experienced person already knows what information to look for and where to find it. Also, an experienced person might not need to refer to case studies as often as an inexperienced person would.