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HR leadership and New Year’s resolutions: A Gartner Q&A

By Jack Campbell | |6 minute read

How important is an HR voice in leadership? What are the best ways to approach the end of the year within teams? These questions were discussed and answered by Gartner’s vice-president of research and advisory, Aaron McEwan.

HR Leader: “How important is it to give HR a seat at the executive table?”

Mr McEwan: “Given the economic volatility that we’re heading into and a bunch of other factors, having a cohesive executive team that’s on the same page [is important]. But also, we have an opportunity to really promote more diverse leadership teams, so things like return-to-office mandates, they’re going to impact that diversity. So, I think that’s something that a lot of CEOs should really pause and think about.”


“Gone are the days where a single leader has all of the answers to the complex challenges that businesses face today. So strong, cohesive, diverse leadership teams are really the way to go. But we do know that there’s some old-school CEOs out there that are really trying to hold on to that very power-based position that they’ve had for many years.”

HR Leader: “This collaboration leadership approach, is it a new style of leadership?”

Mr McEwan: “No, it’s been emerging for some time. There are definitely organisations out there that do this stuff well, but I started out my career studying media. In fact, I wanted to be a journalist when I [was in] school, and I’ve always been fascinated by the way that popular culture kind of puts a mirror up to society and, in some ways, predicts where we’re headed.”

“If you go back, what, 11 or 12 years ago, when the first Iron Man movie came out, there you’ve got Tony Stark, a white Anglo-Saxon billionaire with a deeply flawed character. He certainly had some charisma, but there he was hiding behind this suit of armour.”

“Whereas still to this day, I believe the [second-] highest-grossing film of all time is Avengers: Endgame. And what have we got there? It’s not Tony Stark on his own. It’s this diverse group of superheroes. They’ve all got strengths, they’ve all got weaknesses, and they recognise that they can’t defeat these big enemies unless they work together as this cohesive team.”

“And what I find interesting is not only are they diverse, but none of them wear their masks anymore. It seems a little left of field, but I think that actually really accurately captures the evolution of leadership and where it’s increasingly headed.”

HR Leader: “As a leader, how can you evaluate your New Year’s goals and resonate that through your teams?”

Mr McEwan: “There are a few things we know about effective leadership, and one of those is that leaders who are really clear on their expectations and their priorities and are able to articulate that to their workforce.”

“So, I think one of the most important things that leaders should do towards the end of a year is to be really thinking through what the next year is going to be. Getting really clear on those priorities so that they can articulate that to their workforce and be really clear on what the bar is that’s being set.”

“But we also have to recognise [that] people are burnt out, and they are stressed, and they need time to recover … Leaders [should] make a really strong effort to give their people the space and the time to fully disconnect and give them that opportunity to recover and be refreshed for the year.”

“So, that sometimes means tying a bow on the end of the year and saying: We’ve done a great job, here’s what we’ve achieved, go take a break, don’t think about it. And when you come back next year, we’ll have a clear set of priorities and expectations for the year ahead. I think they’re some of the more powerful things that leaders can do towards the end of the year.”

The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Aaron McEwan, click below:

HR leadership and New Year’s resolutions: A Gartner Q&A
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Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.

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