Disrupted Leadership? by Kelly Swingler

What if we’ve got it all wrong?  What if in fact it’s not HR that needs to be disrupted, but leadership?

Over the last 18 years I have been asked to design and implement a number of HR initiatives and solutions, some of which have been approved quickly, some of which have taken a lot of time to agree or approve.  The time taken hasn’t been to do with the solution, but because on a number of occasions the Board haven’t had the time to agree on the initiative at their meeting, because, as many HR professionals will know, the People proposals don’t take priority over other business matters and don’t always get tabled at the scheduled meeting.


There is a lot of talk lately about removing the annual performance review, and looking differently at the way we manage talent in the business, but none of this will be successful if the leaders don’t get on board with these.  And I know from first-hand experience that removing appraisals won’t work unless the culture of the organisation is right.

What if, instead of continuing to lay all the blame at the feet of HR when employees aren’t engaged, or motivated, and instead of drowning employees in policies and procedures, we focus on the leaders of the business?


What if, managers managed effectively, and had conversations with their people?

What if leaders led effectively, made decisions in a timely manner and considered the impact of their decisions on the workforce?

What if the biggest priority of managers and leaders was the wellbeing of staff?  What if the managers and leaders trusted their staff, led and engaged and motivated them daily?

What if, instead of drowning people in data, leaders showed more of their authentic self, and told stories that inspired instead of death by PowerPoint presentations?


What if, after looking at the data and having conversations with employees about what the business needs, HR could introduce a proposal or solution that the leaders would approve quickly with no changes, trusting that the employees and the data tell the full story of what is required?

What if, instead of looking for HR to prove that the solution has been implemented successfully in another business, they trust that HR know what they are doing based on their knowledge and experience and because the employees have asked for it?


We were recently appointed to work with an organisation and provide a simplified solution of one of their frameworks.  It was widely accepted by employee forums, employee representative groups and managers, and then when it got to the Board, it was amended to be less simple and more complicated.   Now the leaders have got to where they are because of their ability, knowledge and skills, but in this instance they dismissed the views of hundreds of employees and made a decision between the five of them to make something simple more complex.  The exact opposite of what they had first asked for.

So before we all jump on the let’s disrupt bandwagon, we need to look at the leaders and see what they need to change first.  Because let’s face it, no solution regardless of how simple or different, or engaging will be approved without getting them on board first.


The Business Transformation Network has posted this article in partnership with Chrysalis Consulting.


Kelly Swingler is the Rule Breaker and Founder of Chrysalis Consulting, The People and Change Experts and was appointed as the UK’s Youngest HR Director.  Kelly is passionate about helping people find bespoke people solutions to suit the needs of their business and is driving our mission of inspiring and empowering 10,000 HR professionals in 2018. She is the author of Fostering a Mindset for Career SuccessAGILE HR and what’s your excuse for not Overcoming Stress and speaks at many events on the Future of Work.