Are You The Very Model of a Modern HR Leader?

NOTE: If you haven’t seen a great production of “The Pirates Of Penzance,” then the title of this post may not make any sense. If that’s the case, please check out the lyrics and a performance before reading further.

I have always loved “The Pirates of Penzance,” and especially the monologue-like song of the modern Major General.

Every time I think about the KSAOC (knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics) profile for a position or job, about the KSAOCs of someone with whom I’m working or interviewing, or even about the KSAOCs I do or don’t possess, I’m reminded of just how much you need to know and be able to do to meet the specifications in this song for the job of Major General — and then I laugh my head off yet again.

But the KSAOC profile for a modern Major General has nothing on the same for a modern HR leader. And that’s a topic on which I’ve been working quite a bit lately because it keeps coming up.

Just as there’s a generational shift occurring in other C-suite positions, it’s happening with increasing frequency in human resources. And what we need from HR leaders for today and tomorrow is VERY different from what worked yesterday.

The profile for a modern HR leader

So, without further ado, here’s my “starter kit” KSAOC profile for a modern HR leader:

Article Continues Below
  • Excellent, fast and compelling writing;
  • Excellent, fluent and compelling speaking;
  • Commitment to lifelong learning;
  • Attention to details and ability to see, create and communicate the big picture;
  • Quick thinking, then speaking, on your feet;
  • Command presence and leadership persona;
  • Current, global perspective on business and geopolitics;
  • Current knowledge of your industry, organization, and cultural environment;
  • Foundation in the liberal arts for geopolitical context, critical thinking, hypothesis formulation and testing, and more;
  • Foundation in business for the basics of finance, accounting, commercial law, production management, sales, marketing, information technology, vendor management, and more;
  • Foundation in STEM (science, technology, education, and mathematics) for statistics, data analysis, and the “scientific method” and more;
  • Foundation in HRM and appreciation of its breadth, complexity, geographical variations, regulatory overlay, and strategic interconnections;
  • Considerable mathematical literacy, including visualization, classification, generalization, abstraction, enumeration and more;
  • Strategic planning expertise – for your organization, for HRM, for the HR function, and for the HRM delivery system;
  • Considerable knowledge of technology-enabled HRM and the HRMDS, to include how the latest developments in mobile, social, analytics and true SaaS are changing the fundamentals of HR technology decisions and providing transformation opportunities for HRM;
  • Project management — nearly everything you will do is a project;
  • Personal and organizational brand management – and that includes reasonable fluency with the social tools of brand management; and
  • Well-developed emotional intelligence and political astuteness.

The good news is that I’ve met a few young HR professionals, moving quickly into or already in leadership roles, who are well on their way to achieving this KSAOC profile. The bad news is that they are few and far between.

But what’s really interesting about this profile is that, with judicious changes to reflect the subject matter of marketing or finance or sales or IT, it could be the profile of a modern leader of any business discipline. So if that’s your ambition, there’s likely to be some areas in which you’ll need to double down on your life-long learning efforts.

This was originally published on Naomi Bloom’s technology blog, In Full Bloom.

Naomi Bloom is the leading independent voice, business/platform strategy consultant and thought leader in the HR technology/HRO industry. She has acted as a change agent and HRM delivery systems strategist/coach for global corporate and Federal agency clients, an advisor on business strategy and product/service design to several generations of HRM software vendors and HR outsourcing providers, and a provider of competitive insight and due diligence for the investment community. You can read Naomi's blog In Full Bloom, and follow her on Twitter at