When it comes to organizational effectiveness, accuracy matters. In the spirit of accuracy, I will say that leadership and human resources (HR) are two concepts that are frequently confused, but they are distinct and different from one another. HR is more closely aligned with human resources management, business administration, psychology, or sociology. However, leadership is its own social science with its own degrees, such as strategic leadership, organizational leadership, and more. Both fields have unique responsibilities and functions, and it’s essential to understand the difference to maximize results.
The difference starts with their educational differences. These differences reside in their focus, career paths, skillset, and method of instruction. For example, leadership degrees focus on skills development, strategic forecasting, organizational development, performance improvement, team development, business trends, etc. In contrast, management degrees tend to focus on practical skills necessary to run operations. Both degrees equip students with important organizational skills, but we must keep in mind that there is a significant difference between strategy and operations.
This is an important distinction because human resources (HR) is a field that deals with the management of employees within an organization. HR professionals are responsible for various functions, including recruitment, performance management, compensation and benefits, employee relations, onboarding, and legal compliance. They also play a crucial role in ensuring company activities align with organizational objectives.
On the other hand, leadership is a field that focuses on the ability of individuals or groups to influence and inspire others to achieve a common goal. Leadership professionals are responsible for setting the direction and vision of the organization and aligning employees to that vision. For organizations in the know, this task likely includes a tremendous amount of time dedicated to training and developing specific employees.
Another critical difference between HR and leadership is their role in decision-making. HR professionals are often involved in making decisions that impact the organization, but they do so within the constraints of policies, procedures, and laws. On the other hand, leadership professionals evaluate and establish policies and procedures, look for improvements and efficiency opportunities, and have the freedom to make decisions or corrections that impact the organization based on its vision and strategy.
Each Role In Practice
If growth, agility, vision, and efficiencies are desired, organizations are cautioned not to confuse onboarding with ongoing development and training responsibilities. Onboarding integrates new employees into an organization and familiarizes them with the company culture, values, policies, procedures, and systems. It generally involves administrative tasks such as filling out forms and getting set up with equipment and tools, as well as orientation sessions to introduce the new hire to the company and the team. The goal of onboarding is to make the transition to the new role as smooth as possible and help the new employee feel welcome, valued, and supported and may also involve brief training sessions regarding the expected tasks that the employee is expected to be responsible for.
On the other hand, training and development is a continuous process aimed at improving the skills and knowledge of employees to help them perform better in their current roles, challenge old ways of thinking, and prepare them for future roles. This can include various activities, such as workshops, courses, coaching, mentoring, and e-learning programs. The goal of training and development is to help employees grow and advance in their careers and, ultimately, contribute to the organization’s success.
Leadership professionals should probably be in charge of the training and development initiatives, while HR remains responsible for onboarding. Remember that leadership professionals are often responsible for creating and implementing strategies to achieve the organization’s goals. As such, they naturally focus on employee development and skill-building, which is at the core of training and development initiatives. This alignment of responsibilities ensures that new hires receive the support they need to hit the ground running while also receiving opportunities to grow and develop throughout their careers.
Separate But Collaborative
It’s important to note that both HR and leadership are crucial for the success of an organization. However, confusing the two or blurring the lines between them can lead to several dangers. For example, suppose a leadership professional tries to take on the responsibilities of an HR professional. In that case, they may not have the skills or knowledge to manage employees effectively or navigate the various laws that govern that position. On the other hand, if an HR professional tries to take on the role of a leadership professional, they may not have the knowledge or background necessary to understand influence, strategy modification, vision alignment methods, or development methods required to drive the organization forward.
To maximize results, organizations need to understand the differences between HR and leadership professionals and make sure that both functions are being performed by the correct professionals. Organizations should also ensure that both functions are working together, with HR providing support and guidance to leadership professionals and leadership professionals giving direction and vision to HR.
The point is that HR and leadership are both important functions in organizations, but they are distinct and different. Understanding the differences between the two and ensuring that the right individuals are performing the right functions is essential to maximizing results in organizations. Of course, by working together, HR and leadership can create a supportive and inspiring environment that helps employees reach their full potential and drive the organization forward.
Granted, this topic probably deserves a book because so much could be written about it. Nonetheless, I will say that if you need someone for HR, by all means, hire an HR professional. However, if you are going to hire someone for your leadership and leadership development initiatives, then let me provide the following advice. Find someone who can identify and analyze training needs, develop training programs, understands effective training methods, understands how to forecast, and understands the vision and how it relates to organizational alignment. These folks usually have a Bachelor’s degree in leadership. The more advanced will have a Bachelor’s in leadership and a Master’s in leadership. Best of all, many of these professionals also know quite a bit about curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction methods, and the truth about measuring training efforts.