Great HR people can differentiate themselves by recognising and driving effective leadership behaviour within their organisations.

Businesses rely on technological innovation to drive increased business success – but to really stand apart from the competition, careful development and evolution of leadership behaviours requires a similar focus.

GE is a company recognised worldwide for their standard of leadership. Founded in 1878 by Thomas Edison, GE now employs more than 300,000 people across 100 countries. The value placed on developing peoples’ capabilities is high on the agenda, with CEO Jeff Immelt positioning leadership and behaviour as his top strategic imperative.

 Leadership behaviours aren't static...

The systems that GE has in place to drive leadership behaviours can be applied to most businesses, provided there is genuine management buy-in. Sameena Bashey, HR director of GE Healthcare, hosted a breakfast session with Page Executive’s HR practice in which she discussed GE’s track record. She shared insights into the organisation’s value and leadership framework and practical implementation of the strategy from a human resources perspective.

Driving effective leadership behaviour: the GE perspective

Leadership behaviours aren’t static; they evolve over time and according to business demand. But there are consistent traits that great leaders exhibit; at GE they’re termed ‘Growth Values’. They are:

  • Having an external focus
  • Clear thinking
  • Imagination and courage
  • Inclusiveness: listen and be humble
  • Expertise

Exploring in more detail, Sameena described what the Growth Values mean on a practical level:

  1. Great leaders in GE ‘walk the talk’. They live and breathe the Growth Values and those individuals who are unable to adapt to them do not last as GE people, not matter how successful they are from a financial delivery point of view. This links into being courageous. In many businesses leadership behaviours look good on paper but when push comes to shove, successful individuals who are counter-cultural are still allowed to flourish.
  2. The whole HR lifecycle is delivered with the Growth Values in mind. From recruitment through reward, performance management and succession planning, the Growth Values play a vital part in ensuring that GE as a global organisation has an integrated common framework through which anyone can be measured. The 9-box grid is used as a tool across the business and there is as much emphasis put on performing against the correct behaviours as there is performing against commercial targets.
  3. The Growth Values are simple, easy to understand and the detail that lies behind them is different depending on your level within the organisation. That said, wherever you are in the GE world, everyone will know the five Growth Values and how they are being assessed against them. Everyone will have an appraisal and the outcomes of these will be lived/reviewed on an almost daily basis.

Feeding back on behaviours

Having a behaviour framework in place for leaders means little unless it’s constantly refined and developed, both on an individual and group level. Feedback plays a crucial part; both gaining feedback from the individuals involved and, as an HR leader, asking for feedback on your own behaviour.

Sameena’s approach involves getting to know her leaders in great detail, to understand what motivates them, what frustrates them and what drives them and explaining to them that one of her roles as an HR leader is to give and receive feedback. Then it’s critical to give ‘in the moment’ feedback. Too often, businesses hide behind 360 degree feedback or refuse/won’t give the feedback that can help individuals change. Sameena sees it as a key role for her and her HR teams to be brave and challenging. What differentiates great HR people are those who not only spot leaders who don’t demonstrate the right leadership behaviours but will challenge them against it – in the right way.

Career advice

For professionals on the upward curve of their HR careers, Sameena shares this advice:

  • Be courageous; you and the function can gain an incredible amount of respect by challenging poor leadership behaviours
  • Be the advocate for the behaviours – you can’t expect people to demonstrate the right behaviours if you don’t exhibit them yourself
  • Try to never compromise your own value-set


For more information on developing your HR leadership career or for executive HR recruitment services please connect with our HR specialists from around the world.

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