Pummeling Equine Cadavers

On July 19, 2011, in From The Vault, HRExaminer, More2Know, by John Sumser

Beating a Dead Horse - HR ExaminerThis piece originally appeared as one of the introductions to the Top Influencers in HR project. Neal Bruce has long since become an industry legend. He runs something big over at Peoplefluent.

“Recently, Neal Bruce (the product development genius at First Advantage) said, “If you want to be anHR thought leader, you should have some thoughts.” (Actually the precise quote was “thoughts are a prerequisite for thought leadership“). Sadly, his tongue was nowhere near his cheek.

Much of what passes for HR thought leadership involves little thought. It’s all smoke and no fire. In fact, if you look at the contents for this video, “How to Establish Yourself as a Human Resources Thought Leader in Your Industry“, you’ll quickly see that thoughts are barely required. It’s obvious, since the training for the job requires only a one hour webinar, that HR Thought Leadership doesn’t require any thinking whatsoever. This, in spite of Mr. Bruce’s good wishes.

I can’t seem to visualize this HR thought leadership thing. Is it like a swarm of small cars following a lead car? Or, is it more like a well trained dog? I try to think about HR thought leadership but my thoughts just don’t follow the idea. Is HR thought leadership like following someone on twitter? You sign up and then have to digest a personalized stream of what? Or is HR thought leadership like following a train of thought?

Self proclaimed HR thought leaders tend to be vacuous morons, incapable of sustained thought. There’s a code that I saw somewhere that says you can’t be one unless someone else says you are (without being asked to). Even that’s not good enough, really. The bluntest knife in the box has a mom who thinks he’s got HR Thought Leadership potential. When he walks up to you and introduces himself as a HR thought leader, hang on to your wallet.

Thought leadership is neither (thought nor leadership).

I’m wildly pummeling this equine cadaver to make a point.

Influence is hard to deliver and harder to identify. The key influencers in our HR – Recruiting Marketplace take many shapes and forms.

  • fantastic mentors who have shaped the careers of their apprentices
  • people who reframe the very essence of HR – Recruiting
  • innovators who make great breakthroughs in understanding
  • product visionaries who change the nature of HR – Recruiting with their companies.
  • marketers and event promoters who work to unearth the next greatest thing
  • architects and consultants who tirelessly improve HR – Recruiting effectiveness
  • industry giants who train others
  • surprise thinkers who create new ways of doing things
  • trainers and leaders who inspire us to higher performance
  • simplifiers who make new technology make sense
  • explorers who experiment wildly with new tools
  • organizers who create social capital by building networks
  • self promoters who make things happen as they build their celebrity
  • analysts who have the pulse of the vendors

If you’ll indulge me, I’d like a little more help. Once more, I’d like to find out who you think are the essential forces in our business.

What do you think are  the key forces that drive our industry? Do the people who shape it create those waves, ride them, both or neither?

HR is a conversation. The discipline is practiced differently in each region, industry and economic niche. The definitions of essential HR – Recruiting ideas don’t generalize well. That means that the people who influence HR-Recruiting are people who add to or improve the conversation.

The project is gaining some real momentum. The lists are getting clearer.

My question is simple. Is the power of a good example enough to change an industry? That is, are great recruiters or Hr pros who set an amazing example operating in a way that can change an industry.

Or is something else required?”


  • JohnQ

    I think this is a great introduction to a discussion about the critical factors influencing this field. Not only is answering the ‘who’ and ‘where’ important, but your last question flies at the target of asking the essential ‘how’ things get done. And honestly, I beleive this one trumps both of the others in terms of thought leadership because someone can come up with an improved method and place to apply it, but if it doesn’t get accepted and implemented then is it really a useful/viable thought? I like the Kindle example: with all these high tech/touch screen/3D/Ipad-like gizmos out there, a simple ($100+) device with a readable B&W display seems to dominate the market. While it’s unlikely such a universal solution can apply in the diverse HR world, I would like to see the concept of thought leadership go more in the direction of CHANGE leadership – and please make that change that works towards accomplishing some goal. A penny for the thoughts, let’s go for the big money!

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