I once attended a training programme wherein the trainer asked us to think about who normally is at the helm of affairs in organizations. - Marketing/HR/Finance/Others. And I said that it was the marketing guys who normally take over the role of the CEO once it's time for the incumbent to step down and hang up his/her boots. The trainer nodded and said it was seldom that a HR person took over. The training programme was about Communication Skills and
Inter-personal Relationships. :-). The trainer went on to say that the trend was so because the marketing guys are the ones with a flair for communicating and building relationships! Now, isn't that ironical? Marketing guys do seem to be doing this, but only with outside entities. Once they become CEOs, isn't it essential for them to look inward - within the organization!? They need...
But here's what I came across recently in HBR which made me realize that I hadn't known about Japan's corporate culture (and neither did anybody else in the training prg.)! HBR says that given the fact that theoretically, the world prefers generalist CEOs rather than specialist ones, in Japan, one of the best sources of generalists is the HR department. This happens very rarely in the US of A. The article goes on to say that in Japan, the HR managers spend time in various other functions and are well-rounded. One-fifth of the directors in Japanese manufacturing firms and one-third of those from other industries claimed past stints in HR. The article sources its information from a book by Sanford Jacoby - The Embedded Corporation.
If it's true that the west has been learning some things from the far east and has later passed it on to the 'near' east, then our HR folks can perhaps look forward to a much more exciting future. :-)