What Does It Mean to Be a Badass HR Leader?

I recently had the privilege of facilitating a panel discussion with Keisha Stephens, Director, Talent Acquisition Operations, Splunk and Brittany Simpson, VP of Human Resources, Ember for HR.com. Our panel theme was “Celebrating International Women’s Day with 3 Badass Global HR Leaders” and it included a wide-ranging conversation about what it means to be a badass global HR leader.

With help from the audience, we covered trending topics like breaking down barriers, keeping employees engaged in a remote work environment, the impact of mentoring and more.

I appreciate the insights and experiences Keisha and Brittany shared, as well as the thought-provoking attendee questions and comments. Here is a sampling of some of the questions we were asked followed by our answers. This is just a hint of what we discussed and I invite you to watch the full replay on the GoGlobal blog.

What does it mean to be a badass human resources leader?

Margaret: When I first heard the term “badass”, I thought of Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft – someone who is very physically strong and an action hero, but as I’ve done more research, I discovered that it also means someone who is fearless, vulnerable and humble; who speaks the truth and builds trust; and who is driven by values of responsibilities, honour, justice, courage, compassion, integrity, selflessness and humility.

Keisha: In my career, I’ve always been that person who wants to talk about what no one else wants to talk about, right? So, if we’ve got an issue going on in the business, if we’ve got just something we need to work through, that’s uncomfortable. I’m always that human resources leader that wants to bring it up. I also think employees need to feel like they have someone they can trust, someone that they can speak to, somebody they can open up to and feel like they’re in a safe place so they feel like they can share. It’s really important, as well, to show vulnerability and authenticity.

Brittany:  When I first thought about the term “badass”, I thought it meant to be really loud and assertive – and I’m definitely not that person. I am more of a quiet leader and an introvert. And so, when I think about being a badass global HR leader, it’s a little bit less about personality and more about your actions and your behaviors. Sure, I love that you talked about vulnerability. I think that’s something I try to stay true to with everything I do as a leader. One of the ways I do that is by knowing that I don’t know everything and leaning on others for support and knowing where to ask questions – but also being willing to step into the unknown and see that discomfort as opportunity for growth.

What is something that you are very passionate about that you have spent time on and how do you contribute towards breaking barriers and making things better in those areas?

Keisha: I am passionate about mentorship. You can help people one person at a time and so that’s probably the been the most profound fact that’s come out of all this for me is that I’m seeing people grow and seeing their lives change. And I realize I don’t have to prepare a whole lot to do this mentoring.

These are things that I’ve already experienced in my career or that I just am helping people and coaching them and how to do their resume better; how to be more confident. It’s all the things that are in my toolbox. It’s not like I must do a bunch of homework to have these mentor conversations, which is originally what I thought. I was thinking what do I have to give? Do I know what I am going to share with people? And I’ve realized it’s the real-life experiences.

Margaret: At GoGlobal, we’re fully remote and fully flexible as well. With this flexible working culture, we find that it really creates an environment for both men and women to be productive and to thrive because they can work around their schedules. A lot of our key staff are parents of young children so a fully remote and flexible working culture enables them to have a continued career without having to choose between career and personal family as well.

Brittany: Having a support system is so critical at least for my own growth and has been that thing that has gotten me through some of the most challenging times. And I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without that support for those people who challenged me and cheered me on and everything in between. I think that’s one of the reasons why I’m really passionate about employee well-being and advocating for forming communities and bringing people together for support systems.

What advice would you give other Human Resource leaders?

Brittany: I would say just be genuinely curious and seek to understand. There’s so much to learn about people and the way they do things and how they behave. You might have your own understanding of a situation and asking powerful questions is so important to really get all the information so you can make informed decisions. And I think that also leads you to be able to speak up and feel confident about what you’re saying.

Keisha: Stay the course. When you are questioning yourself or things don’t go well, it’s important to remember this one thing that happened does not change who I am. You can’t control everything so go with the flow and be flexible. Sometimes you have to stand back and say it’s not going the way I want. But I need to be flexible and look at it in a different way to get to the end result.

Margaret: My advice would be to never stop learning and never stop growing and developing yourself and take every opportunity every day. Even if people are not nice to you, turn that all into your own advantage and learn something from it.

Watch the full webcast: Celebrating International Women’s Day with 3 Badass Global HR Leaders (goglobalgeo.com).