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Lelia Lim

From CHRO to CEO: The Transformational Journey of Leena Nair

The meteoric rise of Leena Nair serves as a clear demonstration of the untapped potential of human resources, as well as diversity and inclusion. Propelled by her mastery as Unilever’s Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO), she shattered glass ceilings to emerge as the youngest and first Asian CEO of the iconic French luxury fashion entity Chanel. Her leadership is far more than just an exercise in diversity; it’s a dynamic illustration of the transformative influence that HR acumen can wield in reshaping not just a team, but an entire company.

Using HR Skills for Organisational Change

Leena Nair’s appointment is a significant shift from the traditional CEO appointments, given her strong HR background. She effectively used her HR skills to bring about an organisational transformation at Chanel. Her focus on enhancing human capital, fostering diversity, and promoting inclusivity proved instrumental in achieving this.

CHROs, like Nair, house a myriad of skills pivotal to a company’s metamorphosis. Their deep understanding of people management, talent development, and organisational behaviour equips them to foster a positive company culture and boost employee engagement. Their proficiency in strategic planning enables them to harmonise human resources objectives with overall business goals, ensuring a unified company direction.

Furthermore, their leadership abilities and capacity to motivate teams are essential for catalysing change and enhancing performance. Also, with extensive knowledge of labour laws and workforce regulations, HR professionals ensure company compliance, thereby mitigating potential risks. Their negotiation prowess, too, plays a crucial role in managing employee relations and ensuring a harmonious work environment.

Embracing Transferrable Skills

Nair leveraged this HR expertise to pinpoint and address Chanel’s operations and culture gaps. She embraced diversity and inclusion as powerful pillars for shaping an environment where everyone could contribute to the company’s success. Recognising and leveraging her broad skill set, she is a shining example of the power of transferrable skills.

Nair’s career trajectory demonstrates the versatility and adaptability that comes with strong transferrable skills. Her story iterates the need for us to reassess our skill sets, identify our transferrable skills, and realise the vast potential that lies in front of us. She has proven that her background in human resources, far from being a hindrance, has been a transformative force.

Championing DE&I

Also, diversity and inclusion at leadership and board levels have been underscored by her inspiring ascent as a woman of colour in the business world. Her journey to prominence in an often uniform business landscape is a testament to her unparalleled leadership, resilience, and talent. Breaking barriers and challenging the status quo, her path serves as a guiding light for ambitious professionals from various backgrounds.

Furthermore, it underlines the depth and value that diversity brings to decision-making, innovation, and organisational culture. By celebrating Nair’s accomplishments, we envision a future where diversity and inclusion are not just corporate jargon, but essential elements of leadership and boardroom dynamics.

Why HR Professionals should be inspired

Leena Nair’s ascent from CHRO to CEO serves as an inspiration for HR professionals and women across the globe. Her advocacy for diversity, equity and inclusion is an enduring testament to her leadership, and her HR skills have proven to be a valuable asset in her role as CEO. It’s a powerful reminder that the skills honed in human resources can indeed be leveraged to drive organisational success at the highest level.

Leila Lim

Managing Partner,
Asia Pacific, Lim-Loges & Masters

About Lim-Loges & Masters

Lim-Loges & Masters (LLM) is an award-winning boutique C-suite recruitment & HR consulting agency offering Executive Search, Transition Management and Disruption Management expertise across Asia Pacific. LLM partners with multinational companies seeking to transform their organisations through their people. It supports businesses needing to engage talent in a radical way to meet the future of work. Find out more: https://limlogesmasters.com/

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