How HR managers can cultivate cross-silo leadership

HR managers can look for, develop and reinforce certain behaviours to break down barriers within an organisation. To achieve this so called cross-silo leadership, HR managers can focus on hiring and developing talent with very specific skills.


In a recent Harvard Business Review article, experts from several international business schools argue that employees who communicate and collaborate across silos provide integrated solutions for their clients that create great value for their organisations. Drawing on their work with hundreds of executives across many organisations, the authors present a set of practices that facilitates cross-silo leadership, which can be learned and developed over time according to an analysis by Insead’s Knowledge website.

HR managers who strive to identify and cultivate the best talent for their firms know that hiring is a human aspect to finding the right fit for a particular team, and that there is great value in working across divides, be they cultural or functional, the article states.

For cross-silo leadership, HR managers best concentrate on hiring and developing talent with the following skills: Cultivating cultural brokerage, asking questions that facilitate perspective and taking and expanding points of view through network scanning.

In terms of hiring and developing cultural brokers, the first step is actually recognising them. HR professionals can identify cultural brokers by looking at candidates’ background and experience. These are the candidates who tend to have experience in multiple domains (who have lived and worked in multiple cultures or in multiple functions) and have experience helping people work across domains. Such candidates may have been involved in post-merger integration or have experience simultaneously working with others from multiple functions, for example.

Asking good questions and taking others’ perspective on board are another set of skills that HR managers can look for in candidates and encourage among in-house talent. This skill becomes obvious quite early on during the interview process already when you see how a candidate responds during the conversation and if it is a one-way-street or someone actually being curious and interested and asking useful questions.

Lastly, HR managers need to help employees leverage their holistic view of the network. Even though employees might be working across divides, it is essential that they reach beyond the formal org chart.