Introducing Michelle Leedy, Executive Advisor at McLean & Company

Author(s): Michelle Leedy

Michelle joined McLean & Company in January 2023 as an Executive Advisor. In this Q&A, Michelle talks about her career, what drew her to this role, and what challenges are top of mind for HR leaders.

How did you get your start in HR?

Picture of Michelle Leedy

My career resulted from both intentional curation and organic evolution. I have over 20 years’ combined consulting, training, and leadership experience in roles spanning industries including Healthcare, Technology, Government, Energy and Utilities, Banking, Human Resources, Consulting, Retail, Higher Education, and Nonprofit. A focus on building and developing people and the talents they bring in serving organization missions was thematic across roles. A natural segue emerged with my first HR position in organization development. Since then, I have served in leadership roles with workforces ranging from 15 to over 120,000 and revenue surpassing $20B. From strategy formation at the board of directors level to services reaching the frontline, my responsibilities ranged from those with stand-ups and turnarounds, to transformations and continuous improvements, to executive and leader coaching.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I hold a bachelor’s degree in Communication from Duquesne University and a master’s degree in Educational Policy and Leadership from Ohio State University. From professional certifications to reading to networking, I am a continuous learner seeking to expand my knowledge and challenge my perspective. I enjoy immersing myself in diversity of thought and sharing my own experience in service to others. I have an affection for authentic leadership and powerful questions to support the deepening of one's awareness and understanding of themselves, others, and situations. This led me to complete a Gestalt coaching program to advance my coaching skills in further support of leader effectiveness.

What does your role as an executive advisor involve? What drew you to it?

My passion to serve others, from individuals to teams to organizations, in being the best version of themselves drew me to my role. Executive Services pairs highly experienced HR executives with client members. As an Executive Advisor, I have the privilege and responsibility to partner with leaders to clarify their priorities through an ongoing relationship, positioning them to leverage strategic and data-based research, and then applying practical tools and actionable next steps for solid execution. It brings me great satisfaction to support other leaders in their organization's mission and delivering exceptional value.

What is top of mind for HR leaders right now?

HR's modernization and elevation in the core business and those it serves remains an opportunity. Strategic and trusted positioning with the senior executive team and board, with a recalibrated HR strategy and operating model, is needed to support HR optimization as a strategic function beyond indispensable HR operations.

Human capital governance, across the HR value chain, including senior executive alignment to strategically designed people priorities and investment decisions, affects leaders who face mounting service demands. HR leaders balance growing expectations with limited capacity impacting burnout risk and needs for new or developing organization capabilities.

Culture stewardship and health, and its intersection with organization values and business strategy, is vital. Culture remains forefront given its relationship to:

  • Talent attraction, retention, engagement, and experience across the employee lifecycle.
  • Diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice.
  • Perception with and support of the board, investors, business constituents and the community.

Workforce digitalization proceeds at a rapid pace with accompanying shifts to customer, client, and workforce expectations and experiences. HR leaders face a host of resulting human capital impacts from infrastructure to culture to strategic workforce planning to HR data and analytics maturation.

What do you do to take care of yourself?

I enjoy nature, travel, dining out, and quality time to enjoy life's abundance. Quality time for me may take shape via time with loved ones including my "fur family," long walks including those with my Nordic walking poles, observing nature and wildlife, and yoga. From silent retreats to exploring new parks, bed and breakfasts, and communities, I appreciate restorative time to pause and take in the beauty surrounding me.

What advice do you have for someone starting out as an HR leader?

What led to your success in prior roles may propel or derail you in your new leadership role. Revisit past habits for yourself and how you are experienced by others as your leadership accountability and influence expands. Take 60 seconds to ground in the present moment before meetings, consider how you now want to be experienced, and identify the top one to three takeaways you desire for yourself and others. Solicit feedback on development opportunities to be a more effective leader.

Stay grounded in your organization's business strategy and priorities. Mature your business acumen and speak with key stakeholders in terms of your core business versus "HR speak." There will be countless, valid opportunities and requests for the services of you and those you lead. Not everything can be a priority. Be clear on the governance structure and decision-making process to establish strategically aligned human capital priorities with agility to flex to changing business needs.

Secure and protect at-risk time to focus on strategic planning, innovation, team connection and purpose, and self-care. Operational demands, daily fires, challenging personalities, and high-pressure climates can easily compete for this essential time. While you are ultimately responsible to protect this time, consider working with a mentor or coach to support navigating your new leadership terrain and setting appropriate boundaries for success and sustainability.

To learn more about our Executive Services and how McLean & Company will partner with you to accelerate completion of targeted HR priorities that ultimately drive your organization’s critical business objectives forward, please visit us at McLean Executive Services or contact Jon Campbell at

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