Linc Butler is an HR hero

The Massey Award winner “leads not by the example of his power, but by the power of his example.”

Linc Butler wearing suit on top of staircase.
“It’s important that I work to empower and encourage others to believe they can accomplish the extraordinary,” said Linc Butler. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

By night, Linc Butler plays guitar and sings in the tribute band Joe Hero. By day, Butler is also a hero for the work he does as Carolina’s senior associate vice chancellor for human resources and academic personnel. Just ask the 28 people who nominated him for a Massey Award.

Working within the state government structure, Butler has to “manage the needs and wants of the campus’s employee population as a whole, urgent requests from managers and supervisors and the career development and wellbeing of central HR staff,” one nominator wrote. “He handles this full plate with integrity, grace, empathy and a generous dash of humor.”

Nominators heralded Butler’s knowledge of “ever-changing policies, state laws and federal regulations.” But the way they describe him – professional, sensitive, thoughtful, invaluable, nurturing, compassionate, kind, approachable, fair and calm – shows why they appreciate him so much.

“Linc Butler is the epitome of someone who leads not by the example of his power, but by the power of his example,” a nominator wrote. “Some of us joke about being his favorite employee and that is because he makes each of us feel appreciated and supported whether we lead a team of five or 25. He is intentional about recognizing our accomplishments and individual strengths and encourages us to take smart risks to achieve more than perhaps we thought possible.”

‘Terrific work ethics’

He grew up in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the youngest of three brothers. His name is “Lincoln” on his birth certificate, but he was always called “Linc” because his father liked the character “Linc” Hayes in the “Mod Squad” TV show.

“We were middle class. My mom and dad both had terrific work ethics, and they modeled that for us,” he said.

Butler earned a bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in mathematics from Appalachian State University. After a stint as a Kmart personnel manager, he joined Carolina’s Tar Heel Temps in 1997. He then assumed roles of increasing responsibility in human resourses at Carolina before taking high-level human resources positions at North Carolina A&T University and North Carolina Central University.

In 2016, he returned to Carolina’s human resources office. He serves on the University’s Emergency Response Team, leads inclement weather policy formation and sits on many UNC System committees.

“In HR, there’s always a mathematical component when you’re thinking about things like compensation and determining market indexes. But more of what we do is build relationships with people, understand their needs and challenges, then figure out solutions that meet those needs,” he said.

After-work pastimes

Butler and his wife, Becky, live in Mebane, where Butler restores old cars, a hobby he calls “a great way to disconnect from the day-to-day things I have to deal with.” As though he’s proudly showing off photos of his four children, he swipes his phone’s screen to display his restorations: a ’68 butternut-yellow Chevelle Super Sport, a ’75 Corvette Stingray and the latest project, a ’67 Volkswagen Beetle convertible.

And then there’s the band, where the soft-spoken human resources leader takes center stage and blasts covers of hits to hundreds of fans. Asked to choose an anthem, Butler picks Foo Fighters’ “My Hero,” which in its video version shows an ordinary guy rushing into a burning building to rescue a baby and a small dog.

“I love the idea behind it of everyday people doing extraordinary, even heroic things,” he said. “And it’s important that I work to empower and encourage others to believe they can accomplish the extraordinary.”


This story is part of The Well’s coverage of the 2024 C. Knox Massey Distinguished Service Awards, which recognize “unusual, meritorious or superior contributions” by University employees. Look for new recipient profiles to come or find others you may have missed.