Supply Chain Management Leadership

Are you an aspiring supply chain leader? If so, I hope you’re ready to put some work in—not the everyday grafting kind of work, although of course that will be necessary.

I’m talking about working on yourself, because to be successful in supply chain leadership, you must work constantly on developing yourself professionally and personally—and I’m going to tell you why.


Supply Chain Leadership is Different

Being at the head of a department within a supply chain organisation is one thing. Being a supply chain leader is quite another… And it’s a very different thing at that.

You see, a supply chain leader doesn’t head-up a functional team. He or she will be more likely to lead a diverse team of people, each of whom will themselves be responsible for a department or function.


Choosing supply chain leadership as a career path means you must be willing to understand and empathise with a wide range of professional biases, viewpoints and priorities.


Your supply chain team might comprise professionals from manufacturing, purchasing, warehousing, and transportation functions and what’s more, some of those professionals may not even work for the same organisation as you.

This doesn’t mean you must be an expert in every supply chain and logistics discipline imaginable (although the more you know about each of the main areas, the better), but rather, you should possess the interpersonal skills necessary to communicate with different audiences and demographic groups.


Areas of Concentration for SCM Professional Development

The types of skills and attributes necessary for supply chain leadership are such that there are really no grades or defined levels to work towards. Instead, the development process is continuous and unending, at least until you retire or choose to change careers.


But while it might not be possible to put hard targets on development attainments, it’s not too hard to define where personal and professional development efforts should be placed.


The most important qualities to succeed as a leader in supply chain management are:


  • Social and self awareness
  • Flexibility
  • Empathy
  • Change leadership
  • Collaborative abilities
  • The ability to inspire
  • A passion for developing self and others


Contrary to what some would have you believe, leadership and its associated attributes are not personality traits. That’s good news, because it means the skills can be acquired and developed if you’re not already in possession of them.

Of course this knowledge leads naturally to the question of where and how to develop the qualities required for SCM leadership.


Personal and Professional Development Methods

While plenty of companies may offer some form of leadership training, the kind of personal/professional development required for SCM leadership can’t really be fulfilled through attending occasional workshops or online courses.


Besides, you shouldn’t rely solely on an employer to help you fulfill leadership ambitions since as this post is intended to emphasise, you really need to continually focus on development.


Fortunately there are many ways you can do this. Indeed, you might try any of the following methods to take personal control of your formal leadership development:

Putting the Work in: Self-managed Leadership Development

In addition to formal training, mentoring, or coaching, you can also develop your supply chain leadership skills through self-managed experiences.

For example, certain skills, such as active listening can be practiced any time you are involved in a conversation. Others might need to be incorporated more deliberately into your work or social life, such as:

  • Regularly pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and trying new things
  • Looking for opportunities to simplify processes and activities
  • Coaching or mentoring other people, either at work or in other types of social environment
  • Practicing efficient decision-making
  • Putting yourself in the shoes of your friends or colleagues when considering plans or actions that will impact them

All of these activities will help you to continuously develop your SCM leadership abilities. They’ll not only enable you to practice the skills that you learn in formal training environments, but will serve also to substitute and complement structured development activities which by necessity, tend to take place only at particular times and places on your leadership journey.


What’s the Reason for All this Hard Work?

Being a leader in supply chain management is just so different from other roles in the industry. For instance, to be a competent inventory controller, you need to have a suitable range of professional attributes to begin with, but after a few training courses and a year or two of experience, you’ll be up there with the best of them.


As a leader though, you’re not just developing yourself for you, but also for the good of those who must follow you, and for your company and its stakeholders.


Put simply, supply chain leadership isn’t a role at all, but a continuous process in which people become emotionally as well as professionally invested—and just like any other process, continuous improvement and development is the only way to ensure effectiveness in a constantly changing environment.


Contact Rob O'Byrne

Best Regards,
Rob O’Byrne
Email or +61 417 417 307