Slowly but surely, supply chain is becoming a recognised business function, with more and more companies appointing dedicated supply chain executives and leadership teams. As supply chain leadership roles become more widespread, so will the desire for companies to fill them from inside their own ranks.

But what do you need to do to groom a supply chain leader as part of your company’s executive succession plans? The following four tips offer some insight into the skills and qualities you should look for and develop in the men and women who might ultimately occupy the supply chain chairs in your C-suite.


1. A Broad Functional Skills-base

Functional expertise will form the foundation of an ideal supply chain executive’s skill set. To that end, any potential leader you identify should be encouraged to gain experience across the full range of supply chain components.


As a minimum requirement, he/she should be conversant with production planning, inventory management, warehouse operation, and transportation.


You might wish to have your prospect/s serve in management positions in each key supply chain area for a certain period of time, before moving up to a more general supply chain management role.


2. Global Awareness

With a solid functional grounding, it will be time to develop your prospect’s ability to lead the supply chain process from end-to-end.


Assuming your company sources, sells or otherwise competes with others that have global presence; your future supply chain executives need the skills to manage a global commerce and logistics operation.


Whether you hire for potential supply chain leadership or look for that potential within your organisation, it makes sense to seek people who have some experience of working overseas. Fluency in more than one language will also be an advantage.


3. Systems Affinity

Companies which cultivate a genuine systems approach to their supply chains are the ones that enjoy sustained success. At this point in time, such companies are in the minority amongst many more that still take a linear view, with silos standing in the way of supply chain excellence.


Most supply chain leaders recognise that what they manage is not really a chain, but a complex system of environments, people, technology and assets.


Few companies however, have graduated to a full systems approach to supply chain management. It’s for this reason that you should help your future supply chain executives to become systems thinkers. They must be able to grasp the complexities of cross-functional and inter-company relationships.

Linear thinking is no longer sufficient to lead operations which involve customers, suppliers, partners, and internal departments such as procurement, sales, marketing, logistics and manufacturing.


4. Leadership and Business Skills

While functional skills, knowledge of global markets, and systems thinking are the most important operational attributes to groom in a supply chain executive of the future, prospective leaders also need a wide array of softer skills, along with the necessary financial and economic knowledge to run a business (as opposed to running an operation).

To be a little more specific, development for future supply chain executives should hone their abilities to:

  • Manage people and build effective teams
  • Communicate compelling messages to influence a range of audience types
  • Develop collaborative relationships with functional leaders and external partners
  • Discuss supply chain using parlance that other board members can relate to

Training and development activities for supply chain executives must target all the above skills, helping candidates to gain a portfolio of expertise which even decades of on-the-job experience might not provide.


Executive Education for Supply Chain Leaders

To be effective then, an internally managed supply chain leadership program will need to leverage a range of educational methodologies, possibly aided by a range of specialists in executive development.

If you’re planning to cultivate executive expertise in supply chain leadership for your organisation, and would like some ideas from professional educators, we hope to have some training and education experts present at our Supply Chain Leaders Insights event. It’s coming up on October 26th 2016.


These education professionals, along with other experts that serve the supply chain, will be attending the event purely to offer information and advice to industry practitioners.


You can ask the questions you need to without worrying about sales pressure. That’s what makes Supply Chain Leaders Insights such a fresh and unique industry event. Rather than take my word for that though, why not come along and find out for yourself? We look forward to seeing you there.