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Disruptions to the supply chain are affecting the lives of everybody in ways that are unprecedented. In fact, these supply chain issues are getting so much attention that even the White House wrote a blog post on the situation. A recent Forbes article attributes the labor shortage as to why supply chains are disrupted. However, the supply chain has been a labor-strapped profession for years now. Even as far back as 2017, Gartner wrote about strategies to attract new and younger talent to be our future supply chain leaders.
I recognize that while there has been some progress on opening up career paths for the newest generation entering the workforce, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. Therefore, I thought I’d do my part in helping draw members of Gen Z into a supply chain leader career journey. I began working in warehouse management and supply chain software some 30 years ago so let’s just say I have plenty of years of wisdom to share.
If you are embarking on a supply chain career, here are the critical skills that will be most important to keep in the front of your mind:
This is not some preachy nonsense because being respectful is intentional and takes practice. The fundamental skill of leadership is all based upon respect and treating others around you in the way you would like to be treated. A supply chain leader must have the skillset to create a shared language of respect in the workplace. In addition, if you treat yourself right by respecting your health and well-being, you will have a solid foundation to building a long-term career.
Tomorrow’s leaders must effectively operate in — and promote — a culture that feeds on data. As a supply chain leader, what are you basing your decisions on … feelings, impressions, your opinion or by collecting real data and evaluating that information? Data-driven decisions are the basis of effective leadership. As a starting point, collecting the data is an exercise in understanding really what the factors are in the decision and then making the call with data allows you to see the effect of your choice.
Learn to fail, learn to recover and learn to improve. Real leaders make mistakes, but they also learn from their mistakes and try not to make the same mistake twice. Today’s supply chain leaders must continuously adapt to change, and I foresee future leaders will also need to be flexible. Therefore, learn how to manage change and sharpen this skill in order to ensure your success (and sanity) in our hyper, fast-moving world.
Developing the capabilities to lead employees successfully takes training and motivation. As you start your career and begin to build your leadership style, you will find that the people who work for you will follow your example. Nurture, collaborate and build trust with your staff to establish impeccable standards of excellence they can follow. If you expect your team to push forward to operational greatness, you must do the same in order to achieve success.
Shocking as this may sound, taking the safe path is not always the best way. If you want to become one of the great supply chain leaders, you must every now and then challenge the status quo and take a risk disrupting what you know (or at least what you think you know). Disruptors or perhaps innovators have been responsible for most of the major improvements in supply chain practice. A leader’s willingness to try something new or something unexpected to support improvements in the business can enable the creation of new services, products or opportunities to customers. I anticipate supply chain playing a critical part of business innovation in the coming years and the next generation of supply chain leaders need to lead this charge.
This is an exciting time for supply chain! As a group, we are starting to get a seat at the big table with a chance to help make the decisions that mold company success. Our supply chain leaders of the future are going to be fundamental in defining how and where organizations will grow and adapt to the ever-changing business, market and customer requirements. Let’s all work to help them become the leaders we wished we had when we started out.