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5 Skills Needed to Become a Supply Chain Leader

5 Skills Needed to Become a Supply Chain Leader

March 10, 2023
“Ultimately, the supply chain is a people’s business, no matter what you’re building. It’s about getting the best from individuals and building strong, cross-functional teams,” says Jim Rowan, CEO of Volvo.

According to an article from the World Economic Forum, five specific skills are necessary for a leadership model called CHAIN. The authors of the article spoke with leading CSCOs and COOs, to develop this model.  (Below is an expert of the model.)


One of the most common challenges supply chain leaders are faced with is the lack of end-to-end supply chain collaboration, which can lead to inefficiencies, reduced profits and dissatisfied customers. Beatrix Praeceptor, CPO of Mondi Group believes that: “A high-performing supply chain is not so much about processes and tools as about people collaborating and communicating effectively.”

Too often, procurement teams may be able to find cheaper parts, only to find that they create more complications and higher logistics costs. To minimize avoidable costs, supply chain leaders need to promote the right attitude within their teams and adopt technologies that offer better visibility into their value chains.


Taking end-to-end supply chain collaboration to the next level means having a holistic view of the entire business and focusing every decision on the customer. Leaders should embody a customer obsession culture, as defined at the top of Amazon’s leadership principles.

Pier Luigi Sigismondi, President of Dole Worldwide Packaged Foods, puts it succinctly: “Good leadership needs a grasp of the end-to-end business. Good leadership needs to understand what it means to operate a business. For a company to truly leverage supply chain operations, it is critical to listen to consumer feedback and channel it upstream to improve products and services.”

To be holistic supply chain leaders, having an in-depth knowledge of the industry must be combined with an ongoing commitment to learning. This will enable leaders to identify effective solutions that prioritize customer satisfaction while optimizing supply-chain operations. A great starting point for learning is the continuous exposure to other areas, disciplines, skills and ideas, through networking with peers, reading books and articles, and seeking insights from other fields. Doing so, leaders will stay ahead of their competition and continue to be at the forefront of supply chain success.


Preparing proactively, responding flexibly and converting crises into opportunity are the cornerstones of being an adaptable leader. In the complex and ever-changing supply chain and macro trends of the world, a leader cannot fixate on a single strategy. A pre-pandemic McKinsey Global Institute study found that companies are likely to experience disruption of up to two months every 3.7 years; this highlights the importance of being ready for the unexpected. Adapting to the pandemic was only the start – leaders must learn to be prepared for any future crises and make the most of the opportunities they present.

Chouaib Rokbi, Executive Vice-President of Digital Transformation and IT at STMicroelectronics, strongly believes that leaders should create a culture where their ideas are questioned and challenged. “Flexibility in your ideas is key in your leadership,” he says, “especially in a business environment where it isn't always easy to interpret the true nature of a situation and thus to fix on a single strategy.”


Successful supply chains rely heavily on the effective cooperation between a variety of partners and stakeholders – both internal and external. A key component of successful supply chain management is the ability to influence these partners and stakeholders. This requires effective communication, ensuring that not only the mission of the supply chain is understood, but that each team member is aware of their individual role in achieving that mission.

Jim Rowan, President and CEO of Volvo, believes that emotional intelligence is an essential catalyst for effecting positive change on operations. “Ultimately, the supply chain is a people’s business, no matter what you’re building. It’s about getting the best from individuals and building strong, cross-functional teams,” says Rowan. You may have the best tech solutions and high analytical skills, but the most critical skill remains influencing and in a number of situations, influencing without authority.


Supply chain is not simply numbers on a spreadsheet, but rather a living story and the lifeblood of the business. Data uncovers valuable business insights, and successful supply chain leaders take a valuable seat at the business table when explaining them to the other business stakeholders through impactful and concise narratives.

Research from 2021 found that 70% of employees said that their sense of purpose is defined by their work, therefore meaningful work matters. When supply chain leaders effectively convey their vision through powerful narratives, that clarify the impact of individuals or teams in the end result, they motivate and drive their teams, colleagues and partners to success.

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