10 Competencies to Advance to Supply Chain Executive (Part 1 of 2)

By Published On: November 5, 2019

Supply chain leadership roles such as Chief Supply Chain Officer continue to grow in popularity as more companies recognize that supply chain management is central to success and a key differentiator for adding value and sustaining revenue growth. 
Supply chain leaders of today aren’t just focused on coordinating the company’s end-to-end supply chain and cutting costs. 
They are also involved with developing and supporting core business strategies, product and service innovations, customer retention programs, leading due diligence and integrations for mergers & acquisitions, margin enhancement initiatives, and more. 
One of the common questions I receive from rising supply chain leaders is: “What do I need to do to land the head of supply chain position?” 
There is no magic formula, as every company’s supply chain is unique, requiring varying degrees of experience, qualifications and skills.
However, there are several core competencies that you should aim to master in efforts to advance to the top supply chain leadership level.
Below are the first 5 competencies. We’ll cover the next 5 competencies in part 2 of this blog series.

Deep and Broad Understanding of the Business

Supply chain touches, influences, and impacts almost all aspects of a business. It’s imperative to develop a solid understanding of the overall business- from finance to marketing to I.T. to sales, and beyond. 
This will improve your ability to serve as a trusted, impactful business partner across the enterprise. Engaging mentors from other departments while building relationships across the enterprise can help achieve a comprehensive understanding of the business.

Impeccable Leadership and Talent Development

This one is a given, seeing that supply chain executives typically oversee the largest teams within most companies, especially companies that manufacture and/or distribute their own products. It’s important to point out because, without the ability to influence across an organization and lead major change initiatives, you won’t ascend to the top of the supply chain career ladder. Practice and embrace servant leadership with all stakeholders within and outside of the enterprise while focusing on building relationships and helping others achieve success.
Supply chain executives and their leadership teams are encouraged to constantly evaluate their organization’s talent gaps and focus on closing gaps through training, stretch assignments, cross-functional assignments, certifications such as the APICS CSCP and CPIM, and other continuing education programs.

Cross-Functional Supply Chain Expertise

Supply chain leaders are expected to have solid knowledge and experience across all functional areas of their company’s supply chain, regardless of whether the company outsources manufacturing or logistics to third parties or handles everything in-house. The ability to connect all of the dots from your suppliers’ suppliers to your customers’ customers and integrate all departments and functions into one team with one vision is critical for success.
To obtain this, you need to be a top performer and purposely seek out opportunities that allow you to work across the supply chain, from operations roles to corporate headquarters to customer-facing positions. Gaining employment with a growing company that has progressive talent development practices is ideal to accelerate learning and development across the supply chain e.g. a company that focuses on cross-training their employees versus holding them back in their respective functional silos.

Global Experience

Gaining experience within multiple developed and developing countries is important in order to understand how to adapt to different cultures, languages, geopolitical challenges, and supply chain risk scenarios. Seek out global opportunities early on with your employer to include global sourcing roles, setting up operations in foreign countries, expat assignments, and the like.

Strategic Thinking

Lacking the ability to think strategically has been a common impediment to the career growth for those looking to move to the supply chain leadership ranks. The typical culprit involves allocating too much time to keeping up with the day-to-day work tasks and failing to think and act ahead. 
Supply chain leaders must develop this critical skill set in efforts to shape their organizations to be able to proactively tackle future business challenges while enabling and sustaining growth. Engaging a mentor with solid strategic planning and development chops is a great place to start.
You can learn more about these supply chain leadership competencies in the video below, and stay tuned for the next 5 competencies that will be released soon!