I have been thinking about leadership a lot lately. Perhaps it is the various styles of our elected officials – from local representation to the highest office in the land. Perhaps it is what we often see or don’t see in professional sports. Perhaps it is the fact that as I reflect on my career in Supply Chain, there has been a dearth of leadership at clients, customers, and, sadly, at my employers.
Leadership is one of those characteristics that when we experience it we know it. Everyone has examples of great leaders in their lives.
There are everyday leaders in classrooms, volunteer organizations, houses of worship, and our family households. Is a leader the boisterous, cocky, ‘smartest guy in the room’ type? Maybe for some. For me though, I have found the best in today’s environment to be something quite different.
- A leader speaks the truth. She shares what she knows, and doesn’t know, in a candid and open way. This is especially germane when difficult times arise (was the global pandemic on the mind of any organizational leader a year ago?). Uncertainty remains, but a leader still must speak the truth as they see it;
- A leader asks for help. No one knows it all (but we all have examples of someone who thought they knew it all, right?). But checking the ego and soliciting input from the team puts the focus on the challenge to be overcome, not whether one single person has all the answers;
- A leader is self-aware. That is, if he makes a mistake he owns it and let’s people see his foibles. No team member will have much confidence in a snake oil salesman and CYA master;
- A leader is always learning. A title or large office should not represent the end of one’s journey to excel. Constantly asking for feedback and looking for ways to improve oneself and the team is a sign of strength not weakness.
In supply chain today the pace is quicker than ever and leadership is required to keep pace.
Say you are the individual who put his/her career on the line by recommending technology upgrades, but post-implementation the team is not seeing the results you promised the organization. You, the leader, have stewardship of that investment. Some people would make excuses, point fingers, and insist they did everything right.
A true leader will own up, be honest about what went well and what didn’t, and find ways to learn from the experience and improve upon it.
One clear way to do that is to stay engaged with your implementation partner(s) and be insistent about making things right ASAP. Or get additional savings. Or improve service to customers.
Find ways to get that ROI, even if it is uncomfortable for you personally. Your team will see a leader that wants success for everyone. And maybe you parlay that experience into politics (or maybe not).
Dennis Heppner is a Principal at JBF Consulting. Dennis’ expertise in transportation, logistics and supply chain operations, and third-party providers spans 25+ years. His experience is broad-based, spanning entire supply chains, including business process redesign, sourcing, distribution network design, transportation management, distribution operations, outsourcing selection, and business strategy for major manufacturers, distributors, retailers including eCommerce, and service organizations.
About JBF Consulting
Founded in 2003, JBF Consulting is a supply chain execution strategy and systems integrator to logistics-intensive companies of every size and any industry. Our background and deep experience in the field of commercial logistics technology implementation positions us as industry leaders whose craftsmanship exceeds our client expectations. We expedite the transformation of supply chains through logistics & technology strategy, commercial & bespoke software implementation, and analytics & optimization.