Executive Briefings

How to Grow Leaders in the Supply Chain

Developing leadership skills that transform the supply chain to new levels of excellence is becoming more of a priority for organizations. Supply chain organizations need to take a holistic, strategic and global approach to leadership development. APQC's research indicates that there is a significant gap between leadership competencies needed for an organization to be successful and the competencies that employees currently possess, suggesting that there is indeed a leadership skills gap.

How to Grow Leaders in the Supply Chain


What are some factors that can help organizations alleviate existing leadership skills deficits? Based on findings from APQC's Leadership Deficit study of 547 professionals in different industries, organizations can increase the effectiveness of their leadership practices and place more priority on leadership development. The study identified the top four practices associated with smaller leadership skills gaps that organizations may want to consider.

Develop leadership capabilities in all employees, not just high-potentials.

Use a leadership competency model to select and develop leaders.

Select employees with leadership potential to take part in formal leadership development programs. Base compensation on performance.

The results suggest that leadership capabilities should be developed in all employees rather than just in high-potential employees. Doing so provides a large base of employees from which organizations can choose when selecting candidates for formal, high-potential leadership development opportunities. In addition, having all employees equipped with leadership skills positions an organization to respond more quickly and precisely to unpredictable events. Rather than taking time to communicate the need for changes through a formal leadership hierarchy and then wait for decisions to be made and passed down, employees will be equipped to make these decisions themselves as the need for change arises.

Developing leadership skills in all employees does not need to be costly.

For example, managers and directors can mentor employees on the job and on different projects by asking for innovative ideas or allowing employees to lead smaller projects in order to develop leadership skills. Without a culture that supports developing leadership capabilities in all employees, leadership skill development may not take place.

To support this mix of both all-inclusive as well as high-potential leadership development, organizations can use a leadership competency model. Using leadership competency models that describes the skills, behaviors and knowledge that employees need to be successful leaders can guide all leadership development efforts. They can be part of all employees’ development plans as well as a tool used to select employees for inclusion in high-potential leadership development programs. In addition to using a leadership competency model, organizations can also promote a culture that is supportive of leadership being developed in and exercised by all employees to suit current business challenges.

Some supply chain high-potential leadership development programs focus on hard skills typically, but there is value in teaching soft skills to employees. Organizations should consider that formal high-potential leadership development programs may need to be modified so they teach and develop the soft leadership skills (i.e., communication, listening and emotional intelligence) as well as the hard skills needed in today’s business environment. It is imperative that supply chain organizations start to progress these skills in high-potential employees early.

Going forward, informal and high-potential leadership development is necessary for maintaining the leadership capabilities of supply chain organizations today, particularly in a volatile business environment. With business and economic conditions changing rapidly, the next generation of leaders needs to be identified and developed early so that they are ready for open positions. Additionally, the leadership skills needed for success today are far more diverse than ever, so it is imperative that organizations progress these skills in employees early.

Source: APQC


What are some factors that can help organizations alleviate existing leadership skills deficits? Based on findings from APQC's Leadership Deficit study of 547 professionals in different industries, organizations can increase the effectiveness of their leadership practices and place more priority on leadership development. The study identified the top four practices associated with smaller leadership skills gaps that organizations may want to consider.

Develop leadership capabilities in all employees, not just high-potentials.

Use a leadership competency model to select and develop leaders.

Select employees with leadership potential to take part in formal leadership development programs. Base compensation on performance.

The results suggest that leadership capabilities should be developed in all employees rather than just in high-potential employees. Doing so provides a large base of employees from which organizations can choose when selecting candidates for formal, high-potential leadership development opportunities. In addition, having all employees equipped with leadership skills positions an organization to respond more quickly and precisely to unpredictable events. Rather than taking time to communicate the need for changes through a formal leadership hierarchy and then wait for decisions to be made and passed down, employees will be equipped to make these decisions themselves as the need for change arises.

Developing leadership skills in all employees does not need to be costly.

For example, managers and directors can mentor employees on the job and on different projects by asking for innovative ideas or allowing employees to lead smaller projects in order to develop leadership skills. Without a culture that supports developing leadership capabilities in all employees, leadership skill development may not take place.

To support this mix of both all-inclusive as well as high-potential leadership development, organizations can use a leadership competency model. Using leadership competency models that describes the skills, behaviors and knowledge that employees need to be successful leaders can guide all leadership development efforts. They can be part of all employees’ development plans as well as a tool used to select employees for inclusion in high-potential leadership development programs. In addition to using a leadership competency model, organizations can also promote a culture that is supportive of leadership being developed in and exercised by all employees to suit current business challenges.

Some supply chain high-potential leadership development programs focus on hard skills typically, but there is value in teaching soft skills to employees. Organizations should consider that formal high-potential leadership development programs may need to be modified so they teach and develop the soft leadership skills (i.e., communication, listening and emotional intelligence) as well as the hard skills needed in today’s business environment. It is imperative that supply chain organizations start to progress these skills in high-potential employees early.

Going forward, informal and high-potential leadership development is necessary for maintaining the leadership capabilities of supply chain organizations today, particularly in a volatile business environment. With business and economic conditions changing rapidly, the next generation of leaders needs to be identified and developed early so that they are ready for open positions. Additionally, the leadership skills needed for success today are far more diverse than ever, so it is imperative that organizations progress these skills in employees early.

Source: APQC

How to Grow Leaders in the Supply Chain