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What Qualities Will Supply Chain Leaders Need in 2022 and Beyond?

The landscape of supply chain leadership is rapidly changing. These are some of the top skills and qualities that supply chain leaders will need in 2022 and beyond.

Over the last few years, supply change management has changed dramatically. As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to impact the global supply chain, organizations are looking for new ways to build resilience and flexibility into their supply chains. Supply chain leaders need to be agile and willing to embrace change in order to remain competitive and drive business. 

These are some of the top skills and qualities that supply chain leaders will need in 2022 and beyond. 

1. Agile and adaptable

One of the top skills that supply chain leaders need is flexibility and adaptability; they must react quickly to external factors to minimize risk. This skillset is crucial due to the ever-changing nature of supply chain operations and the fact that things don’t always go according to plan. Embrace change, don’t resist it. 

Having an agile supply chain means that you’ll be able to respond quickly to market changes, consumer demands, and new technologies. This may involve re-working your original plan or adopting new technology. Real-time data analysis, for example, can give you insight into current operations and help you determine if you need to make changes at any point in the supply chain such as sourcing or transportation. You should also consider setting aside a block of funds so you can act quickly when priorities change.  

2. Technological expertise

Technology adoption and reliance only continues to increase. But, the good news is that supply chain technology can be a supply chain leader’s best friend. 

Automation technologies, for instance, can streamline many of the routine day-to-day transactions. Analytics tools can help leaders make data-driven decisions and assess demand to plan for the future. Enterprise software applications can improve visibility along the supply chain. 

It’s important that supply chain leaders like you understand the technology you’re using, as well as understand what’s available on the market, so you can speak confidently to vendors about your organization’s IT needs and advocate for technology solutions that support goals. This helps you make smarter, faster, more efficient decisions that have a positive impact on operations. 

3. Strategic thinking and leadership

Once leaders have technology in place to assist them with day-to-day operations, this frees up time for them to do other things within the organization, like supplier relationship management, business problem solving, and setting stakeholder expectations. 

After two years of delayed shipments, materials shortages, misplaced containers, and skyrocketing prices brought on by the pandemic, CPOs are now becoming key members of an organization’s leadership team. They need to prepare and implement new plans, fix problems along the way, and make sure everything continues to run smoothly. They also must be able to communicate, coordinate, and collaborate effectively with their team members and external stakeholders.

4. Risk-taking and innovation

Not only do CPOs have to think strategically, they also need to be willing to take risks and constantly innovate in order to keep up and get ahead in an ever-changing world. 

When we talk about supply chain innovation, we generally mean making improvements to current supply chain processes including how products, information, work, and funds move through the supply chain. CPOs must be willing to experiment if they are to improve operational efficiency, reduce costs, and influence the direction of the business. For example, CPOs might implement new technology such as blockchain or smart sensors to gain more visibility to their supply chain operations. 

5. A heightened sense of responsibility and ethics

As COVID-19 disrupted supply chains around the world, people turned to buying locally-sourced goods and services. Where possible, organizations began purchasing from local vendors in their communities to bypass major supply chain disruptions, such as border closures and delayed shipments.

Not only that, but there is also an increasing demand for sustainable, socially responsible products and services. Sustainable business practices are essential at every step of the supply chain, from raw materials to production to delivery. 

Right now, a purchasing policy that incorporates sustainability is critical not only to things like brand reputation, but also to mitigating very real threats like climate change. 

Organizations must move toward a more environmentally-friendly supply chain by procuring sustainable materials from the beginning, looking for operational processes that could be more efficient, and using software and equipment to gain deeper insights into their operations.

The future of supply chain leadership

Supply chain management is a rapidly-changing industry. Widespread adoption of technology and global climate change will likely be top-of-mind for supply chain leaders in the coming years. Therefore, being adaptable, using up-to-date technology, understanding current consumer trends, and having strong leadership skills will help supply chain leaders respond proactively to changes in the industry. 

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