As part of the I Am A Procurement Leader campaign, procurement practitioners have been invited to guest blog and look ahead to what they see as the path to becoming a leader of tomorrow’s function. In this post, Kees van der Vleuten, former chief procurement officer of TenneT, Stork and Fokker Technologies looks at the elements of the leadership path of procurement.
The journey to becoming a procurement leader is a path riddled with twists and turns. Whether accepting a project or a buyer’s role in the function or whether your career started somewhere else, it does not matter so long as you have defined for yourself a clear road map get where you want to go. As an example, my career started in supply chain management and later this was combined with procurement.
Another great example of a procurement leader who has made this journey is Barbara Kux, former CPO of Siemens. She worked her way up to the board room of a number of large multinationals and now finds herself as a non-executive board member at many others.
Now, the question is, if you’re looking ahead and thinking about your career in the function what should you take into account in order to become a true procurement leader?
- "Looking beyond boundaries"
A high dose of curiosity should be present in any procurement leader, especially at the start and mid-career phase. Curiosity should focus on working in different industries, with different cultures, in the organisational dynamics but also the broader array of procurement. Working in these different areas will widen your scope, enhance your experiences and help develop you personally.
- "Focus on business diversity"
Working in different companies – from those listed on the stock exchange to small start-ups – helps you to build perseverance, makes you an ‘agile’ leader but also helps you understand the dynamics of a corporate culture versus one that is venture-backed or even family-owned.
To follow your career as a procurement leader, the road will not be straight; you have to embrace different roles, different assignments and even different projects. Procurement and supply chain are two of the pivotal functions in the value chain and interact with many stakeholders (functional areas, board of management, board of directors/shareholders and even customers). Be aware of developments in the digital age (’big data’, ’cloud technology’), environmental aspects (HSEQ and the circular economy), changing supply chain and technical requirements (shared services, control towers, outsourcing, innovation, alliance management etc.) but also the changing financial environment (capital and equity provisions, changing financial systems etc). In other words, your leadership defines the right strategic direction for procurement if you are sensitive to these topics.
Education is part of the game and it seems that lifelong learning is the standard now. Learning comes also in your leadership in terms of how you manage your team and how you work with your peers, your management team or even shareholders. The procurement leader of today has to understand the (financial) dynamics of the business model, the complex stakeholder environment and the impact you should make as a leader. Your leadership-style is important here.
When starting your journey you are almost certainly not aware of all the opportunities out there and probably not fully aware of your own potential. The key is to start developing yourself through (executive) coaching, leadership assessments and by personal reflection. Always ask yourself: "What could I have done better? How can I become a better leader?”. There is no shame in making mistakes, or to make judgements on business aspects so long as you know what you want and what’s good for the company. Various leadership assessments are there to guide your personal development. Most elements in leadership will require a blend of being a strategist, an expert, a mentor, a team player, a facilitator and an owner at the same time. This is what is expected from you.
A procurement leader must understand that there are many ways to become an excellent leader. My own personal roadmap in supply chain and procurement has given me the fruits from personal investment and hard work and my track record has expanded to be able to be positioned for company board work.
Procurement leaders are inspired by other leaders and in turn they inspire their own staff. Before you know it, the procurement leader of today is the CEO of the company tomorrow!
Look at the article of the "seven signposts" as defined by Korn Ferry Institute (see picture) as a guide to the identification of high-potential leaders.
Kees van der Vleuten is former chief procurement officer of TenneT, Stork and Fokker Technologies and a certified (non-)executive director.
To register to become a guest blogger for the I am a Procurement Leader campaign or to find out more about the initiative, click here.
This contributed article has been written by a guest writer at the invitation of Procurement Leaders. Procurement Leaders received no payment directly connected with the publishing of this content.