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  October 25th, 2023 | Written by

Navigating the Supply Chain Maze: Leadership Insights for Key Industries

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Leading through change is one of the biggest challenges any leader can face. It takes vision, planning, and patience. Risks are high and uncertainty abounds. Momentum is hard to build, and even harder to keep.

While leading through change is difficult, it’s unavoidable for leaders in today’s modern business world. The business landscape is constantly evolving, with new consumer expectations and new business opportunities. To succeed, leaders must help their organizations to adapt and grow.

The need for change is especially evident in supply chain management. The COVID-19 pandemic derailed the global supply chain, revealing its weaknesses and forcing the industry to consider a new approach to management.

As leaders in the supply chain space seek to navigate the new landscape, they should consider the following leadership insights.

Steer clear of the leadership crisis

There is a leadership crisis in the US, as leaders in every industry are facing a raft of new challenges. Economic uncertainty has made costs increase and revenue decrease, and a labor shortage has left leaders without the human resources they need to pursue growth.

As a result, many leaders have become fixated on revenue no matter the cost, which has led to work environments that feel depersonalized. Employees complain leaders are unappreciative, constantly pushing for more production, and generally can’t be trusted to be true to their word.

To steer clear of the crisis, leaders must recommit to provide the support their teams need. Difficult decisions will need to be made, but the best leaders will make them with empathy, ethics, and integrity.

Become a forward-thinking leader

The supply chain space needs forward-thinking leaders now more than ever. Covid brought unprecedented changes to supply chain management, but leaders need to accept the new reality and embrace the tools and processes that will serve the industry’s new needs.

Forward-thinking leaders lock on to emerging trends and assess the impact they could have on their industry. They create systems that encourage innovations and take intelligent risks.

Forward-thinking leaders drive change proactively, rather than reacting to change. They not only invest in talent to ensure they will have the workplace skills they need to meet future needs, but also effectively and consistently communicate the vision they have for the future.

In the supply chain space, forward-thinking leaders are data-driven. They incorporate IoT technology to incorporate data into their management processes, and leverage AI to produce advanced metrics and predictive modeling. Empowered by data and the insight it provides, they can remove redundancies and cut wasteful costs. Consequently, their organizations are better positioned to compete.

Prepare for difficult conversations

Mass layoffs have become a reality forcing many leaders to navigate uncharted waters, and supply chain companies have not been exempt from the trend. The recessionary environment is partially to blame, as companies predicting lower revenues trigger a reduction in force to tighten their belts.

Technology is also driving layoffs. The workplace automation AI and other tech innovations are fueling is doing away with positions in all industries. In the supply chain industry, AI tools are being deployed to manage inventory, automate procurement, streamline customer service, inspect quality, and more.

For leaders, layoffs mean difficult conversations. The news about layoffs — even when they are happening in other industries — makes most workers anxious. As they contemplate who may be impacted, and when, they look to leaders for clear guidance.

When communicating about layoffs, it’s critical to provide transparency and empathy. Giving employees context, including the state of the business and what options have been considered, can set the stage for healthy dialogue. Leaders should also communicate with compassion, recognizing the fear and frustration workers will most likely be feeling.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is an important skill for leaders to practice when talking about layoffs. Leaders should be ready for feedback, including questions and input on the process. Engaging with EQ helps to hear other perspectives and respond with gratitude. Leaders who engage with EQ are also more likely to learn through the process.

EQ will also help leaders to remain resilient through difficult seasons. Layoffs can trigger a lot of criticism — some valid and some not. Leaders with EQ can receive criticism without taking it personally, admit the areas where they are accountable, and move forward with confidence.

Supply chain management is a vital industry where margins are razor-thin. Today’s leaders face the challenge of meeting an ever-growing demand from consumers, while fuel and other key resources continue to become more costly. 

To stay effective, leaders must not lose sight of meaningful metrics. By supporting their teams, leveraging technology, and keeping a close eye on emerging trends, they will equip their organizations to effectively navigate the supply chain maze.

Author Bio

Sean Shahkarami is a visionary leader, entrepreneur, author, executive and corporate coach, adjunct college professor, and public speaker. For his work in education, coaching, speaking in University classrooms, and his first book, “Resonate – Principles of Peak Performance,” he has been awarded the Outstanding Leadership Award and is the keynote speaker at the Education 2.0 Conference in Las Vegas this coming March 2024. His work as an exceptional entrepreneur and leader led to Sean being featured on the cover of the “Top 100 Innovators and Entrepreneurs Magazine.” He was awarded the Outstanding Leadership Award at the Health 2.0 Conference in acknowledgment of the innovative performance of his start-up healthcare AI software business.