It wasn’t that long ago that as a leader in supply chain or logistics, you had little chance of even being noticed by your company’s executive team, let alone taking a place in the lofty heights of the C-Suite.
Times are changing however, and a growing number of companies finally understand just how critical logistics and supply chain operations are to business performance.
With this realisation comes not just an acceptance that supply chain expertise is an executive requirement, but a much warmer welcome into the upper echelons of leadership for professionals with a logistics background.
Be Ready, Because it’s Tough at the Top
If you’re a supply chain or logistics leader with executive aspirations, you’ll need to work hard and prepare thoroughly, because executive positions rarely come with the luxury of a slow start.
Once you succeed in getting your seat in the boardroom, you’re more than likely to be straight in at the deep end—perhaps from the very first day of your appointment.
The following preparation tips will assist you in proving your mettle as executive material, and will even help you get ready to hit the ground running.
Take Responsibility for Your Development
To attain a position as an executive officer—whether that means Chief Supply Chain Officer, Chief Operations Officer, or even CEO—you will need to take charge of your development and drive your own career progress. A passive approach won’t cut it unless you want to wait a very long time in the hopes of getting lucky.
Step 1 might be to speak to your HR department or your manager and ask for some appropriate training and education, but that shouldn’t stop you from being proactive in self-development too.
You can do this by reading publications with an executive focus whenever you can, joining an executive development program, or perhaps even studying for a relevant degree. You’ll need to juggle your studies with the day job, but that shouldn’t be too tricky, given the proliferation of online degree and development programs available today.
Executive officers must understand the environment and processes of a wide range of functional operations. That’s why your development should also include working in as many functional areas as possible. While you may not get to work in them all, it’s important to study and learn as much as you can about those in which you don’t gain first-hand experience.
Learn from the Experienced
Preparation means more than just knowing your way around the functional components of a business. If possible, you should actively learn your way into an executive role, and that means gaining knowledge of what it’s like to fill one.
To help you with this, you could do a lot worse than find a mentor who already works (or has worked) as an executive.
If you can’t find an executive mentor in your company, you might need to put your networking skills into practice. Casting a wide net is not a bad idea at all in the search for a mentor, and some good ways to do that include:
- Attending conferences that have a leadership theme
- Frequenting industry events relevant to your sector
- Casting around on professional social media sites such as Linkedin
- Joining an executive peer group like our own Supply Chain Leaders Boardroom
If you struggle to find a mentor despite taking the above steps, you might wish to consider investing in some professional leadership coaching. Remember, it’s possible to benefit from online coaching, and better still, it’s an approach that offers access to professional advisers located anywhere in the world.
Broaden Your Global Horizons
Many companies expect their executives to be comfortable in a global-leadership setting. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to seek exposure to international business operations (if you don’t already have experience of working across nations and cultures). The best way to gain such exposure is to spend time working abroad.
If you work for an international company, you may be able to ask for an internal overseas posting or get involved with an international project. If not, try applying for a new job based overseas.
A couple of years in such a setting will really boost your readiness for an executive role, so if you’re serious about making it to the C-Suite, working abroad will be a very worthwhile investment of your time, as long as your domestic circumstances don’t stand in the way.
Be Prepared to Compete
As a supply chain leader, your chances of landing an executive office today are as good as your counterparts’ from sales or finance, assuming you have the ambition, ability, and experience. Nevertheless, while not everyone wants to become a business executive, most offices will have more than their share of ambitious candidates.
If you want a place at the top, it’s something you must set as a serious objective, and then plan, plan, plan for, before putting the preparation tips above into practice.
Be prepared to compete tenaciously for the job you want and to commit yourself fully to continuous, ongoing self-development. Most of all, enjoy the journey and especially the satisfaction when you reach your objective—because you will surely have earned it.