Seven Procurement Leadership Qualities for Improving Procurement

Ichiban Commercial Solutions Procurement Leadership Qualities Effective Procurement Leaders


Procurement mentoring insights from Ichiban Commercial Solutions on the top 7 procurement leadership qualities needed for effective teams. Read More

7 Procurement Leadership Qualities You Need to Build an Effective Procurement Team

Procurement regularly comes under review. Benchmarks and surveys gauge procurement best practice and set the standards. Our post sets the scene for procurement’s “Joneses” and provide you with  seven A-to-G procurement leadership qualities to assist your procurement leaders to not only keep up with the Joneses but leading the Joneses.

Developing the Joneses of the Procurement World

There are a number of reports available in the marketplace that provide useful information to determine best practice and even what “world-class” means.

Who are the Joneses then?

The Jones are the top-quartile performers:

  • those who deliver more than 7 time their cost and investment base,
  • delivering lower operating costs and also
  • work smarter with fewer resources.
Ichiban Commercial Solutions Procurement Leadership Qualities Effective Procurement Leaders

However, especially in the current up-and-down times, your team will not magically turn into top performers overnight or with no additional support, adapt to ever-changing requirements.

Effectiveness is a journey, a process and requires investment in your team.

Investing in procurement leaders

A necessity – not a wish list

The purpose of this post certainly does not focus on technology and the importance of having access to the right data, systems and technology. Technology has a critical place to fill in business.

However the best technology and data get you nowhere unless you have the right procurement leadership in place.

The A-to-G of Procurement Leadership Qualities

We developed our matrix with our key Procurement Leadership Qualities based on our background, experience and achievements.

Ultimately, we know what it takes to perform and to be top performer and procurement leader.

We know what it takes to perform as a top-quartile performer and in addition, how to achieve more with less.

From time to time, we also have to be creative. Thus in our 7 procurement leadership qualities we used our imagination and created an A-to-G list of qualities.

As a result, our A-to-G of our procurement leadership qualities include the following leadership qualities from A to G:

  1. Attitude First
  2. Business Alignment
  3. Collaboration
  4. Decision-making
  5. Expanding Horisons
  6. Focus on the end goal; and finally
  7. Goalpost movers and shakers

Read More: Six Steps to Lead Procurement to the Next Level

#1. Attitude First

You will find many reports and research on procurement key traits and focus areas, however very few reports seem to focus on attitude.

However, in our experience, attitude and not skill as such, forms the foundation of performance or lack thereof.

Attitude is internal to a person and ultimately motivation comes from within.

Aptitude, on the other hand, can be learned.

Zig Ziglar describes attitude very well:

“Your attitude, not your aptitude, determines your altitude”.

With the right attitude,  procurement leaders will lead, inspire, perform and also add value to business.

#2. Business Alignment

Procurement leaders align themselves with business drivers and outcomes. In addition, they make sure that their teams become integrated business partners.

Business alignment also includes holding yourself accountable for your procurement performance and integrating as part of business with a specific role to play.

Effective procurement leaders need to focus on what the business needs and how best to adapt in a way that both meets compliance as well as deliver best value for money outcomes.

#3. Collaboration, Not Isolation

Collaboration refers to the ability to collaborate with internal and external stakeholders, to build bridges instead of putting up barriers. It refers to the ability to influence progress and innovation.

Procurement managers who do not collaborate or care to collaborate, will not raise the bar or improve their performance. Procurement cannot function in isolation.

The Joneses certainly understand about adapting a stakeholder/customer-centric service design and delivery. Collaboration delivers better outcomes and rewards.

#4. Decision-Making: Facts not Fiction

The buck stops somewhere. And with sourcing and procurement, the buck stops with procurement leaders.

Therefore procurement leaders must have solid decision-making qualities.

Thus, procurement leaders must be able to separate fiction from fact and work with proper facts, data, analysis and justification.  This also includes risk management.

This includes embracing digital transformation and leveraging analytics-based decision making.

#5. Expanding Horisons

Procurement leaders must be able to look beyond the traditional and source for innovation.

Therefore this means – getting out of old comfort zones, working with suppliers and entrepreneurs to find innovation. Tapping into supplier innovation in a collaborative manner.

#6. Focus on the end goal

In day-to-day procurement, it often becomes a struggle to find time for strategic planning and thinking because of the transactional overload; especially in organisations where little money is spent on technology and systems.

A strong procurement leader will make sure that the team is focusing on the end goal and do not get stuck in transactions.

#7. Goalpost movers and shakers

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” – Albert Einstein.

We can say the same about procurement.

Instead of being disrupted, procurement leaders are the ones to raise the bar and move and shake the goal posts for continuous improvement and outperformance.

Procurement needs to be agile – because the Joneses certainly are.

Ichiban Commercial Solutions Procurement Leadership Qualities Effective Procurement Leaders

The Joneses lead by example: Great Procurement Leaders Make a Difference

Although we may refer to top-quartile performers as the Joneses, we have a lot of respect for their achievements and for their procurement leadership qualities. We do believe that more should be done to reduce the number of stragglers and improve the performance of the pack in the middle.

Investing in procurement leadership and improving leadership qualities is a necessity not a luxury.

Business does not have 5 years or even 2 to wait for procurement leaders to move up on the ladder. Today’s dynamic changing world does not wait.

Gone are the days where procurement can send out yet another one-sided demand for cost savings.  Supply chains get disrupted and will continue to be disrupted.

Even further gone are the days where there was room to move within your team – procurement teams these days are leaner than ever. Procurement leaders are even more stressed out and under the pump. People have to work remotely, deal with things such as isolation.

To see improvement in procurement performance, business has to focus on developing the right procurement leadership qualities and invest in their procurement leaders and teams.

Also, remember –  the Joneses do not stand still and wait for their neighbours.

The Joneses continue and will continue to raise the fence higher and higher. Thus, it will get harder and harder to get onto the other side of the fence.

In any case, the top performers perform even better than last year and will continue to do so this year and the next.

Just imagine how incredible the return on investment would be if we helped more procurement managers to become top leaders?

In my opinion, there is a direct correlation between the lack of innovative culture in the broader organisation, the lack of technology and access to good data on the one hand and poor procurement performance on the other hand. This makes it incredibly hard to step out of the middle pack.

Another reality is that it takes at least two years to make any real difference. Five year to move to the top. All things considered, five years is a long time to stay committed to the end goal and to keep moving towards the end goal.

If, on top of these shortcomings, we also add little or no training, no support or no mentoring for leaders AND thus do not invest in our procurement teams, we really cannot expect our procurement teams to perform. We can therefore not really expect our procurement teams to tap into innovation. Not if we continue failing to tap into the right procurement leadership qualities.

And finally, to top it off – the true procurement leaders with the right procurement leadership qualities will leave and the organisation will be worse off.

Therefore it is critical to invest in the people in procurement that do have the right procurement leadership qualities.

We believe it is a necessity not a luxury.

Just take a moment to consider this:

How incredible the return on your investment will be?

Can you really afford not to develop your procurement team?

Please CONTACT US for more information on our procurement leadership packages and how to improve the procurement leadership qualities of your procurement leaders.

Do you want to know how well your procurement leaders and procurement teams are doing? 

Then our Procurement Health Check will provide a hands-on, practical benchmark for you and can provide the required mentoring, training and/or other guidance to help you raise up your procurement leadership and your procurement teams to become the Joneses.

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About the Author:

Celia Jordaan has more than 30 years international and corporate experience and worked in the areas of procurement, tenders, supply chain, contract management, law and risk. She works with business of all sizes and industries, procurement leaders and teams to develop and implement strategies to boost business performance, make tendering easy and improve bottom line performance.

To learn more about Celia Jordaan, please click here.

For more information on how we can assist your procurement team, your business with tendering or strategic business development and planning, please send us an email today.

Ichiban Commercial Solutions Procurement Advice and Tendering Solutions Celia Jordaan

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