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Leadership in Supply Chain

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Supply chain management comprises a complex set of functions within an organization, affecting the full spectrum of what that business does, from product or service creation and development through production, marketing, distribution and sales. With globalization and increasing numbers of multinational corporations, supply chain logistics management has only gotten more complicated, spanning different economies, cultural norms, markets, labor laws, and tax and import/export regulations. But it is not simply a combination of logistics tasks and systems. Managing a business’s supply chain network involves bringing together a vast array of personnel, departments and partner companies to maximize efficiency, service and profits.

Managing people and relationships is an integral part of supply chain management, and effective leadership is of great importance to success. The role of the supply chain leader integrates the management of both people and logistics systems, with the leader continually analyzing market trends, utilizing appropriate information systems and big data sources, making decisions based on these analyses, and promoting innovation to support company growth. Accordingly, business leadership skill and knowledge development is an essential area of study for candidates enrolled in degree programs like the University of West Florida’s online Master of Business Administration (MBA) with an emphasis in Supply Chain Logistics Management.

How Does Supply Chain Management Relate to Small and Large Scale Company Leadership?

The importance of effective supply chain management to a business’s success is clear, from small local upstarts to multinational corporations. The leader in a company’s supply chain management may simply be the small business owner, conducting all operational logistics themselves or delegating them to a small staff or other contracted logistics companies.

In a larger corporation, entire departments are devoted to logistics systems development and execution, transportation, information systems analysis, research and design, market analysis and strategy, distribution, international legal systems and considerations, etc. Overseeing of all of these departments may be the responsibility of a specialist supply chain manager or other high-level managerial role (or often the chief executive officer).

What Does Good Leadership in Supply Chain Management Look Like?

Regardless of the size and management structure of a company, the essence of supply chain management consists of seeing the company’s product or service through from start to finish, encapsulating all of the various departments and stages of production and delivery. Facilitating a fluid collaboration between all aspects of a supply chain network is essential to achieving company goals at the most basic bottom-line level as well as competitive advantage-seeking and company growth. In this sense, many of the strongest supply chain leaders have actual experience with each aspect of their supply chain, which gives them an in-depth understanding of what is involved at every stage of the supply chain cycle.

The supply chain leader cannot possibly accomplish each task necessary to orchestrate the supply chain management process. The supply chain leader facilitates logistics orchestration through delegating and hiring people with the right skills for the right jobs, training them how to work best within their company’s structure and network, and monitoring and upholding performance standards.

The Importance of the Innovative Spirit in Supply Chain Leadership

The best supply chain leaders make intelligent use of industry metrics, market data and other information systems tools to evaluate and improve company performance through strategic decision-making and innovation. Innovation is one of the most important aspects of successful supply chain management. Good leaders stay aware of trends in market as well as logistics technologies and systems, constantly looking for ways to meet existing demand and spur new demand, creating opportunities for company growth. The most successful leaders also promote, encourage, and incentivize innovation and initiative in their employees and partners throughout the supply chain. Ideally, this creates an environment where innovation and cross-department collaboration benefits everyone involved.

Clearly, the goal of those in supply chain management is to successfully tie together many aspects of company function, logistics, human resources, information systems, market analysis, and research and development to create an effective supply chain. Strong leadership is essential to the management of organizational behavior, collaboration, motivation, and the drive to innovate, which puts companies ahead of the competition. Degree candidates enrolled in the Supply Chain Logistics Management online MBA program at UWF will have the opportunity to study this important role of organizational leadership in supply chain management.

Learn more about the UWF online MBA program with an emphasis in Supply Chain Logistics Management.


Russell Reynolds Associates: Supply Chain Leaders of the Future

Industry Week: What Are the Critical Skills of Supply Chain Leaders?

Supply Chain Management Review: The Top 25 Supply Chains: Leadership in Action

Deloitte: Supply Chain Leadership

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