5 Supply Chain Leaders’ Skills You’ll Really Need

Siddhartha Khandelwal

March 26, 2021

Leaders they say are born, not made. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Time has proved over and over that leadership is a skill that can be developed by dedication towards one’s work and an innate desire to serve people. The leadership team of any organization plays the most critical role in determining its future and growth. The culture fostered and inculcated by the leadership team defines the organizational culture, which subsequently determines the kind of talent the organization would attract.

Supply Chain Management, arguably, is one of the most promising fields of the upcoming decade. The pandemic, having exposed the loopholes in our existing Global Supply Chains, has reinforced the need for the organizations to strengthen their supply chain integration to prevent potential losses which might arise out of any untoward event in this VUCA world. As the world’s major supply chains are global, the world now needs Global Supply Chain leaders who can create robust global supply chains to serve the customers across the world. These Global Supply Chain leaders need skills relevant in the current world to tackle the issues and lead their organizations.

Some of the core skills needed by the Supply Chain leaders are:

  • Ability to comprehend Market Economics & Dynamics
  • World economy is changing rapidly and unpredictably. Thus, a supply chain leader needs knowledge and skills to read the market demand and supply trends and accordingly alter the organization’s strategy. The ability to predict possible future scenarios by gaining insights into the market trends will distinguish an organization from its competitors and thus is necessary.

  • Project Management Skills
  • This is perhaps one of the most essential skills for any leader to have. The Supply Chain integration leans towards the operational aspect of an organization’s working. But a project is nothing but a combination of small day-to-day operations and processes. When performed efficiently day in and day out, these processes lead to the successful completion of the project. Supply chain leaders will have to be involved in multiple projects over their career. Some of these projects would include reconfiguring supply chains, integrating supply chains with other departments or external agencies, or optimizing supply chains. Such projects would involve a heavy investment of resources. So, the leader should be very well versed with project management concepts to execute the projects successfully.

  • Business Relationship & Negotiation Skills
  • The supply chain leaders need to interact with various suppliers. Since the major supply chains have gone global, with suppliers from different parts of the world constituting it, the leader needs to have impeccable negotiation skills to arrive at mutually beneficial terms. Since every entity would seek to maximize their profits, it will be the leader’s negotiation skills, which will help them establish terms such that the entire supply chain’s value is maximized, not just of one or two major players.

  • Machine Learning & Data Visualisation Skills
  • Gone are the days when supply chain professionals were responsible only for the procurement of materials required by the manufacturing department. The Supply chain function is much more extensive now. The supply chain leaders now need to forecast the demand based on different parameters. They need to decide the organization’s inventory policy based on market conditions. Machine learning tools come in extremely handy for this purpose. Data visualization helps the leaders to study the trends and make informed decisions. One might argue that an analyst might provide the results and reports to the leaders. Still, it will be difficult to comprehend the reports generated by such sophisticated tools without knowing the Machine Learning (ML) concepts.

  • Stakeholder Management Skills
  • Around 90% of a leader’s time is spent communicating with various supply chain stakeholders. The leader, therefore, needs to have a structured approach towards managing the needs and expectations of the stakeholders. Prioritizing the stakeholders and meeting their communication needs can be done efficiently by using stakeholder management tools such as Stakeholder Salience Model.

Thus, a Global Supply Chain leader needs to have a balanced mix of these skills to lead an organization and achieve its business and strategic objectives. Several institutes in India teach supply chain management courses to industry executives and budding supply chain leaders. However, IIM Udaipur’s One-year MBA program in Global Supply Chain Management is one of its kind, which provides intensive specialization in Supply Chain Management and teaches the future supply chain leaders the fundamentals of management education. The curriculum’s focus on the courses related to data and business analytics and its state-of-the-art Bloomberg and Analytics Lab makes it highly pertinent to today’s VUCA world and places the program way ahead of any other MBA SCM programs. For anyone who desires to create an exciting career in this ever-evolving field of Supply Chain Management, IIM Udaipur is the place to be.

About the Author


Siddhartha Khandelwal is a student of the One Year MBA program in Global Supply Chain Management at IIM Udaipur. He is a certified PMP and has 7 years of experience in the Construction Industry, chiefly in large scale infrastructure projects. Outside of professional life, he is a Hawaiian guitarist and a volleyball player. You can connect him on LinkedIn.