Sophie Grugier had barely begun her presentation at the Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference in Phoenix on Tuesday when her slideshow was disrupted by a technical glitch, giving her a rare opportunity to exemplify her session theme as she presented it.

In “Supply Chain Skills for the Future — Developing the Team of Tomorrow,” Grugier, senior vice president of global supply chain human resources at Schneider Electric, and co-presenter Beth Morgan, research vice president at Gartner’s SCM World, conveyed that the skill that will be most sought by procurement teams is not digital acumen. It’s not even a foundational knowledge of supply management.

Sophie Grugier

It’s leadership.

Grugier told the session audience at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa that technical innovations lose impact if a procurement team can’t fully leverage them due to a lack of direction. “So, the biggest thing we have to do is not develop technical skills, although that is important. We have to develop leadership skills,” she said.

According to Gartner/SCM World research, leadership was the most popular (91 percent) essential future skill identified by supply management practitioners, followed by good communication and influence (87 percent), foundational supply management knowledge (84 percent), financial acumen (65 percent) and innovation (65 percent).

Beth Morgan

With technologies evolving at computer-like speed and approaching obsolescence faster than ever before, pure technical skills are a lower priority than creating a workplace where employees can and are eager to learn, Grugier said. That means ensuring that the learning process is fun while providing employees opportunities to experiment — and fail.

Such an environment is especially critical, Morgan said, given that talent recruitment and retention remains the No. 1 challenge for procurement leaders. She pointed out that, thanks to face-to-face networking and such social digital platforms as Glassdoor, many prospective employees can know about a workplace environment and a manager’s leadership style before they interview for a job.

Morgan concluded by sharing a quote from author John C. Maxwell: “Leaders become great not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.”

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