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Leadership: Three characteristics for your procurement teams in a data-driven world

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"For the majority of us, the confidence and clarity we need to succeed is hidden in our business data, but you will need the right set of characteristics to make the most of this opportunity."

Over the course of the coming years, leadership and management requirements are going to continue to be challenging but are also  likely to take on a different style and shape than what we are used to.

This is because we have entered a new norm of unpredictability. It's driven by both powerful macro and micro technological, geo-political and socio-economic forces. On the one hand, we have the rise of the super powers in the East and the huge emerging markets of the likes of India and China.

Then there is the ever increasing influence of technology, the impact this is having on business models and the disruption this causes to B2C and B2B models. At the same time, we have a growing population with greater life expectancy and in many areas a scarcity of important resources such as water, fresh food and fuel and all of this is happening at the same time.

This background of competing forces can make it difficult to determine the way forward for organisations. For the majority of us, the confidence and clarity we need to succeed is hidden in our business data, but you will need the right set of characteristics to make the most of this opportunity.

Here are three characteristics that will help you lead the way in a data-driven world:

  • Strategic:  While there is volatility and significant short-term changes, it's easy to lose sight of our goals and become preoccupied with just the here and now. The effort of just keeping our heads above water means we can easily lose focus on our ultimate aims, and it's not going to get any easier. Now more than ever, future leaders are going to require a long-term lens, thinking a few years ahead, plotting the course of their organisation and having a clear and precise understanding of where they are able to win and be successful. Depending on the current situation this may require a different approach and new strategy. Leaders who can align and balance short-term needs more effectively with long term goals will reap many more rewards than those focused purely on the here and now. The majority of this understanding may well be hidden in your business data, but you must commit to drawing on that insight to support your strategy. So, dig deep into your data so that you can start to balance and align more effectively your short-term and long-term strategy.  


  • Network: As far back as 1624, John Donne said "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main". And yet many leaders aspire to being the single dominant, all-knowing personality. This is a dangerous fallacy. Our complex world means that if it isn't feasible for one individual (no matter how talented), to understand and navigate through all the challenges and decision-making data we are going to be presented with. The world and our environment are moving so quickly that we must work concurrently with multiple leaders and experts both inside and outside our organisations. For our future success, we should all be building and maintaining a network of colleagues, contemporaries and experts who collectively can help exploit the opportunities and avoiding the threats presented by our ever-changing world. 

  • ​Character: Leaders of today and tomorrow are going to have to be resilient. Unfortunately, we are going to make mistakes and because of the environment we are in, they may happen more often and at times they may be big. Consequently, we are going to have to be hardy and have the strength of character to pick ourselves off the floor and be more persistent than we ever thought possible. Along the way there are going to be moments of compromise and at the these times, information, data and clarity may well be lacking. It's why this paragraph is about 'character', as more than every we will need to dig deep within ourselves and our network. There is some truth in what that great Hollywood philosopher Rocky once said: "But it ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!"