A veteran procurement practitioner has advised aspiring young pros with their eyes on a CPO role to show leadership early on by being friendly and approachable while also ensuring that their arguments are supported by data.

Tom Derry, CEO of the US Institute of Supply Management (ISM), explains that the best leaders “manifest a real concern for their people” because they understand that they achieved their status through their abilities and approachability as well as the strengths of their teams. They get the best from their permanent staff and their procurement and supply chain interims by focusing on them, helping them to evolve, grow and acquire the new skills needed to progress. As the industry evolves to include new duties and functions, so do the skillsets of procurement jobs.

True leaders, Derry says, attract ‘followers’ – people who gravitate toward them for advice and support: “We all know people [like this] in our workplaces who aren’t formally leaders of the people [follow them] but they’re respected, they’re prepared they’ve done their homework. They have data to support their arguments, they’re affable and friendly and people like being with them because they’re seen as authentic. It’s those people who get the opportunity to manage teams in my experience.”

Once in a senior role, Derry believes that the key to managerial success is to listen early on. He advises new managers to spend their initial period in the job conducting one-to-one interviews with team members, asking them in an unguided way what they believe is going on in the company, what they enjoy about their current work, and what opportunities they have.

But the information gleaned cannot simply be shelved. This early listening isn’t an empty PR exercise. The feedback needs to be responded to with concrete actions and outcomes. When team members see clear measures of future success to aspire to, they become motivated to achieve them.