The Seven Savors of a Sourcing Sensei

Everyone likes to talk about sourcing leaders and the great jobs they do – but try finding an article that talks about the fundamental qualities of a great sourcing leader, and that’s a whole different ball game. While it’s almost ridiculously easy to find dozens of articles on what a sourcing leader does, it’s very hard to find even a single article on what a good sourcing leader is.

It could be because everyone is assuming that the qualities that make a good leader are universal and the particular domain irrelevant. While there are some good arguments to be found that great leadership is a unique skill irrespective of problem domain, sourcing is not like any other business function. I believe it takes more than just being a great leader to be a great sourcing leader.

So what does it take? It takes a well-rounded individual with seven special skills, above and beyond what you’ll find in your average highly effective person. These skills are:

  • Experience
    First and foremost a great sourcing leader is experienced in sourcing. She’s spent time in the trenches, knows what sourcing is all about, and is more than capable of making the right call in tough times.
  • Customer Focus
    A great sourcing leader always has the customer in the back of her mind. Sourcing, like leadership, is essentially a service function and a great sourcing leader knows that.
  • Team Builder
    A great sourcing leader understands that the days of the lone warrior corporate hero who could carry an organization to fortune 500 lists with his charisma and genius are finally over and that the key to success lies not with her, but her team. She does her very best to make her team the best that they can be, constantly enables them, and gives them every opportunity for improvement.
  • Market Zen Master
    A great sourcing leader is in tune with the market and understands where it’s been, where it’s at, and where it’s going. Leader’s don’t react to market fluctuations, they predict them – designing and implementing strategies that allow the organization to not only align itself with the market, but keep slightly ahead.
  • Innovator
    A great sourcing leader is an innovator. She knows the name of the game is change and she can adapt to the situation as required.
  • Collaborator
    A great sourcing leader is a true collaborator. Not only does she know that success lies with her team, but that success will require her team to work with other groups in the organization, in partner organizations, and in supplier organizations. To this end, she’s constantly reaching out to improve relationships and create opportunities for the teams to work together.
  • Communicator
    A great sourcing leader is a great communicator. She knows that for sourcing to succeed, its goals, processes, and roles have to be understood and accepted by everyone and takes it upon herself to spread the word. She creates a shared vision that people are motivated to work towards.

For more information on The Seven Savors of a Sourcing Sensei, I strongly encourage you to check out the new Sourcing Leadership wiki-paper over on the e-Sourcing Wiki which was (co-)authored by yours truly. Besides diving deeper into each of the skills, with references as to their effectiveness and criticalness, it also discusses The Seven Scruples of a Sourcing Sensei – or the seven things sourcing leaders do that set them apart.

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