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How critical is Thought Leadership to Supply Chain?

Dr Vijay Sangam, 16:17, 20 Mar 2012

Today Supply Chain is going through re-engineering phase due to global financial turmoil, raising costs, volatile currency fluctuations, unpredictable demand, lack of qualified supply chain talent and punishing markets.  Collaboration is the top priority of the day.  Supply Chain flourishes though collaboration and collaboration is the key to supply chain success.  Leaders collaborate and the boss dictates.

In order to drive effective operational excellence within supply chain, we need leaders with vision and thought leadership skills.  Jesus Christ once said, “If the blind lead blind, both shall fall in a ditch”.  Isn’t it true from Supply Chain Perspective?  If the boss/manager is faking, the end result is ditch as mentioned by Jesus Christ.  Hence the need for the thought leader is very critical to drive the supply chain excellence.

Generally, people do not want to leave the jobs unless there are some compelling financial reasons or work culture related issues. People quit their jobs due to the heavy-handed work culture and the work culture is created by the boss/manager.  Many think that they are good bosses and sadly what they know is their perception and not the team’s feelings.  The boss generally believes in one-size-fits all theory and never develops an individual strategy to retain and grow the talent.  In today’s complex world there are too many bosses, but very few leaders around.  The leader will do whatever it takes to maximize their team members’ engagement to achieve organization’s success; while bosses just want to enjoy the privileges of their position and more interested in saving their jobs.

Are you a Boss or a Thought Leader?

Just for the benefit of everyone let me clarify what is thought leadership?  Thought leadership is a business jargon for an entity or an individual that is recognized by the team for having innovative ideas.  The term was coined in 1994 by Joel Kurtzman, editor-in-chief of the Booz Allen Hamilton magazine, Strategy & Business.  The Boss is a person who exercises control over other employees in a workplace environment.

Let us find out some differences between a Boss and a Leader/Thought Leader:

  1. The boss drives group members; the leader coaches them.
  2. The boss depends upon authority; the leader on good will.
  3. The boss inspires fear; the leader inspires enthusiasm.
  4. The boss says “I”; the leader says “we.”
  5. The boss assigns the task, the leader sets the pace.
  6. The boss says, “Get there on time“; the leader gets there ahead of time.
  7. The boss fixes the blame for the breakdown; the leader fixes the breakdown.
  8. The boss knows how it is done; the leader shows how.
  9. The boss makes work drudgery; the leader makes it a game.
  10. The boss says, “Go“; the leader says, “Let’s go.”
  11. The boss reacts and the leader works proactively.
  12. The boss command with power, the leader leads with values.
  13. The boss assigns responsibility and not authority, the leaders encourage succession.
  14. The boss creates fear, the leader instils confidence.
  15. The boss knows all, a leader asks questions.
  16. The boss leads by force, a leader by example.
  17. The boss creates followers, a leaders creates more leaders.

Some interesting Quotations:

  • A good boss makes his men realize they have more ability than they think they have so that they consistently do better work than they thought they could. – Charles Erwin Wilson


  • Your real boss is the one who walks around under your hat. – Napoleon Hill


  • Leaders need to be optimists. Their vision is beyond the present. – Rudy Giuliani


  • The person who knows HOW will always have a job. The person who knows WHY will always be his boss. – Diane Ravitch


  • The real leader has no need to lead – he is content to point the way. – Henry Miller


  • A good manager is a man who isn’t worried about his own career but rather the careers of those who work for him. – H. S. M. Burns
  • One measure of leadership is the calibre of people who choose to follow you. – Dennis A. Peer
  • Leadership is action, not position. – Donald H. McGannon
  • You can’t lead anyone else further than you have gone yourself. – Gene Mauch
  • The leadership instinct you are born with is the backbone. You develop the funny bone and the wishbone that go with it. – Elaine Agather
  • You don’t have to hold a position in order to be a leader. – Anthony J. D’Angelo
  • Leaders are visionaries with a poorly developed sense of fear and no concept of the odds against them. – Robert Jarvik
  • A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit. – John C. Maxwell
  • A leader is best when people barely know that he exists. – Witter Bynner
  • A man is only a leader when a follower stands beside him. – Mark Brouwer
  • I suppose that leadership at one time meant muscle; but today it means getting along with people. – Indira Gandhi

Global supply chains need thought leaders, if the boss transforms into a LEADER, the world is different for the team members.  More leaders grow in the organization as leadership flourishes under a LEADER and if that leadership is thought leadership, it would be a great benefit to supply chain.  Today’s supply chain needs out of the box solutions due to ever changing and challenging business dynamics.  We need thought leaders to manage supply chains more effectively and provide the critical answers to the business challenges!

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