Leadership vs. Management in Procurement: Part 2

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Procurement managers have an important role to fill in the organization – particularly given how critical talent management is today. An effective manager has to bring in the right staff, ensure that individual and across-the-board skills gaps are filled, and retain resources once an investment has been made in their capabilities. They are also responsible for putting together a plan that supports procurement’s efforts to meet performance targets and communicating those results to the organization. When resistance surfaces in suppliers or stakeholders, procurement managers have to step in and facilitate the resolution. Not an easy (or conclusive!) set of responsibilities by any means. The procurement manager needs to be experienced, organized, and on top of all the activity in their group.

Sometimes, an organization needs more than management – they need leadership. Rather than keeping current activity moving successfully and evolving at a reasonable pace, a procurement leader will take the organization in a new direction altogether, perhaps after personally determining what that direction should be. A leader may change the operational model of a procurement team from centralized to center-led or make the decision to outsource tactical responsibilities and restructure the team around high-priority strategic categories. When an effective leader is heading up the procurement function, they may have the opportunity to change the direction of the entire organization from that seat. A leader needs to have vision, have the interpersonal ‘razzle-dazzle’ to bring that plan to fruition, and be placed in the right organization at the right time.

While it may seem that procurement leaders play a more dramatic part than managers, they are also likely to be on a visionary path of their own and may not stay in the role for long. As soon as transformation transitions into maintenance, they are likely to be off to a new situation where their strengths can be fully leveraged. This opens the door for managers to come in and take on the equally challenging task of seeing the plan through, all the way, past implementation plans and over any wreckage left behind by the turbulence of change.

The point of differentiating between management and leadership is not to flag one as better or more valuable than the other, but to figure out which one is needed, which one you are better suited to – oh yes, and how much you should be paid to get the job done.

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