Supply Chain Expertise and Technology Blog by TMC, a division of C.H. Robinson

5 Must-Take Steps on the Leadership Ladder

5 Must-Take Steps on the Leadership Ladder

5 steps on leadership ladder

Developing future leaders is a critical undertaking for any company, but those individuals that aspire to reach managerial heights can do a lot to help themselves.

At TMC, we carry out a talent review twice a year. Employees are evaluated in terms of their current competencies and performance levels, as well as the career paths that are suitable for them. These profiles are then matched to each individual’s training needs.

We do everything possible to identify and nurture staff members who are on a senior leadership track. However, there are a number of ways in which potential high-flyers can increase their chances of making it to the top.

Accept that patience is still a virtue. You may be eager to climb the corporate ladder but even in these fast-paced times it is important to be patient. There is a lot to learn—especially in today’s complex business environment—and the opportunities will come for those who stay the course. Sometimes people underestimate the demands of the technology piece, for example, and become frustrated when it appears that they are not progressing fast enough.

Strategy should not be the sole focus. Senior leaders have a strategic mind set, but they also have intimate knowledge of the operational nuts and bolts that underpin strategy. It is extremely difficult to become a visionary when you don’t fully understand how things work. Yet there is a temptation to assume that if the term “strategic” is not somehow attached to a role or career route, then you are going in the wrong direction. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every person needs to gain a deep tactical understanding of the business through hands-on experience before he or she can be an effective leader.

Be inquisitive. This step means more than asking questions—although not being afraid to quiz your peers is a must. Inquisitiveness also involves being open to new ideas. For example, is there a better way to support a customer or codify a data set? And don’t be deterred by the prospect of your ideas falling flat (keep in mind that good leaders should encourage their reports to challenge the status quo).

Acquire as much experience as you can. Some individuals do themselves a disservice by limiting their horizons within the company. There can be a tendency to get stuck in a rut by, say, sticking with a familiar vertical or adhering to a function that you’ve mastered. Map the big picture by applying for lateral moves, and seek out opportunities to learn about other supply chains. Delve into the supply chains of your customers to widen your knowledge of their industries and challenges.

Work on your communications skills. In our organization, the global leadership team meets on a weekly basis. They discuss strategy and the sales pipeline, and are expected to share relevant decisions and ideas with their own teams. This is just one example of how leaders have to communicate on different managerial levels. In today’s multi-tiered supply chains, senior executives must also communicate across cultures and trading partners. The ability to communicate is a core skill, and anything you can do to enhance it is worthwhile.

These steps do not constitute a guaranteed route to senior management, but following them will smooth the way for your ascent through the ranks and make you a better manager generally.