The second area I’ll describe is how to cultivate leaders in a systematic and scalable way throughout the supply chain. Our team has been engaging clients around the concept of how leadership at key supplier sites can be a driver of positive change. When it comes to training, traditionally, one end of the spectrum can be rudimentary and uninspiring (‘Here is a slide deck describing our Code of Conduct …’). More advanced training often focuses on valuable technical instruction on areas like chemical management, fire safety, grievance systems, etc. That type of instruction is certainly useful, but doesn’t necessarily develop skills needed in 21st century leaders, such as adaptability, critical thinking, empathy, problem solving or the ability to synthesize multiple sources of often contradictory information to make informed decisions in line with organizational strategy.
When approaching this set of needs, we start with the question of, ‘What makes a great leader or manager?’, and work backwards from the various answers to that. Too often, training is solely focused on compliance and how a supplier can pass an audit. Our thinking in this area focuses on the deeper causes of success, and not the surface result of a measurement. The cultivation of great leadership will result in their creating an environment that naturally leads to safe, productive, profitable, and resilient organizations that understand the needs of their customers, shareholders AND workforce. These leaders will understand the value derived from strong organizational systems, a proactive approach to risk, and a workforce that is empowered to solve problems and drive improvement. When this type of capacity building is carried out systematically through targeting high potential managers at key supplier sites, the impact is deeper and longer-lasting than an attempt to simply document an exercise in checking a compliance box.