05 October 2009 | Rebecca Ellinor
Great procurement leaders are as "rare as hen's teeth", according to a former CPO.
Making the intentionally challenging remarks at a CIPS fellows event last month, Neil Deverill said he feared the perception of what is a "really great procurement leader" falls very short of greatness.
"Great procurement leaders are as rare as hen's teeth, perhaps even verging on a mythical existence," he argued.
Deverill, whose purchasing career has spanned 39 years and included top jobs at Philips and Anglo American, said he had come across only three great procurement leaders who had a next-level job to go to.
He added, however, that fellows had "a clear, unrelenting responsibility to motivate and lead our colleagues to better and, yes, even great, achievements".
Deverill was on a panel debating whether "great procurement leaders can become great business leaders". Sally Collier from the Office of Government Commerce, Mike Norris, chief executive of Computacenter, and Sarah Lim at Spencer Stuart were the panellists who argued in support of the motion, while Deverill reasoned against.
He challenged the 75 fellows at the event in London to "recalibrate in our minds what is greatness in procurement leadership and accept our culpability in promoting mediocrity in the past".
Collier argued purchasers are at the heart of a business and their commercial nous lends them to becoming great overall leaders. She admitted, however, that she couldn't find many examples to support her belief and suggested that might be because they "pretend not to come from a procurement background".
Meanwhile, Siemens CPO Barbara Kux was last month named the sixth most powerful woman in business by Fortune magazine.