To celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8 female procurement professionals around the world shared their thoughts on what makes a successful leader.
1. Empowering others
Kimberley Campbell, head of supply chain at farming supplier Carrs Billington Agriculture, said a good leader was someone who can “create an environment that breeds empowerment and allows their team to flourish and adapt”.
Melinda Johnson, commercial director at UK Department of Health and Social Care, said: “It’s someone people want to follow and work alongside, rather than someone who simply tells everyone what to do.”
Ashleigh Turner, procurement category manager at construction machinery firm Hastings Deering, said as a leader you need to “remove the ego and genuinely want the best for your team, yourself and the business”.
“It is simple, but not as common as we may think.”
Joy Njau, group head of supply chain of subsidiaries, Africa, at Equity Bank Group, emphasised ethical behaviour.
“They walk away from 'success-building' opportunities that will be hurtful and damaging to others. They know that those unethical, demeaning, or destructive approaches go against the very meaning and purpose they’re committed to.”
2. The ability to listen and grow
Laura Hobbs, leader of the One Bam Procurement Programme at Dutch construction giant Royal Bam Group, said that compassion and the ability to listen is key to successful leadership.
“I don’t have all the answers but I certainly know where I can go to get insight, solutions, and perspective, whether that be listening to my supply chain, team or stakeholders.”
Nina Bomberg, director of indirect purchasing at SEG Automotive, said it was important to learn from your mistakes, regardless of your experience level.
Njau said: “Leaders who positively shape the world come from a 'beginner’s mind' and a loving, compassionate heart – with an openness to see, learn, and experience new things. They understand how their knowledge isn’t complete – there are always gaps, biases, and limitations to overcome.”
3. Understanding the value of investing in people
The best leaders understand that you are only as good as your team so investing in those around you is crucial to building a skilled and supportive business culture.
Johnson said: “Good leaders invest in people and relationships, and build credibility and consensus through effective engagement. Successful people surround themselves with a diverse selection of brilliant people.”
Suzan S. Hammoudeh, head of pharmacy administrative affairs at King Hussein Cancer Center in Jordan, said they invest in building capacity and a culture which focuses on people, and fosters agility and flexibility.
Njau continued: “Leaders who make a true positive difference can’t help but share and teach what they’ve learned. They live the universal principle – ‘the more you give, the more you get’.”
4. Being resilient
One of the most powerful, admirable traits to have is the ability to lead by example and overcome obstacles, said Njau.
“Especially in stressful times such as these, people turn to leaders for answers, guidance, and direction. If leaders can uncover the lessons of dealing with fear, they not only become adept at navigating their organisation through tough times, but they also become sources of inspiration to those around them.
“Leaders don’t settle for conformity. They observe gaps and mistakes in common thinking and behavior and trust themselves in their belief that it’s time to push the boundaries of what’s accepted and the status quo.”
Hobbs said successful women have perseverance, as it is “often the case that women have to prove themselves more”.
Lexia Laracy, commercial manager of technology, strategic procurement, enterprise services at Australian energy utilities firm AGL, added: “Female leaders have the resolve to push through situations of inequity and inequality to make a difference, while helping to build a network of strong women that can continue to challenge in moments when you need to take a backseat and recharge.”
5. Finding your self belief
Julinda Garus-Ôas, procurement manager at Namibia Water Corporation, said: “Successful women believe in themselves and, most importantly, they believe in the purpose of their work, which is the fuel behind years of hard work and dedication.”
Jo Bailey, CEO at management consultancy Progressive Systems Australia and chair of the CIPS NSW branch, added: “I’ve seen all different types of people reach high levels and get strong results for a great many reasons, but regardless of traits, they all believed in themselves enough to put themselves into a situation to become successful.”
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