Day three of the 2023 Gartner Supply Chain Symposium in Orlando, FL delivered quite the treat for attendees, and we’d like to share some of those insights from that day’s keynote session. Carla Harris, Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley, an international public speaker, author of three books: Strategize to Win (2014), Expect to Win (2009) (Hudson Press) and Lead to Win (2022), and talented vocalist took to the stage to share her take on what it means to be a leader today. She outlined the key components leadership requires in order to maximize success across all levels in the workplace.

Effective leadership plays an important role in attracting and retaining the best talent. We know how crucial this is in today’s environment, where recruiting and retaining qualified workers in the supply chain industry remains a significant challenge.

Harris addressed supply chain leaders with a reminder that there have been two powerful shifts in the workplace in the last few years. Firstly, there has been an amplification of voice and choice, particularly among younger generation employees. Millennial and Gen Zers are increasingly dominating the workforce, and these groups have a stronger desire to share their thoughts and ideas with their employers. At the same time, they expect a greater amount of feedback, transparency and engagement. The second significant shift has been the change in contracts and the way we work, brought about by the pandemic. The global pandemic forced companies to adapt to new ways of working, promoting flexible and remote working arrangements that were previously not considered – allowing employees greater flexibility and autonomy in their work.  

The speaker elaborated on the eight components to becoming an impactful leader – or as she refers to them in her book Lead to Win, the “eight pearls” of intentional leadership. Here, we will briefly highlight each of these areas.

1. Authenticity.

In today's landscape, authenticity plays a crucial role in helping leaders differentiate themselves from others. An authentic leader brings their true self to create strong relationships, which is vital for success. Harris explained this is particularly important to younger generations of millennials and Gen Zers, who are motivated by leaders who are authentic and transparent.  

“Being your authentic self as a leader is imperative because it motivates and inspires those who are working with you to be their authentic selves. When any of us can be who we really are, we always outperform,” - said Harris.

2. Building Trust.

As a leader, you must know that you can't achieve your goals alone, so you need your team to trust you and your abilities. The key to building trust is delivering value, and to do this, leaders simply need to “ask the question”. Everyone wants to be heard, so when asked the question, they will share what they want and what value means to them.  

By creating a space where your team feels comfortable sharing their thoughts and desires, you can strategize on how to deliver continued value to them. Consistently providing value and being responsive to the needs of your team allows you to build trust.

3. Creating Clarity.

With so many unknowns and uncertainties, it's the leader's job to define success and provide a clear path forward. Teams look to their leaders to communicate a clear vision and strategy that outlines what success looks like and how to achieve it. Effective leaders articulate their goals and expectations in a way that is easily understandable, inspiring, and actionable.  

The ability to provide clarity is an essential leadership trait that can help motivate and engage teams, promote better decision-making, and drive success in today's complex and challenging business environment.

4. Creating other Leaders.

Leaders who focus on creating other leaders are essential to building successful organizations. Rather than sitting in the leadership seat, amplify your impact by nurturing and developing the potential of those around you. This involves empowering team members to take ownership of their work, providing mentorship, and coaching to help them grow and succeed – leading to a more engaged and motivated workforce.  

“Leadership is a journey from execution to empowerment,” – said Harris.

5. Diversity.

The reason the call to embrace diversity is so important is because “it will not just happen,” – said Harris, and because diversity is a key driver for innovation.  

Innovation is born from different ideas and perspectives, so leaders must prioritize diversity to stay ahead of the curve. A diverse workforce brings diverse experiences, backgrounds and ideas to the table; this unlocks the potential for innovation and creativity. So, diversity is not just a moral imperative, but a commercial one as well, as it drives innovation and success in the long term.

6. Innovation.

Focus on teaching your team how to innovate. Leaders must respond constructively and productively when someone in their team fails. Rather than focusing solely on the outcome, effective leaders recognize the value of effort and encourage their team members to keep trying.  

The way leaders respond to failure is key to building a team full of innovators who are not afraid to take risks and keep trying their best. By teaching people that failure is a natural part of the learning process, leaders can create a culture that values continuous improvement and empower their teams to innovate.

7. Inclusivity.

“An inclusive leader solicits other people’s voices” – explained Harris. As a leader, it's crucial to authentically invite your team to contribute and share their thoughts. By doing so, you send a message that their input and support is not only welcome, but valued. Every individual wants to feel heard and recognized. By valuing each team member's unique perspective and actively soliciting their input, leaders can create an environment of collaboration and innovation.  

When leaders encourage open communication and create a culture of inclusivity, the entire team becomes more engaged and invested in the success of the organization.

8. Voice.

The speaker emphasized that for leaders, it's essential to be transparent and honest. “You must be willing to call the thing a thing,” – affirmed Harris to highlight that leaders must share their voice and not shy away from difficult conversations or situations.  

Transparency is a critical ingredient in building trust with your team and fostering a culture of open communication. She reinstated that failure is an opportunity to learn and improve, so it's always worth taking the risk and trying something new.  

Harris closed the keynote by sharing that “the strand that holds together the eight pearls is courage”. It takes courage to be a leader, but when you are authentic and lead with transparency and a willingness to embrace failure, you create a culture that encourages innovation and growth. In the end, a successful leader is one who is unafraid to take risks, learn from mistakes, and inspire their teams to do the same.