If you think that simply doing a “good job” will get you promoted to higher and higher procurement positions until you reach the CPO level, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise. There are certain characteristics that make you “CPO material.”
“Getting to the CPO level is heavily influenced by transformational leadership skills, not just process knowledge,” according to Robert Rudzki, the President of Greybeard Advisors and former CPO of Bayer Corporation. “Having good leadership and transformational ability, a collaborative style, and an innovative spirit is often times the single most important skill set that you’d have at the [CPO level],” he says, noting that CPO’s have subordinates skilled in the procurement process itself.
Rudzki has also noticed a difference in the characteristics of CPO’s who are promoted from within versus CPO’s who are hired from outside the company. “For in-house candidates, what’s critically important is a track record of leadership success in the company. Note that I did not say a track record of procurement leadership success in the company,” he stresses. “Someone who has strong leadership skills – particularly as it relates to transforming functions and organizations – and has company internal knowledge can be a very strong internal candidate to become the next CPO, even if initially they know relatively little about modern procurement practices.”
However, Rudzki observes that procurement knowledge is valued more by companies who hire external CPO’s. When companies recruit externally, “the leading edge approach is to locate somebody who has proven themselves to understand supply management best practices and has demonstrated experience leading procurement transformations regardless of industry,” he explains.
Rudzki also advocates seeking out and accepting cross-functional job assignments as a step towards the CPO level, saying “In this world of cross-functional teaming and emphasis on broad-based leaders, you will enhance your upward mobility and, quite frankly, the value to your employer, by taking on job assignments that broaden your experience base and your understanding of how other functions in your company work.”