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Supply Chain

Leadership lessons from the NRF Global Supply Chain Summit

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For two days, retail supply chain professionals met at the NRF Global Supply Chain Summit to discuss the most pressing challenges facing the industry and to connect with peers, experts and partners in the community. Throughout all the presentations, networking events, and side conversations, I kept hearing the same word—“collaboration.” In such a complex industry, good partnerships are the key to everything from fulfilling orders to ensuring compliance to building efficiencies in the supply chain. Luckily, our attendees included leaders in a range of areas of expertise, providing great opportunities to ask questions and share information and experiences with each other. 

Commander Kirk Lippold, US Navy (Ret.)

 As the event came to a close on Tuesday, we listened to Commander Kirk Lippold deliver a fascinating keynote about his experience as Commanding Officer of the USS Cole and how his crew saved the ship when it was bombed by al Qaeda in 2000 while refueling in the Yemeni port of Aden. The story of Lippold and his crew is a pretty extreme example of strong leadership and team competence in a crisis, but it's an inspiration for all leaders who face daily challenges and prepare for crisis situations. Lippold stressed that leadership involves preparing your teams for the realities they may face, giving them the training they need to succeed and being confident in their abilities, and trusting them to perform. In this instance, training kicked in, and the crew came together, instilled with a sense of leadership, responsibility and personal accountability that came from strong leadership at the top. Lippold held the crowd's attention as he conveyed the story with directness and intensity. And as I listened to his speech, and visible respect for his crew and the individuals who serve in the military, I couldn't help but think that many veterans would probably excel in the complex, logistical, detail-oriented supply chain field. Both today's retail supply chain leaders and the next in line will need a commitment to integrity, accountability and professional competence more than ever. That's why Lippold's leadership lessons resonated with attendees. As the supply chain world continues to change, it's important for today's executives to prepare the next generation of leaders for the challenges that lie ahead. More complexity, greater sophistication, technological advances, more regulations, tough economic conditions and the need to make changes that support sustainability will require both strong partnerships and strong leadership in the coming years.