After a tumultuous decade marked by plant closures, outsourcing and recession, manufacturing is making a major resurgence – and the demand for new leaders in this dynamic industry is stronger than ever.
Today’s manufacturing leaders are seeing the industry evolve in exciting new ways. Manufacturing and services were once seen as completely separate and fundamentally different sectors; that’s no longer the case. From logistics to advertising, service roles make up an increasing amount of manufacturing activity, according to McKinsey & Company’s comprehensive report on the state of global manufacturing. As a Managing Partner for Lucas Group’s Manufacturing Practice, I see on a daily basis how these profound shifts are impacting industry leadership.
In this new era of growth and innovation, manufacturing companies must search outside the industry for the next generation of leaders. While technical skills can be taught, intelligence, passion and drive cannot. When I recruit for manufacturing leadership positions, I often look outside the industry for individuals with these intangible skills:
#1: Inclusive, team-oriented leaders. From the skilled laborers on the factory floor to the company CEO, all employees must feel like they are part of a powerful, unified team. Effective leaders foster a team environment where everyone buys in to the company’s success. This is especially important for manufacturing, which demands a cohesive, agile team in order to not only adapt to global changes, but also to continue to be at the forefront of innovation. Just like in the Marine Corps, team-oriented leaders “take care of their people” – and when this happens, everything else falls into place.
#2: Confident decision makers. Manufacturing is no longer a monolithic industry. Leaders must weigh myriad factors on a daily basis, including consumer demands, transportation and resource costs, and access to skilled employees. The ability to use big data and analytics for decisive, real-time decision-making is crucial. At the same time, leaders must understand that there’s more to the decision making process than just numbers and the bottom line. Leaders take an expansive view; they are able to evaluate myriad factors to quickly and confidently make major decisions that capitalize on rapidly evolving opportunities.
#3: Quick learners. While job-specific tasks are trainable, you can’t teach intellectual curiosity. With the manufacturing industry evolving at such a rapid pace, it demands leaders with a thirst for knowledge and the capacity to quickly master new information – be that the intricacies of global supply chain management or the latest technological advancement – and apply this new knowledge to stay ahead of industry trends. When hiring outside the manufacturing, look for a proven track record of success across different industries that demand quick learning and thinking on-the-go.
No matter the industry, great leaders are individuals who resist the fallback to “lead by numbers” and instead inspire and mentor their employees, building a stronger, more cohesive team.
What do you think are the most important qualities for leadership success in the manufacturing industry? I welcome your feedback in the comments section below.