The Top 6 Qualities of Effective Operations Leaders

Yusuf Tokdemir / [email protected]

Standards of Excellence

I always believe that leaders must have absolute integrity. They must be open, honest and worthy of trust. Of course, their abilities to innovate, execute and being a strong role model for their staff are in top priority in today’s hypercompetitive business world.

A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent. — Douglas MacArthur

Smart Factory

The increasing competition, developments in the intelligent manufacturing and industry 4.0, internet, increasing productivity, mass production, advances in agrifood, changing customer needs, talent shortage and globalization, all affect business world, create complex business issues, threats and opportunities for companies.

After intensively working in the pharmaceutical and food manufacturing operations, I always believe that the quality of leadership is one of the crucial factors to contribute competitiveness in the business.

“Digital is the main reason, just over half of the companies on the Fortune 500 have disappeared since the year 2000.”  — Pierre Nanterme, CEO of Accenture

We see that the increasing use of cyber-physical systems in manufacturing systems contributes to the “smart factory”. Smart factory products, resources and processes are characterized by cyber-physical systems and provide significant real-time quality, increased resource efficiency, customer loyalty, cost advantages, higher adaptability and flexibility to the nations and companies.

Benefits of Digital Technology

The use of digital technology in smart farming and production enhances productivity, organisation and competitiveness. Of course, all of these developments affect food and beverage sector. The benefits can be summarized as follows;

  • Design and manufacture better products
  • Improve process efficiency
  • Save costs
  • Develop and implement new business models
  • Create new businesses
  • Create breakaway innovations and new transient competitive advantages
  • Improve quality
  • Align organization
  • Delight customers

Leadership Requirements

I always believe that a leader must have capabilities that reflect a cluster of skills, knowledge and behaviors. Of course, these capabilities must complement the team and the organization to achieve a high performance.

Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others. —Jack Welch

Focusing on competitiveness, customer needs, organizational alignment and boosting innovation must be a long-term strategy.

I see that some companies don’t have a clear leadership requirement. This is related to their poor management capability. Normally, a leader must have a high-flyer adaptability in the face of uncertainty and change. These often include high EQ, self-awareness, resilience, ability to learn rapidly and complex problem solving.

HR Competencies

Companies have to create a great HR sensibility, skillset and talent management capability.

They have to focus on three personal attributes in talent management.

  • First, I think about the drive; driving and energising skills to encourage people to achieve the business goals.
  • Second, I think about judgement; formulating decisions based on incomplete and conflicting information and data is a crucial quality of a leader. The requirements are expertise, experience, intelligence and a highly developed sense of integrity.
  • Third, I think about courage; a leader needs the courage to be able to stand up for her/his beliefs, to stand up for her/his company, and to stand up for her/his people and go for it.

I think about high performance. It is capability plus commitment. Therefore, HR skills and talent management capability are being more critical due to the increasing complexity, competing in knowledge-based work and operating globally. There is a difference 100 to 1 between good talent performance and poor talent performance. Therefore, I believe that effective talent management is one of the sources of the competitive advantages.

Agri-Food Industry

For example, when we look at the agri-food industry, we see that cost is very important. It can be material and labor cost, packaging and shipping expenses, operational costs (including sustainability costs such as energy, water, wastewater). Therefore, operations leaders have greater pressures to achieve operational excellence.

Top Pressures:

  • Reduce cost 68%
  • Regulatory compliance 54%
  • Ensure product quality 47%
  • Maximize productivity 38%
  • Reduce process variability 29%

The quality of an operations manager plays an important role to solve the complex issues in agri-food and other industries.

A great person attracts great people and knows how to hold them together. — Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

6 Most Important Qualities of Leaders

  1. They are good operators
  2. They have impact in the culture
  3. They build followership
  4. They show stretch potential
  5. They are good strategists
  6. They are innovators

Finally, I believe that companies should spend their money on having on discovering what kind of people they need to deliver the business.

Leaders often must go against the tide and lead by being true to their own values, beliefs and convictions. They should be evaluated on how well they implement their vision and values and the correctness of their choices. — Doug Wilson

A truly effective leader cascades vision down to specific goals, objectives, NPDs, services and metrics and then build, motivate and manage the organization to contribute more and more transient competitive advantages in a timely fashion.

Do you have the courage to see difficult situations through to the end and accept responsibility for the outcomes of decisions?


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