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A Guide to Procurement Leaders

Find out more about the traits and skills needed to be a successful procurement leader in any industry.
By Steve Rowland on 18 July 2022

A Guide to Procurement Leaders

With the UK’s supply chain changing drastically  post Brexit, there has never been a more valuable time for an organisation to have a strong procurement leader within their team. Having a strong leader that can overcome procurement challenges and deliver impressive results can make substantial improvements to an organisation.

eXceeding is a procurement consultancy that was founded on the principle of providing impartial, best practice, procurement advice to organisations in both the public and private sectors, with years of experience in delivering successful procurement solutions.

This article will inform you on what a strong, professional procurement leader can bring to the table, outlining the qualities they should possess and how they can be used to deliver the best results for your organisation.

Procurement Leadership Qualities

Professionals that work in the procurement sector may share many of the same traits. But when broken down, some traits can really separate the average professional from the strong procurement leaders.

Many of the procurement directors and leaders you meet will show strong technical procurement skills and a solid business acumen. These traits are par for the course and ones that any successful procurement leader must have. To  find a highly skilled procurement leader, you must look further into these traits for skills such as flexibility and agility, communication skills, relationship building, objectivity and learning from experience.

By looking into these traits, you can begin to evaluate what enables a procurement leader to deal with the strategic dealings of procurement for an organisation.

Flexible and Agile

For a procurement team to be successful, it needs to be flexible  and  agile. This stems from how the procurement leader operates their team. Procurement is a highly dynamic field where things such as regulations, your organisations needs and national economics can change instantly. Daily routines need to be flexible to account for these changes, and strong procurement leaders must be able to adapt their strategies to work within this dynamic world. With mergers, bankruptcies and acquisitions taking place on a regular basis, these changes are bound to happen, forcing procurement leaders, and their teams, to adapt.


In the dynamic world of procurement, an essential skill is communication. What separates the mediocre from the best is not only their ability to clearly communicate, but their ability to listen. Whether it be listening to their team or to stakeholders and suppliers, this will help develop their strategies and improve communication between different departments.


For many in procurement, the focus is on cost and driving the cost down. However, many do not pay attention to  how the cost of goods affects their suppliers, as well as  how they are required to make a good margin for reinvestment, satisfy their shareholders and work on their own innovations. What strong leaders do is remain objective when looking at supplier costs and look to understand what drives that cost. This can help them look for value opportunities that competitors may not see, keeping them one step ahead. This objectivity can help form better relationships with their suppliers.

Relationship Building

Building relationships is a vital trait for any procurement leader, including relationships with stakeholders and suppliers. The main elements that these relationships are built on are trust, mutual benefit and delivering value to the end user. By building strong and lasting relationships, this allows for greater communication and can lead to greater benefits such as cost reduction, access to new innovations, and greater speed in procurement.

Important Skills for Procurement Professionals

Professionals working in the procurement field will be required to have certain skills, much like the skills you will find in a procurement job description. The more of these skills a professional has, the better suited they are to a role as a procurement leader.

Those most suitable to a leadership role will have all the following skills:

Strong oral and written communication skills – It is important for a leader to be able to communicate effectively , not only with suppliers and stakeholders, but with their team. They need to be able to clearly instruct members of the team on their role and the overall strategy. Without strong communication, a team can very quickly come undone, therefore impacting the whole organisation.

Relationship building and management – As previously covered, it’s vital for building good supplier relationships. For a leader, this is a necessary soft skill, as they will need to be able to get along with their own team as well as suppliers and stakeholders.

Critical thinking – This is an essential skill when working in procurement. The ability to think critically about costs, timings, and comparing different suppliers is essential to the role. Critical thinking leads to improved interpretation, evaluation, problem solving and decision-making skills.

Complex decision making – This skill is linked to critical thinking. If a leader can critically think about a problem, then they will be able to make complex decisions that positively impact the procurement process and the organisation as a whole.

Problem solving – The procurement process will result in many problems that must be resolved quickly and effectively. In these situations, it’s down to the team leader to come up with solutions that bring in the best results for the organisation.

Negotiation skills – When communicating with an array of suppliers, an essential skill is the art of negotiation. A strong procurement leader will be able to negotiate better rates, faster deliveries, and develop a long-term strategy with suppliers. Without good negotiation skills, an organisation will struggle with procurement.

Team leadership – It is understood that a procurement leader is required to have strong leadership skills. This comes in both the form of directing and dictating to others, as well as leading by example and being a strong member of the team.

In Summary

To be an effective procurement leader, one must have a variety of soft skills and procurement-based skills. These include but are not limited to…

  • The ability to be flexible and agile
  • Strong communication skills
  • The ability to be objective
  • The ability to build strong relationships

eXceeding offers fair and impartial advice for any organisation looking to improve their procurement strategy, providing help and guidance to organisations with or without a procurement leader. Get in touch to collaborate and  learn about how your organisation can improve its indirect procurement through better cost optimisation, supplier management or even an interim resource.

Steve Rowland - eXceeding Managing Director

Steve Rowland

Before eXceeding, Steve spent 16 years working on the supplier-side of outsourcing. During Steve’s 24 years’ experience, he has worked on global and UK outsourcing deals, ensuring the creation of win-win partnerships.

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