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What does good leadership look like to you?

23 March, 2023 | By DPW

Calum Wood

Senior Procurement Manager


Jake Kiernan

Operations, Management Consulting


Raquel Silva

Team Lead Source to Pay


Erik Oberländer

Manager – Procurement Consultant


Kathrin Adam

Chief Marketing Officer


Sanjeev Venkatesh Vurutur

Bachelor Thesis/Student

Bosch Rexroth

The fight for top talent and the need to aggressively and proactively drive change has many rethinking what good leadership looks like. 

With the lessons of the global pandemic still fresh in our minds, there seems to now be more appreciation for the intrinsic nature of humans. Leadership now entails more than good business strategy; it requires a deep understanding of how humans work and what they’re motivated by, so they can drive behavioral change and garner the outcomes they’re looking for.

With a renewed focus on intentional leadership and leading with a people-first mindset, we gathered an expert panel from our NEXT100 young talent community to talk about what good leadership looks like to them.

Given the current state of the world, and its people, it is no surprise that each of our contributors quickly brought the conversation around to empathy and compassion. As Raquel Silva, Team Lead Source to Pay at adidas, expressed, leadership has increasingly become about emotional labor where compassion is emphasized in order to manage your and your teams’ emotions while driving them to achieve their best.

Here’s more on what the experts had to say.

By creating a ‘safe place’ for their people, leaders can create an environment that nurtures ideas and empowers innovation and improvements.

Good leadership starts from a place of open communication, built from a foundation of trust and understanding, or as it is now often referred to, Psychological Safety. 

Introduced by organizational behavioral scientist Amy Edmondson of Harvard Business School, “team psychological safety” is “a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.” Essentially, psychological safety is the belief that you are safe from repercussions if you vocalize concerns, questions, ideas or even confess mistakes.

Calum Wood, Senior Procurement Manager at Capita, said, “the concept of Psychological Safety is a fundamental pillar of all good leadership. I have always performed best when my leaders have created an environment that encourages me to take accountability, try new ideas, accept that mistakes will be made, and supports learning from these mistakes. Not only does this help with personal development, as you learn the most when you do it yourself, but it also helps to reduce major issues in the long run as mistakes are not hidden for fear of repercussion whilst encouraging a culture of innovation and collaboration.”

Authenticity is key

As Jake Kiernan, Operations, Management Consulting at KPMG, pointed out, authenticity is imperative, “Genuinely caring about those who are following you not just for what they can bring to the team professionally but for who they are as people—getting this right as a leader can deliver a team with a strong shared ethos who want to help one another reach a goal led by a figurehead that they believe in.”

Manage your people, not the outcomes

Influence the behavior of your people, and ultimately, you will influence outcomes.

Erik Oberländer (DE), Manager – Procurement Consultant at PwC, is one proponent of the people-first mindset. “I believe in putting people first. Everything else will follow. This means I prioritize setting clear targets and being the best possible enabler. I recognize and appreciate my team’s contributions and provide the necessary resources and support for them to achieve their goals. By embodying these qualities, I inspire and motivate my team to achieve success together.”

Leadership Lessons from Lord Krishna

Sanjeev Venkatesh Vurutur, who is working on his Bachelor Thesis at Bosch Rexroth, reflected on valuable lessons for modern management leaders learned from Lord Krishna through stories shared throughout his childhood by his mother and grandparents.

Here are some of the core lessons Sanjeev shared:

  1. Exemplify your values. People respect and are more likely to listen to those who set an excellent example by emulating the ideals and conduct they expect their team to exhibit.
  2. Empower. Empower your people to take action by offering the resources and opportunities to assume ownership of responsibilities and prioritizing building strong relationships with team members.
  3. Maintain focus. Employees value leaders that keep the team aligned and focused on both personal and overarching goals by providing the direction and feedback required when it’s required and emphasizing the need (and creating the environment for) open communication.
  4. Be agile. Leaders should motivate team members to strive toward a common objective while understanding the need to be adaptive and flexible, adjusting their plans and strategies in response to changing conditions to accomplish the desired results, regardless of dynamics.
  5. Lead with values. Leaders must value compassion and empathy in their decision-making and seek to do what is right and just for the sake of their employees and society.

Lastly, Kathrin Adam, Chief Marketing Officer at CircularTree, reminds us to appreciate and celebrate those wins.

The key to great leadership is creating a win-win situation for both sides. A leader should listen, ask to truly understand, and provide open, honest feedback. And remember to celebrate the small wins—appreciation is essential for keeping motivation high.

About DPW NEXT100

NEXT100 connects procurement’s brightest stars under 30 amongst themselves and with the best development opportunities, helping them achieve their full potential and redefine the future of procurement.


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