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Leaders Who Don't Lead—A Cautionary Tale

By Art van Bodegraven | 04/17/2016 | 12:53 PM

OK, it's tempting to defer tough decisions, to avoid upsetting people, to postpone the day of reckoning for the can't/won't, to hope for a magic turnaround in the late and over-budget project. It feels as if it could be easier, saving the angst and heartburn for another day.

News flash! It is not easier. For openers, the overwhelming odds are that the problem will get worse with time. To ice the cake, a deferred solution is likely to be more complicated if not faced until later in the game.

And, in a blow in which no good deed goes unpunished, a tough situation could well detonate an explosive outcome that shatters hopes and expectations beyond repair. In the political arena, one current candidate has opined that a failure to lead, not taking thoughtful action in a timely manner, severely reduces one's options for correction, remedy, rescue, or redirection.

Guess what? The observation is, first, true, and second, applicable in supply chain management, in business, and in life. Not leading, not acting, not embarking on a corrective course, makes the problem the driver and definer of the ultimate outcome. How defective is the thinking, or lack thereof, that leads to that pot of fool's gold?

At that point, the pseudo-leader is limited to purely defensive moves—explanations, excuses, papering over the residual challenge, hoping that a toothy grin and a firm handshake will overcome the negatives involved. How much better off would the situation be if the leader had initiated an active effort, with evolving options and outcome possibilities, early in the game—and been forceful and consistently firm until resolution had been reached?



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About Art van Bodegraven

Art van Bodegraven

Art van Bodegraven (1939 - 2017) was Managing Principal of the van Bodegraven Associates consultancy and Founding Principal of Discovery Executive Services, which develops and delivers supply chain educational programs. He was formerly Chair of the Supply Chain Group AG, Partner at The Progress Group LLC, Development Executive at CSCMP, Practice Leader with S4 Consulting, and a Managing Director in Coopers & Lybrand's consulting practice. Concentrating in supply chain management and logistics for over 20 years in his 50+ year business career, he has led ground-breaking strategic, operational, and educational projects for leading US and global clients. Art was principal co-author of DC Velocity's Basic Training monthly column for a decade, and was the principal co-author, with Ken Ackerman, of Fundamentals of Supply Chain Management, the definitive primer in the field. His popular blog, The Art of Art, has been a staple of DC Velocity's web site since its inception.


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