A lot is asked from today’s manufacturing leaders. They must navigate an increasingly sophisticated and fast-paced supply chain, keep up-to-speed with new technology and disruption, and combat a widening skills shortage. For those looking to climb the ladder towards senior management, some of the skills required are vastly different compared to a decade ago. Developing those skills will make all the difference when vying for a promotion.
Leadership isn’t one set skill, but a combination that’s developed over a lifetime. It requires a set of technical and soft skills, to ensure every leader can keep on-top of emerging trends whilst effectively manage their teams.
When you’re an individual contributor, it’s okay to focus on purely your role and business area. As a senior manager, you must understand how the rest of the company operates and how your team fits into the wider picture. It’s important to adopt a more commercial mindset and also navigate office politics, business objectives, human foibles and budgets.
Great leaders never stop learning. Continuous self-improvement ensures that your skills remain up-to-date. Which is especially important given the many changes incoming with Industry 4.0. Tomorrow’s leaders will have to understand enough about the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and the blockchain, in order to make informed decisions about the best technology to invest in.
Continuous improvement should extend from leadership to the entire team – great leaders inspire their teams to always be better.
Emotional intelligence will be increasingly vital in Industry 4.0 as managers will have to navigate robot-human working relationships. This soft skill will become more in-demand as more hard skills are automated. To be emotionally intelligent, you must develop empathy and the understanding that people come from different backgrounds, experience and have different points of view. Knowing this, you can get the best work out of your team and help them adjust seamlessly to Industry 4.0.
Employees will have to adapt to many changes, so they’ll need strong leadership to steer and reassure them. Keeping people engaged with your plans is key, especially when your organisation is going through a digital transformation. Future strategies will fail without buy-in. As Victoria Holt, CEO of 3D printing manufacturer Proto Labs explains, “…there are all the different technologies you see in the market—computing power, analytics, human-machine interface, digital transformation—but all that cannot be put in place without first connecting with your people. You need to make sure they’ve bought into your product and your service.”
Senior managers must work with many different leaders and business areas. Collaborating with marketing, finance, IT and research and development (R&D) will become par for the course. You’ll have to understand new working practices that might be adopted by your colleagues, such as agile. Attending company socials will help build your internal network and break the ice if you do have to approach another leader for a task.
There are many skills required of effective leaders, but the most important thing to develop is the motivation to constantly improve. If you’re always looking to build new skills, you’ll remain ahead of developments and changes. That’ll make your profile stand out when the top job becomes available.
Are you looking to take the first step in your Manufacturing and Engineering career? Or potentially looking for the perfect talent to hire? Get in contact with Theo James Recruitment.