Behavioural Traits Boards are Demanding from Procurement Leaders

Uncovering the surprising truth about the behavioural traits Boards are demanding from Procurement Leaders.


It’s a well-known fact that individuals with certain behaviours are better matched to certain jobs. For example, senior Sales Executives tend to be driven and goal orientated, whereas, in contrast, Chief Analysts have a high process orientation, like direction, and have great attention to detail.

But what about Procurement Leaders?

This year is my twelfth in the Procurement Executive Recruitment space, and one in which I was lucky enough to run numerous executive searches (alongside our Procurement Recruitment Practice Lead Craig Elvin) across the industry.

As part of our standard candidate assessment process, we require the hiring executive (typically a COO, CFO, HRD or MD) to fill out a behavioural job fit profile which helps both us and them build a picture of the ideal cultural behaviours they are looking for in the successful candidate.

We then take that behavioural profile and match it to our shortlist of candidates using our award winning executive intro® platform. What we’ve found is that when hires are made through this process, the candidate has a significantly higher chance of being a cultural fit within the organisation, and as a result have increased tenure and success.

This process has provided invaluable insight data throughout 2015 into the behavioural blueprint that senior executives are looking for right now from their procurement leaders – and the results are a little surprising.

The graph you see below is created from data gathered across a number of typical senior procurement hires e.g. (CPO, Head of Procurement, Procurement Director) we made this year, and combined into a single behavioural composite.

So here is what the ideal behavioural profile for a procurement leader looks like in 2015:

Behavioural Graph

What does the graph show?

The graph is split into four main areas and offsets what are seen as behavioural opposites. For instance a high red scale indicates someone is more dominant, whereas a low red scale would indicate someone is more accepting. So what can we learn from this?

  1. Boards are looking for goal-orientated risk takers (Red Bar)

This is our first interesting insight! The large red bar in the profile confirms businesses are now actively looking for procurement leaders who are forthright and able to challenge the status quo.

Traditionally risk adverse, the Procurement Leaders that are now most in demand are passionate about brands, competitive in negotiations and ultimately want to win in business. The overriding trend here is ambition and procurement candidates who match this profile will set challenging goals for themselves and their team, while encouraging healthy competition amongst staff and confront performance issues quickly.

  1. Boards want sociable & outgoing leaders (Green Bar)

Sociable and outgoing aren’t two words that necessarily meet the traditional procurement stereotype! As Procurious is proving though, that stereotype is changing. Procurement leaders need to be people-people, popular and likeable in order to effectively influence and partner with stakeholders to make informed business decisions. This is key to ensuring that their ambition and risk taking (explained above) is well received and helps them navigate through complex organisations.

Executives across all sectors consistently asked for procurement leaders with EQ (Emotional Intelligence) who can influence and build meaningful strategic alliances with external parties and manage a diverse and often international team to commercial success.

  1. Boards want driven, high urgency and high energy leaders (Blue Bar)

Boards now clearly want us to find Procurement Leaders who have pace, drive, adaptability, and can keep up with fast moving market trends. As with the red bar the blue bar here is very prominent and suggests that organisations are looking for procurement professionals who are both restless and energetic. Leaders with this profile will tend to seek and enjoy pressure, be decisive and get excited by opportunity. This excitement will transfer to their staff who will always feel part of a mission that is heading somewhere and be highly productive themselves.

  1. Boards want independent leaders (Yellow Bar)

The modern executive team wants to be challenged as they know it holds the key to progress. This goes someway to explaining why they want such assertive and independent procurement leaders.

Procurement leaders have the unique opportunity to work across the value chain and have to be self-reliant to be successful and add material value.

A strong procurement candidate with this profile has faced up to resistance, has made difficult decisions and has shown determination while remaining open to others’ ideas.

What Next?

So those are the 4 key behavioural traits the boards have been asking us to test for when hiring new procurement leaders. In my view it’s a subtle blend of these traits that leads to success in the eyes of the board. As you go through your own self-assessment and personal development I hope the above can help shape some of your learning.

On a final note, the other discipline that had a similar behavioural profile requested recently was Sales Directors – albeit the green bar is more pronounced in that case. In my opinion, this provides even more evidence that the type of person in demand across all commercial functions are becoming more similar than ever. If you would like to learn more about how both science and technology can be used to identify whether a candidate is suitable for a role then download our ebook.

Andrew MacAskill has spent the last decade researching, placing and networking with the smartest commercial leaders globally.  He is the author of a well-read leadership blog, regular speaker at conferences and industry events and strong advocate of EQ focused leadership.