Ramesh Chikkala, Senior Vice President of International Supply Chain at Walmart Stores, Inc.
What is a top tactical characteristic of strong leadership? Knowing how to bring out the best in a cross-functional team. Start with the fact that a cross-functional team has its own ecosystem, with input from many different perspectives. Diversity is its atmosphere, upon which the inhabitants thrive. A leader must know that recognizing these different perspectives and encouraging their coordinated logistics is key.
My career in planning, IT and supply chain management has afforded me many roles where I lead large divisions of top companies, including Gap Inc, Family Dollar and now Walmart. I have seen teams grow in all different ways. From my own perspective, the teams that thrived the most held a variety of skill sets.
Depth of background does not automatically indicate a strong team. In fact, a functionally homogeneous set of skills in business does not guarantee success. Rather, a workforce of different experiences and backgrounds benefits the employees, the company and ultimately the stockholders.
In September 2018, I met the cohort ambassador for UNC Charlotte’s M.S. in Management, Katelyn Thomas. She educated me on the new graduate degree and her inaugural cohort, sharing her views from the perspective of health services, her undergraduate degree. She described how her classmates are adding polish to their undergraduate degrees by picking up foundational skills in management information systems, operations and analytics. As Katelyn shared her experience of team projects in the cohort, I learned how this unique group of students is developing skills in working “across the aisle” from different sectors and learning a deeper meaning of collaboration.
Often, I see teams (similar to undergraduate classes) who are entirely alike in motivation and focus. While these teams are strong in that function, a multidimensional team almost always has an advantage in the broader scope.
From my own leadership role in the retail industry, I can clearly see how the UNC Charlotte M.S. in Management builds a strong talent pool: Start with diverse individuals, add layers of business skills that provide a common language and receive a fully functional, business-ready group of candidates. By starting the first degree of its type in the UNC system, the Belk College has carved a niche in the graduate degree industry.