The Definition of a Sourcing Hero

Past guests from The Sourcing Hero podcast provide the definition of a sourcing hero and give examples of heroism in a business context.

By Mackenzie Oakley | July 13, 2023


The goal of The Sourcing Hero podcast is to capture the epic stories of people beating the odds and rising up in procurement. The individuals featured on the show openly share how they are creating exceptional value for their organizations and offer first-hand experiences and lessons learned throughout their careers. The conversations, guided by our host, Kelly Barner with Art of Procurement, are always full of industry insight and knowledge and touch on various topics impacting procurement.

With over 120 episodes – and rapidly approaching 20,000 downloads – the show has naturally evolved. In addition to procurement practitioners and supply chain professionals, The Sourcing Hero now features guests from a variety of industries and career paths, each with a narrative that is relatable and relevant.

The definition of a sourcing hero

At the close of every episode, it has become a tradition of sorts for Kelly to ask each guest a question. There is no right or wrong answer and the responses we’ve received have been vastly different and truly fascinating:

“What does the idea of a sourcing hero mean to you?”

“What does heroism look like in a business context?”

How would you define a sourcing hero? Have you experienced heroism in the workplace? Below, we’re recapping some of our favorite responses from this season of The Sourcing Hero podcast.  

"What does the idea of a sourcing hero mean to you?"

Episode 102

[The sourcing] hero is trustworthy, dependable, compassionate, transparent, and they put my concerns in front of theirs. My hero is always willing to tackle the difficult situations and thinks outside of the box. They can resolve problems and tackle complex situations that arise.

My hero gets great results and is great to work with. I’d say also, my hero is someone who I want to spend time with – like, I think they are a good person."

Listen to the full episode here.

Episode 106

To me, a sourcing hero is someone who speaks truth to power. Sourcing is challenging [and] it's the liaison between external stakeholders and the partners outside the organization with the organization. If this is done right, sourcing will not simply know how the markets are moving, but they will be the first to understand trends, understand risks, [and] understand innovation.

The question then becomes 'what are you going to do with your insight?' Sometimes, you are going to be in a position where you may find things that are not in your favor. That’s when you have to start speaking truth to power.

To me, a sourcing hero is someone who will not shy away, who will not gloss over these things. Instead, they will do their part and highlight what needs to be said to anybody in power within the organization."

Listen to the full episode here.

Episode 109

To me, a sourcing hero is someone who delivers exceptional value to the professional relationships they have – one-on-one with others or with other business units. It’s someone who takes an empathetic approach to those relationships to really understand others’ needs so that finally you can really have that true collaboration existing."

Listen to the full episode here.

Episode 111

I think one of the attributes of a procurement hero as well as a strong business leader is the ability to take intelligent risks, to get things done, to step outside of the box and the convention of how things have always been done in the past and take a chance on some things. Do something innovative. Stretch the boundaries of what can be done and do things in an intelligent way."

Listen to the full episode here.

Episode 113

I think a sourcing hero displays three key traits. [First,] 'make haste slowly.' A lot of times, in the world of sourcing, we are pressed to make decisions very fast and work very fast, but we need to do that with a slow frame of mind. We need to make our decisions carefully.

Secondly, I think we need to always be thinking about the big picture. These sourcing strategies take time. We need to constantly be thinking about the big picture and how our sourcing strategy is going to impact the business – 12 [or] 18 months down the line.

Lastly, we need to communicate like a CEO. Oftentimes, within procurement, we can get into the weeds, but CEOs care about the impact on the business. 'What is this going to lead to?' The better we can communicate like a CEO, the better we can communicate our sourcing strategies to the CEO, [and] the better off we will be as sourcing professionals."

Listen to the full episode here.

Episode 103

Heroism is swimming upstream and not doing the norm. Heroism would be [saying], 'I’m going to do things the right way, and I’m going to take care of my customers. I’m going to pay my suppliers on time,' [and] standing up for the right values. Sometimes, that’s hard to do in the face of what everybody else is doing."

Listen to the full episode here.

"What does heroism look like in a business context?"

Episode 120

Heroism in a business context means being a leader. No, the title does not make you a leader. Being a leader or a hero is being someone that constantly challenges the status quo, inspires others to do their best while being their true selves, empowers others by sharing information – not gatekeeping anything – but also clearing the obstacles.

A hero is someone who mentors, coaches, stands up for others, is genuinely involved and interested in making a difference, is seen as a trusted advisor, and truly does the right thing even when no one is watching.

Listen to the full episode here.

Episode 96

For me, heroism in a business context is not that dissimilar from heroism anywhere else which is taking the first step and being the one who isn’t second but rather first. It can be extremely terrifying to be potentially out in the cold alone, but it’s extremely exciting, and – in retrospect – something to very much honor."

Listen to the full episode here.

Episode 97

I think heroism looks like laying down everything to help others. If you are really there to serve others, if you are really truly striving to elevate others and help others, lifting them up and out of whatever currently has them stuck, then to me that’s heroism.

It doesn’t have to be on a battlefield. There’s plenty of people who have made very costly decisions because they were the right decisions – not necessarily the most profitable decisions.

If you can wake up every day [ready] to serve, empower, help others, and aid them in their journey – whether [you're] shining their shoes or running a board meeting (even if it goes against what is pleasing to certain people in power) - as long as you’re dedicated to doing the right thing and making sure that it brings about the most good for the people you can influence, to me that’s heroic."

Listen to the full episode here.

Episode 104

For me, it’s all about using your superpowers while sacrificing yourself for others to succeed. In the military, that might be the ultimate sacrifice, as we all know and remember. But in the business context, it’s about putting your ego aside and doing everything you possibly can using your capabilities, your superpowers, and your skills to make sure that others are successful."

Listen to the full episode here.

Episode 105

When I think about a hero, the first thing that comes to mind is a firefighter – somebody that’s willing to risk their life to save somebody else’s life. Indeed, they are a hero.

At the same time, the people that actually prevent fires are not the ones that are regarded as heroes even though they have a much bigger impact in the long run. In the short term, you do need to have the firefighter, but relying upon the firefighter in the long run is not a winning strategy. We want to make the heroes the people that are able to prevent the fires.

In the business context, that would mean fixing business processes, getting down into what the root cause was. What is the root cause of the fire so we can prevent it from happening in the future? If you have a stable process, it’ll avoid the need for those short-term heroes and be more focused on the long-term heroes."

Listen to the full episode here.

Episode 110

To me, heroism in a business context is daring to step out of your comfort and lean in to do the right thing even if it’s not the easy choice. We all learn from stepping out of our comfort zones. If we actually want to change things in the businesses we support, we need to lean out.

We need to have an opinion. We need to dare to recommend a potential way forward – not just stick to our Excel sheets and models. I think that shows heroism in a business context because it shows that you actually care and that you want to take the business from where it is to an even better place."

Listen to the full episode here.

For more definitions of a sourcing hero, and for real-life examples of heroism in a business context, check out more episodes of The Sourcing Hero podcast.

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