Shared Services Center Leaders need more than People Skills

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What makes the difference between an “OK” Shared Service Centre and one that creates exceptional value for the business The answer is people – and more precisely: the skills, competencies, IQ and EQ of the SSC leaders. So: What makes a great manager and leader? 

First, some definitions, as I do believe that there is a difference between managers and leaders.  Leaders can be managers, but managers are not necessarily leaders. 



Manager: a person responsible for controlling or administering an organisation or group of staff.

Leader: the person who leads or commands a group, organisation, or country.

Both roles are different and while an SSC needs both, what creates real value is leadership.


Skills and Competencies

A great leader has the right mix of both hard and soft competencies.  These are the ones that I believe make a truly exceptional leader for an SSC.


Business Goal or Objective

Competency or Skill

Performance – delivering the results for the client and the business.  Without excellent performance, the staff within the SSC will be under sustained “inspection” and stress.  The SSC will lose customers and employees.  The culture and environment will deteriorate. 

The competencies to deliver performance include: -

  • Commercial Acumen
  • Operational Excellence
  • Customer Management
  • Agility under pressure
  • Partnering
  • Negotiation

People – attracting and retaining the right talent to deliver the performance required.  Driving the talent agenda in the business including development of future managers and leaders, succession and engagement.

The competencies and skills to deliver the objectives around people include: -

  • Communication
  • Strategic Vision Setting
  • Coaching, Mentoring
  • Listening
  • Decisions Making

Transformation – Great leaders for SSC are constantly looking at how to improve, transform, update and change the SSC processes, environment, culture and people to drive more value from the SSC and to increase customer satisfaction.

The leadership competencies and skill to deliver transformation  would include: -

  • Innovation/Creative Thinking
  • Analytics and Problem Solving
  • Change Management
  • Risk taking/ balanced view on risk
  • Open to new ideas


Agility – the ability to re-set priorities, change direction to meet fast changing demands in a manner that maintains core stability in the centre.  Flexibility with speed and purpose versus “fire drills”.

The skills and competencies to achieve this type of agility would include: -

  • Decisions making speed
  • Communication
  • Analytical/Business Acumen
  • Influencing


The above is not an exhaustive list and does not include any core process or technical skills, that ideally, an SSC leader would have (such as experience with Finance or HR processes and technologies). 

If I were hiring an SSC leader today, the skills and competencies that I would put at the top of the list would be: -

1. Communication – the ability to communicate with the right level of detail, passion, expression to customers, staff, bosses and partners is the top competency.  Each of the SSC stakeholders needs a different type of communication, and a great leader knows how to ensure the right message is crafted for that audience.  They would never “cut and paste” the same message from one audience to another.  They have the ability to communicate the strategic direction and vision to the employees, so they know where they fit into the total value chain of the organisation and customers.

2. Negotiation – the leadership of an SSC will always be negotiating with customers, partners, their bosses.  The ability to negotiate to a “win/win” position while at the same time while maintaining great relationships is a top competency and skill.

3. Performance – the ability to deliver results whether they are financial, customer service, staff retention or process improvement.  The SSC leader needs to be the ability to drive his or her managers and staff to deliver exceptional business performance.


I hear you say “but you did not include people as one of the top skills and competencies”.  If the SSC leader delivers excellent performance and communicates well to all the stakeholders, then the employees will feel the leadership, as no SSC can perform well and achieve great results without highly motivated, engaged staff. 

As you look at the skills, competencies and experience, you need in your SSC leadership, biasing your priorities to these three areas should get you an individual that will both manage and lead the centre to deliver the best customer results.