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Front-line managers are leaders, too

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills,Management Training

Front-line managers make a tremendous difference in turnover, costs, quality, safety and innovation, not to mention overall performance. They’re the people who keep customers happy and keep small glitches from widening into disasters.

But these crucial people often feel disconnected.

“We weren’t aiming for the top,” says one supply-chain manager, “but we had leadership ability and ambition … and we felt ignored.”

Front-line managers often are thrown into a leadership role without knowing how to manage people or where to go for advice. At best, they might get a one- or two-day seminar with no follow-up.

Unfortunately (for them and us), first-level leaders need to understand the whole organization, yet they rarely are let in on the big picture.

Every one of your front-line leaders should be able to answer “Yes” to these questions:
  • “Do I have the basic skills to stay on top of our day-to-day business? Do I have the tools I need to do this job?”

  • “Am I aware of our organization’s direction? In other words, do I understand our strategic thinking?”

  • “Do I understand that our brand is more than a logo—that it actually represents our values, the role we play in the community and our ability to enter new markets?”

  • “Do I have the skills and support I need to face our leadership challenges? Meaning, can I be the kind of person I need to be in this job?”

  • “Do I receive enough support from the organization to make the right choices about my life and work? Does it support my growth and its own?”
From the start, leadership training requires coursework and one-on-one sessions on everything from management and technology to safety and social responsibility. And like learning itself, it never ends.

— Adapted from “Developing First-Level Leaders,” Andreas Priestland and Robert Hanig,” Harvard Business Review.

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