Thursday, November 7, 2019

Front Line Leadership

Front Line Leadership

Front Line Leadership and Management

    A lot of organizations have unique structures.  Some are very tall, with a long chain from the CEO to the employees, while others are relatively flat that consist of few positions between owner and employee.  It is important to understand whereas leaders that we fit into our organization and how to leverage this position to be most effective as a leader of our organization.  There is no doubt that our position as a leader determines how we lead.  Some truths remain through all levels of leadership but here we will focus specifically on front line leadership and how to be an effective front-line manager of an organization.

What are Front Line Leaders?

    When we refer to front line leaders or managers, we are talking about lower level management.  This is the level of management very close to the employee level.  These managers may be team leaders or supervisors of crews.  Front line leaders typically have many reports and directly lead floor level operations.  This is undoubtedly one of the most exciting levels of management and leadership because it is one of the most critical when it comes to displaying core attributes of leaders.

How Do We Become Front Line Leaders?

    Front line leaders are in high demand.  This is due to the large variation of experience and skills that current front line leaders possess.  There is not a clear median when judging a front-line manager and one may be light years ahead of the next in experience level, effectiveness, and efficiency.  This is what drives companies to hire outside in order to find talented front-line managers to fill their open positions.  An exciting fact here is that the front-line manager is one of the roles that companies tend to opt to promote from within their ranks.  It is not uncommon to find many of the front-line leaders of a company are promoted from within, which is highly beneficial to both the company and the employees working for the company.

    We find companies that promote front-line leaders and managers from within have increased morale and competition among team members.  There exist additional goals for employees of these organizations which boosts their hope that they will not always be floor level hourly laborers.  In turn the company benefits by having a pool of competitive people striving for excellence because they have opportunities in front of them throughout their life of employment with the organization.  This is a win-win situation that we as leaders can also take advantage of to drive performance up.

What Do Front Line Leaders Do?

    Front line leaders pursue leadership of course.  The goals of a front-line leader are primarily to tie in the employees and human assets of an organization to the middle management of that organization.  They do so through utilizing their team of reports to achieve organization goals and objectives.  These may vary from type of organization and the specific department, but the definition therein and general function remain the same.

    Front-line leaders are the action leaders of an organization.  They are the leaders and managers associated with doing and getting things done.  This makes the position of front-line manager one of the most exciting positions of leadership to hold and can lead to many unforgettable experiences.  When a leader utilizes all of the resources available to him and properly satisfy this position of leadership a transformation happens within that leader that allow them to grow into other leadership roles.  I think it is important for any middle or upper level manager to have experienced the life of a front-line leader, as there are unique skills that you will learn here that translate into deeper skills that are required to successfully lead at other tiers of a tall organization.

Identifying Front Line Leaders

    Any time you accept a position at any organization or workplace, the front-line managers are apparent.  They are typically the individual or individuals that you directly report to, as well as your co-workers.  They will typically handle day to day attendance and staffing as well as make operational decisions that directly impact the area that they manage.  They may lead a small team, of only one or two reports, or a very large team of hundreds of reports.  In my experience I have come to find the average number of reports for a front-line manager to be about twenty to forty.  If you are an employee in an organization, these leaders, typically called supervisors or managers are the individuals that you would go to with any problems, issues, or questions.  There are typically team leaders, that exist right underneath the actual front-line manager but are front-line managers themselves. 

The Promotion

    If you are employed by an organization and you have hopes of climbing the proverbial ladder, this is where you want to expend your efforts.  Many organizations find it a joy to be able to promote a team member to a front-line manager for many reasons.  Some of which include understood technical competencies for performing the jobs, established relationships and rapport with existing team members, as well as a substance of work history between the organization and the newly promoted leader.  Often organizations will only look to hiring on front-line managers from outside of the organization if they have a reasonable assumption that no one that currently works on the team has the necessary qualifications to fill the role.  This is not always the case, but in my experience happens to be the case for most of the time.

    If you are a team member working for an organization where you would not mind accepting a higher level of responsibility, there are some guidelines that you should follow so that you do not disqualify yourself.  I would maintain positive relationships with everyone I work with, other team members and managers alike.  I would avoid making enemies or engaging in shows of hostility even over things that you would think could advance your position for promotion, such as work performance.  Being a team player is such a key trait that managers look for when promoting leaders.

    I would also suggest that if you are an employee looking for a promotion, you do not try to obviously push yourself into the spotlight trying to win the bid of your superiors.  This often times will come off as a type of fakery and result in you being reviewed by the very people with the potential to promote you negatively.  Instead I would suggest that you manage your relationships positively and be seen promoting companionship and teamwork.  Allow yourself to be seen offering solutions to situations and following others proposed solutions.  Execution is trump here though, and the more you can successfully execute your team’s plans and be a key player in the delivery, the more likely that you’ll draw the kind of attention that you want. 

The Take Away

    The end game here is that if you are a member in an organization searching for a position of front-line leadership, there is a high likelihood that you will be offered this opportunity if you do your homework, follow up, and never stop trying.  I would recommend that if anyone is interested in leadership that they begin to look for positions of front-line leadership and enjoy the thrills of this level of management.  I would advise anyone currently in a position of front-line leadership to continue to develop their skills and to close the gap between them and the upper echelons of front-line leadership.  Remember that the gap between the new front-line leader and the highly skilled front-line leader is so large, that most will exist in the middle, forever.  Enjoy the climb and the information take-aways even once you are in a position of this magnitude and remember, that leadership is a lifelong conquest of positivity, influence, values, morals, and achievements. 

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