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Update: December 15, 2022

Frontline Leadership Principles and Skills: 5 Qualities You Need to Develop to Succeed

Frontline leadership training and development can be critical to improving company culture, employee retention, and an answer to the the "Great Resignation."

Developing your frontline leaders can be a critical factor in improving operational performance, company culture, and attracting and retaining the right people.

A team is only as strong as its leader. That old axiom has never been truer, especially as U.S. manufacturing still struggles to attract workers and fill open positions. Unfortunately, research shows that 79% of employees quit their jobs due to a lack of appreciation from company leaders and a connectedness to the business. Frontline leadership roles like shop floor supervisors and operations managers are critical to the overall health of your company culture and the operational performance of your organization.

The frontline leaders in an organization shoulder a great deal of responsibility for the success or failure of the company. They are the most intimately connected with the everyday ups and downs of operational performance, workforce morale, maintenance requirements, and other vital operational performance metrics. They are the information and communication bridge between executive management and the larger workforce. They have the pulse of company culture. Many decisions hinge off of the data and insights they provide daily.

Therefore, they must have certain skills and abilities to do their jobs well and contribute to the organization’s overall success. And most importantly, this investment in training and development can make your frontline leaders more connected to the organization and know that they matter. This sense of connectedness  and “worth” is a major factor in retaining key personnel and stabilizing your workforce.

As Fred Hassan wrote in the Harvard Business Review, “It is the frontline managers who must motivate and bolster the morale of the people who do the work… These managers are central to a company’s business strategy because they oversee its execution.”

What does it take to be a successful leader? How can you help to create a positive work environment so that productivity will improve?

There are certain skills that all frontline leaders need to do their jobs efficiently and effectively. Here are five qualities you need to develop as a frontline leader:

1. You need to be able to communicate well.

To be a good communicator, you have to be a good listener. Practice active listening, and really try to hear and understand everything you are being told. Being a good listener is a great way to establish trust and strengthen relationships.

Authenticity is an important aspect of leadership. The best, most respected leaders are down-to-earth and authentic. Employees have a solid appreciation for a leader who is genuine and honest.

2. You need to be able to adapt to change.

As a frontline leader, it’s important to act quickly, to be agile when needed. No matter what organization you are in, circumstances are always going to change. If there’s one thing we have all learned in the last couple of years, it’s how to deal with the unexpected. Wild demand fluctuations, global supply chain challenges, shifting priorities of the workforce, and much more have contributed to ongoing change. 

A good leader will be able to adapt and adjust to changes as needed. Adaptability is an essential frontline leadership skill. A leader who can adapt to situations is open to different ways of thinking, not afraid to be creative, and tries to understand the perspectives of others.

3. You need to be able to execute tasks and achieve milestones.

Effective execution of tasks takes more than simply telling your team to “get it done.” For a leader to ensure tasks are completed, they need to create a vision and encourage the team to follow it.

It’s great to have a vision for the organization, but it will mean very little if you can’t execute that vision. So a good frontline leader needs to set milestones and understand exactly what needs to happen to achieve them.

4. You need to be able to motivate and inspire others.

There are a lot of ways to motivate and inspire your team. You can lead by example – demonstrating integrity, a good work ethic, and a positive attitude. You can offer praise and appreciation to employees who are doing great work. You can also empower team members by giving them the power or authority to do something with complete control.

5. You need to be able to contribute to a strong and positive workplace culture.

A positive work culture not only helps organizations to be more efficient and productive, but it can actually lead to a safer environment. 80% of work accidents happen as a result of stress from negative work cultures.

It’s absolutely crucial for a workplace to have an equitable and empowering company culture, and a frontline leader can play a big role in fostering that positive culture.

The Powers Approach

Frontline leadership requires an ongoing investment in development to master the language, interactions, and behaviors that will result in the operational performance improvements you need in the short term and the transformational growth you aspire to over the long haul.

At POWERS, we dig in, side by side, with you and your team to uncover the issues affecting performance to put transformative and sustainable optimization solutions in place from the shop floor to the top floor.

Our proven Leadership Development methodology connects the dots between optimized leadership skills and behaviors and transformative business performance outcomes. POWERS has helped global leaders across many industries to develop their frontline leaders into more agile decision makers, adaptable to change, and ready to operate at peak performance. Our productivity improvements are rapid and sustainable– resulting in a more engaged and empowered workforce, a more decisive competitive advantage, greater value., and a stronger bottom line.

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About the Author

Sean Hart

CEO, Managing Partner

Sean Hart is an industrial engineer with a background in manufacturing supervision and project management. Sean’s background is in improving overall plant efficiencies and implementing Lean techniques to improve processes.