It’s a surprising statistic, but it’s true — more than 60% of frontline leaders say they have never received any training for their new role.

Various statistics show that a problem very clearly exists, and has now for a long time. Studies — including one from McKinsey in 2010 — show that:

  • More than 70% of senior management was unhappy with the performance of their frontline managers.
  • More than 80% of frontline managers were unhappy with their own performance.

Frontline managers are the managerial foot soldiers, responsible for many of an organization’s critical day-to-day operations.

They supervise other contributors, yet they are usually the least experienced tier of managers in a company, often newly promoted into their first leadership role.

Despite their importance, organizations face big challenges when trying to make these managers more effective. According to a 2011 CareerBuilder survey:

  • 20% of first-time managers are doing a poor job, according to their subordinates.
  • 26% of first-time managers say they felt they weren’t ready to lead others.
  • 60% say they never received any training for their new role.

Since these frontline managers may go on to middle- and even upper-management jobs, it’s no wonder that 50% of all managers in organizations are rated as ineffective.


In order to succeed, frontline managers should master:

  1. Self-awareness.Managers who understand their own strengths, weaknesses, quirks, and preferences are better equipped to make day-to-day decisions and interact effectively with others who have different personalities.
  2. Political savvy. Managing internal stakeholders and navigating organizational politics to achieve goals is a key competency for managers.
  3. Learning agility.Learning quickly from experience is the ability to integrate experiences and adapt to the environment. This allows managers to swiftly recognize, analyze, and address new problems.
  4. Influencing outcomes. Effective managers are able to accomplish goals by affecting the actions, decisions, and thinking of others. Influence allows you to get things done and achieve desired outcomes.
  5. Communication skills.Skilled managers can communicate with people at all levels in the organization, including team members, superiors, peers, and others. It’s especially important to effectively communicate goals and expectations.
  6. Motivating others.The most successful managers are able to inspire and guide direct reports and others to complete work, especially when goals are unclear. This may include motivating others to exceed expectations or put in extra effort — without monetary incentives.

Every new role needs skill development.

Consider any sport, musical instrument, or hobby at which you excel. If you became extremely good at this activity, there’s a high probability that some amount of skill development from an expert was involved — a soccer or music or art teacher, for example — who helped you learn the basics so you could take it to the next level.

And just in case your answer to this question was, I taught myself and didn’t need anyone, then it’s quite likely you still have room for improvement.

Serena Williams has Patrick Mouratoglou, Aristotle went to Plato’s Academy, and Steve Vai studied under Joe Satriani.

But frontline leaders don’t have the luxury of hiring a Mouratoglou, or a Plato, or Vai. So, how do we help them without breaking the bank at the firms where they work?

Frontline Leader Impact is a solution that we created with the Apollo Education Group to address the needs of today’s frontline leaders in today’s work environment. So what do today’s learners want?

We considered how modern learners learn (including — but by no means limited to — millennials), and we considered the best ways to deliver returns on the leadership investment for their organizations. Here’s what we found:

  • Learning must be personalized. And not just because it’s the “me generation” — it’s more because if the learning isn’t personalized and specific, it isn’t going to be applicable, and if people don’t apply it, they won’t retain it.
  • Learning must be shareable and savable. Learners don’t just want to learn, they want to share what they’ve learned with their colleagues and friends. They also want their learning to travel with them after the course, and when they go to their next job.
  • Learning must be social and collaborative. Learners may not be as co-located today as they have been in the past, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not human. Just because they aren’t going to one place to learn together doesn’t mean they don’t want to form real bonds with their co-learners. Learners want to collaborate and learn from each other.

Frontline Leader Infographic

For most organizations, frontline managers comprise the largest group of leaders. And they are often scattered across multiple locations.

Companies have traditionally been forced to compromise between quality, cost, and flexibility when considering leadership development solutions for this large audience. Digital solutions are the obvious choice because they are cost-effective, but can they be engaging and impactful, too?

We think so. We built Frontline Leader Impact, an 18-hour, online leadership training experience delivered over 6 weeks at just 30 minutes a day. The course delivers a completely re-imagined online leadership development experience for frontline managers.

As one former participant said: “The Frontline Leader Impact online leadership training program was refreshing, interactive, and a great mix of validation of leadership attributes and new ways of thinking about leadership.”

Another past participant put it similarly: “The FLI course — with it’s relevant learning topics, concise & engaging videos using frameworks based on research, and engaging “social media” style of interacting with classmates — was definitely worth my time and energy. I feel that I have been exposed to new topics and learned lessons that I may have missed if I relied solely on peers or mentors for coaching.”

Read more about the program or sign up for the next cohort in Fall 2017.

2 thoughts on “What Frontline Leaders Need to Succeed

  1. Wonderfully documented – 6 traits.
    These are a must have competency for every manager in this modern fast moving world.

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