The Special Operations community, like history itself, is full of leadership stories linked to the crisis. The Special Forces Operations Detachment, Alpha (ODA) 595, was made famous in the movie 12 strong, is a suitable example. We tend to associate historical figures with leadership, General George Washington, President Roosevelt, World War II generals, Queen Elizabeth, Steve Jobs, and so on. Indisputably, these are powerful examples of strategic leadership. As influential as the top commanders are, they are far from where most leadership is exercised daily, in the trenches. Senior leaders provide vision, clarify priorities, and set the culture of their organizations. Young leaders influence the company to achieve the goals set by senior leaders. It is essential to know that setting and achieving goals requires two vastly different approaches to leadership.
Who are your front line leaders, and what are they doing for your company?
look at your workplace; There is only one CEO, but potentially hundreds of team leaders, supervisors, and managers. Harvard Business Publishing It is estimated that front line leaders make up 50 to 60 percent of an organization’s leadership. All of your Initial Entry staff have a leader on the front lines. Collectively, these leaders, through proximity and engagement, have more impact on the company than the CEO has at all. Outside of your organization, the CEO or president is the face of the organization. On the inside, the front line leader represents who the company is to your workforce. They are responsible for:
- Initial training and cultural indoctrination
- Employee engagement and development
- Team building and cohesion
- Profession management
These responsibilities are referred to as “important” to employee satisfaction and retention. For the organisation, they are personally responsible for productivity which means profits.
What does leadership look like at this level?
For an employee, frontline leadership is everything. These leaders are the embodiment of organizational culture. They alone create a sense of inclusion, importance and value for their teams. They set an example of what the truth looks like and hold their teams accountable. Front line leaders define the company’s style, embody values, and find alignment between individual and organizational priorities.
One of the primary things a front line leader will do is defend his people. Employees know when their supervisor has their backs and when to throw them under the bus. Front line leaders must balance productivity and development, often without all the resources available to senior leaders; This highlights the importance of advocacy. These tangible leaders use their relationships to motivate their teams internally and their relationship with their supervisor to market their team’s value. Most leaders at this level do not have the authority to reward and, therefore, must be spokesmen for their teams. They have every opportunity to teach, mentor and mentor. Employees want to be valued by their company, and most want to be value-added. Front line leaders are the best at creating this.
If frontline leaders have a huge impact, how can we best support them?
The hardest transition a leader makes tends to be the least prepared for it. Usually, the organization identifies high performance and rewards their efforts with promotion, as they should. The uncommon thing is preparing these performers to be leaders. All branches of the US military understand the importance of this first transition from operator to commander and have four to six week resident courses to prepare their emerging leaders. This type of investment is not possible in almost any organization outside the military, but companies must take into account the priority of the armed forces. Apart from management responsibilities, leadership training is critical at this level and should be treated as such. The best form of leadership development is in-person with first and second level leaders. These leaders have experience and knowledge of operations at this level much better than anyone else, assuming they have been trained. Training and mentorship from here is vital and will have the greatest impact. Formal corporate training emphasizes that individual development is a priority at all levels. Take advantage of the key skills being developed and follow through with one-on-one guidance.
Empower your front line leaders as often as you can. Push as much authority as possible so that they are seen as real leaders, not just a way to pass on information. Time is everyone’s most valuable possession, and time wasted sequencing to get an answer an employee feels and detracts from the leadership of frontline leaders. When these leaders have power, they are free to do what you pay them to do: lead.
Let them drive!
It’s hard to pressure authority because you’re still in charge. I know this; It’s a lesson I’ve learned many times. We often confuse our vision and leadership with leadership. Real leadership influences others to get the job done, not doing it for them. Train your front line leaders, then let them do their jobs.
SGM (Ret.) Joshua Johnson is a 32-year-old US Army Special Forces veteran and now Senior Vice President of Command Development for the Talent War Group.
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