Frontline Leader At Work

What is frontline management?

What makes a good frontline manager and what are the main challenges they face?

3 minute read
Frontline Leader At Work

While chief executive officers and operations executives make the big decisions within a company, oftentimes frontline managers are the ones at the pointy end of business.

Not only are they responsible for the completion of everyday tasks that keep an organisation afloat, AIM WA Learning and Development Specialist Julie Fraser said frontline managers were also responsible for the management of people.

“Frontline management involves translating the organisation’s strategy into the practical doing of the day-to-day tasks, ensuring the goals and outcomes of the business are achieved,” she said.

“You will find frontline leaders in positions that directly supervise the majority of the organisation’s workforce in areas such as administration, retail and production.

“Frontline management are usually team leaders and supervisors who hold a key position in influencing workplace culture.”

What makes a good frontline manager?

A high level of self-awareness, flexibility and good communication are all hallmark qualities of a great frontline leader, according to Ms Fraser.

“Good frontline managers are people who have a really high level of self-awareness – you need to understand yourself first to be able to handle all the challenges you’re presented with,” she said.

“It’s about accepting yourself and knowing that you have your own idiosyncrasies and being aware of how your emotions and behaviours can impact others.

“You have to be flexible and adjust to the different people that you’re leading."

“Communication is another big one, that covers being able to interact and understand people from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences, and have some empathy around being able to accept people for who they are.”

The pressures and stresses of frontline management

For most management roles, it’s a juggling act – trying to keep staff happy and focused while also overseeing a company’s business strategy and its execution.

Ms Fraser said one of frontline managers’ biggest pressures was adapting to change at the drop of a hat.

“Being able to change quickly is one of the biggest pressures for people in frontline management roles because they get direction from upper-level management that requires them to change the way they do things very quickly,” she said.

“Another pressure could be keeping your team motivated – it’s important to provide encouragement and recognise the efforts of everyone.”

Takeaways for frontline managers

While an employee might be considered an expert in their field, Ms Fraser said it was often difficult for people to transition into managerial roles where a new set of responsibilities were taken on.

"One of the things I see the most coming through the classroom is a lot of people are put into frontline management roles because they’re really good technically – they might be good at providing customer service or good at operating the machinery,” she said.

“Although they’re very good at their profession, the next progressive step isn’t more of that, it’s usually managing people and that is a big transition because you end up having to take on another role.

“They may be put in a role without sufficient support upfront, and they can feel like they’re floundering and not able to do the job.

“There is a shift from technical expertise to focusing on people expertise.”

For those looking to become a better frontline manager, AIM WA’s The Frontline Leader course delves into contemporary business and management practices with a stimulating learning environment and practical workplace application.

“In The Frontline Leader course, people identify ways to prioritise, plan and improve performance, enhance their communication with all stakeholders and identify ways to positively influence workplace culture,” Ms Fraser said.