The traditional concept of frontline leadership conjures up images of a CEO rallying the troops and defending their competitive perimeter.
However, the scale and pace of disruption that is now business as usual has transformed this concept to include anyone within an organisation that is managing a tactical response of some sort, whilst maintaining their day job.
A successful CEO will know that by empowering a cohort of frontline leaders they will have a real-time connection to every facet of the operational pulse, a risk more relevant than ever today when the pace of change continues to outstrip our ability to learn it.
And they will know that this frontline coverage will unlock them from the minutiae that often consumes them, enabling them to focus on the critical stakeholder management, the strategy sensing, the bigger picture.
Frontline leaders are the central connectors in a business’ strategy. They are a powerful resource for the CEO, enabling and accelerating transformation through:
Knowing when it’s time to move on.
Some businesses are reluctant to believe that they have a finite lifetime, that they have ‘always done it this way’ and cannot see beyond their current existence.
The only way to accelerate to and through transformation is to recognise that every business will at some point transition through different market-determined horizons – from the current mainstream, to next or emerging, and then to the ‘what if’ innovative business, for example.
Frontline leaders must be able to pick their horizons ahead of time, they need an agile and adaptive mindset in order to juggle competing risk and opportunity. They will know that they can overlap these transitions and they are already looking for ways to innovate and capitalise their current proposition before they are forced to.
Building a critical mass of A.C.E people.
A successful leader will know that people are their ultimate enablers, and that trust is their organisation’s lifeline.
They also know that sustainable business outcomes are enabled by ACE people – Aligned (know what to do), Capable (can do) and Engaged (want to do), as opposed to hit and miss outcomes delivered by capable people in isolation.
They don’t assume that their people will simply fall in behind business process and provide optimum performance. And besides, it’s yesterday’s thinking.
Successful frontline leaders will extract discretionary effort from a critical mass of people that they have developed, who know what’s in it for them, and who can, know and want to enable change.
Creating multi-dimensional impacts.
In any transformation, frontline leaders will often be immersed in the first level of management across a business’ operational function.
Being in a position to deliver frontline impact, their diverse skillsets will optimise and maximise concurrent opportunity rather than turning the wheels of time and effort through one-dimensional consecutive activities. They won’t sit and wait.
Frontline leaders will combine their specific expertise and dive deep on the actions that will co-create accelerated transformation.
Leading by example.
All of a sudden, we are dealing outside of business as usual and we must anticipate how to deal with our people’s reaction to change, the rolling eyes, the “here we go again” and “haven’t we tried this before” innuendo.
In crisis, turnaround, transformation – whatever the scale of change – experienced frontline leaders will display the behaviours that they need their team to emulate.
They will be adaptable rather than resistant, accepting rather than emotional, accountable rather than accusing, and positive rather than negative.
Looking to extract discretionary effort from their people, experienced frontline leaders know it’s all about how they ‘show up’ firstly, how they inspire action.
Using old to get to new.
The pace of disruption and the scale of innovation that bounces through every corner of the globe today will not ‘just make’ exponential growth happen.
Frontline leaders who have experienced the bumpy road to transformation know that the quickest way to get there is through retaining a portion of business as usual.
They know that they will need cash flow to procure exponential technology and people, and they will need business as usual as the platform to shift their customers, their people and their offering, and to dilute the impact of inertia.
While exponential thinking is needed to realise 10x future growth, incremental thinking may just bring surety to, say, 10% of their viability while they get there.
Co-ordinating different perspectives.
There is immense value in seeking, receiving and co-ordinating different perspectives. It is fundamental to authentically seeing, thinking, planning and acting differently.
Seeking is proactive, receiving is reactive and co-ordinating is the co-creation that brings this all together to build a much bigger and richer picture.Experienced frontline leaders know that this is the foundation for the transition from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, and the quantum leap to a shared mindset – that collective belief within an organisation of its ability to see, think, plan and act business differently.
Written by Brian Sands.