Do you wait too long to develop your frontline leaders?

Gardening, like leading, is a life skill I believe people should be exposed to as early as possible if we are going to encourage them to pursue it. This has been proven by Australian chef Stephanie Alexander via her school based Kitchen Garden Scheme. She has found that by getting young children to grow and cook their own vegetables they are far more likely to eat a healthy diet and avoid obesity. This article by Jack Zenger discusses the same concept from a leadership point of view. Like Zenger, I believe we wait far too long to not only give people skills in how to manage a team but also how to lead a team.

As the article outlines, in his experience with 17,000 people there is a gap of on average 9 years between the time people take on their first role of team leader and when they get any official development to assist them in the role. Given what we know about the impact a team leader can have on employee engagement and productivity that would seem like a major flaw in the development strategy. 

For me the bigger issue is that often the development people receive is targeted at how to manage rather than how to lead. I believe you need to start introducing the concepts of leading before they need them. Granted, a frontline leader may only get the opportunity to lead less than 5% of the time to begin with but you need to give them good habits, as many will lead by default anyway. You want them to model their behaviours on the right examples not the wrong ones. This way, as they make their way up the organisation and start to lead more they will already have the skills.

You may like to do the same calculation used in the article to help you make a case for developing your frontline leaders earlier. 

If you want to help your frontline leaders develop the skills they need to succeed then download by free ebook "Practical Leadership Development: A simple 4 step model for developing frontline leaders that gets results" available at

Karen Schmidt from Let’s Grow! is the frontline leadership expert.

She helps organisations grow their frontline leaders so they perform better, which improves team productivity, giving senior leaders peace of mind.

To learn about her services visit To book her to speak at your next event visit

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