How practical is your leadership development strategy?

Gardeners are, by their natural, practical people. They don’t operate in a world of theory. Their focus is on the tangible actions they can take to get a result. I would like to see more organisations take a similar approach when it comes to developing their frontline leaders.

Frontline leaders are also practical. I describe them as the people who get their hands dirty in an organisation, often pitching in to help their team with the day to day tasks. This means we need to provide them with a practical and easy to understand development path.

Being practical implies a step by step approach where it is easy to see the links between each phase. That’s why I have designed a model for developing frontline leaders called the Practical Leadership Development model.


Plan Before a gardener puts anything in the ground they make a plan so they can best use their limited resources. Before you start developing your frontline leaders you need to assess your current situation to determine where you are and where you want to go. Conduct a stocktake of your current strategy and tactics to assess what is working and what needs to change so you can make informed decisions that will get results.

Prepare Next the gardener prepares the soil and the plants so that when they are combined the chances of a successful outcome are increased. For your organisation that means ensuring that everyone involved in the process is prepared to play their part. This means getting your existing leaders prepared for the next crop of leaders as well as preparing new leaders to take on their first position prior to being appointed.

Nurture It is now time to create the garden. This involves not only putting plants in the ground but also ensuring they receive attention early on as they settle in.  This is where you begin the initial development process. What you need is a practical, supported process that can be delivered over an extended time frame using a range of methods giving your frontline leaders the foundation skills they need to perform their roles efficiently and effectively.

Maintain Once the garden has been planted there is still work to do. Maintenance is an important and ongoing task. Developing leaders is not a one off event and your initial program must be followed up by a range of regular learning sessions. In this final phase your frontline leaders should have access to coaches as well as other short sessions focused on practical skills and longer workshops on subjects that are relevant to their specific roles.

So how practical is your frontline leader development strategy? Is it something you can easily explain to the people who will be involved? Does it cover off all the essential components required to grow productive frontline leaders?

Karen Schmidt from Let’s Grow! is the frontline leadership expert who helps organisations grow their frontline leaders so they perform better, which improves team productivity, giving senior leaders peace of mind. To learn about her Practical Leadership model visit To book her to speak at your next event visit


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