Why you need to focus your leadership development on the grassroots

If your organisation is like most, it spends the majority of its leadership development budget on the senior and mid levels rather than the frontline. However there is growing evidence there needs to be a grassroots change to this strategy in light of the changing nature of leaders. 

According to Harvard Business Publishing senior director Nick Clayton “there is a growing ‘sense of urgency’ around developing people for leadership positions earlier than in the past”. In an interview he did for HR magazine Clayton believes that, having cut leadership development budgets in the recession, many business leaders are now realising they have a “backlog of leaders that really need to be developed quickly”. The article goes on to talk about the leaner nature of organisations, resulting in young people being required to take on leadership responsibilities much earlier in their career than previous generations.

Frontline leaders are the people who get their hands dirty in your organisation, working along side the people who serve your customers. They also make up 50% of your leadership team and are responsible for up to 80% of your workforce. It only makes sense they should account for a large percentage of your development budget but in my experience that is not always the case.

I believe that for too long we have had the wrong focus when it comes to developing. Most organisations tend to focus on management skills only, wrongly believing that this level does not need to understanding how to lead. The result is we have an army of managers when what we really need are a community of leaders. Instead of waiting until their managing habits are ingrained to give them the skills of leading I believe we should be showing the how to lead from day one, knowing that they will do more and more of it as they move up the organisation.

When researching my Executive briefing paper on “How to grow productive frontline leaders”, I came across a range of research findings that highlighted this issue. To learn more about what I found download the paper, and a helpful quiz to assess your strategies, at www.letsgrow.com.au

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