Line Leaders

By: Mike Thomas  09-12-2011

Every organization relies upon its first-level line leaders.  The quality with which these people approach their leadership work - assisting others to understand why their work matters, organizing work, building strategic relationships, continuously improving the work flow, and developing people - can greatly impact the quality and quantity of work being produced.

Below are a few of the key tools that Emerge provides to individuals and organizations who may struggle with the quality of their first line leaders:

Which are you?

Leaders affect every aspect of an organization, which is why assessing leaders' skills and providing the training they need is crucial to an organization's success.
It is possible, however, for people to hone their skills and become better leaders through self-understanding and training. One of management's roles is to provide opportunity for employees to learn from others who lead by example, thereby preparing themselves for professional growth. Good leaders create high-performing and high-producing teams. They also create safe and congenial work environments.

The Bad Leader

Poor leadership is prevalent in both the private and public sectors. In her book, "Bad Leadership: What It Is, How It Happens, Why It Matters," Barbara Kellerman defines seven types of bad leaders:

  • Incompetent
  • Rigid
  • Intemperate
  • Callous
  • Corrupt
  • Insular
  • Evil

The paramount nature of poor leadership, Kellerman points out, is compounded by poor followers. These are people who fall into a pattern of bad habits, which they model from their bosses. Thus, disharmony erupts in the organization, eventually leading to financial and productivity challenges as well as public scrutiny.
Poor leadership is ultimately expensive. It diminishes employee morale, and employees feel less commitment to the organization and its mission. They disengage from the business - and then they leave.  According to a 2000 study, reported in the Harvard Business Review, leadership affects six key indicators of the organization's working environment:

  • Flexibility and freedom to innovate
  • Sense of responsibility
  • Level of standards
  • Sense of accuracy about performance feedback and rewards
  • Clarity of employee mission and values
  • Degree of commitment to a common purpose
  • Considering these indicators, you can understand the effect that poor leaders have on employees and the business.

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The Good Leader

In searching for the qualities of a good leader, we could discuss many qualities and topics. Leadership is a hot issue on millions of Web sites that currently include the keyword "leadership."   Many managers will never develop into good leaders. Others will. Good leaders are often prominent within the organization; others are quietly on the fringe but are, nonetheless, great leaders.

Harvard Business School professor Joe Badaracco said, "There are lots of people who look and act like managers, who have excellent managerial skills, and who don't make a lot of noise. Nobody is writing cover stories about them. But after they have been in an organization for a period of time, things are significantly better."

Former GE CEO, Jack Welch identified eight characteristics of good leadership:

  1. Leaders relentlessly upgrade their teams, using every encounter as an opportunity to evaluate, coach and build self-confidence.
  2. Leaders make sure people not only see the vision, but they also live and breathe it.
  3. Leaders get into everyone's skin, exuding positive energy and optimism.
  4. Leaders establish trust with candor, transparency and credit.
  5. Leaders have the courage to make unpopular decisions and gut calls. 
  6. Leaders probe and push with a curiosity that borders on skepticism, making sure their questions are answered with action. 
  7. Leaders inspire risk-taking and learning by setting the example. 
  8. Leaders celebrate.

Making the most of leadership requires that you put the right people in the right place at the right time. It also means evaluating whether an employee has the right qualities and skills for leadership. Organizations need to learn to measure the qualities and skills of their leaders. In addition, they must build an environment that encourages and develops good leadership skills through training.

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Other products and services from Mike Thomas


Employee Development

To this end, Emerge has delveloped tools to assist organizations, leaders, and individuals to find more meaning with, and become more highly engaged in their work. While many organizations maintain a robust curriculum of skill development programs, often the more "human" or "psychological" elements might be missing. Emerge has created development opportunities to assist leaders to maximize their contributions to their organizations.


Sales Leaders

Sales managers are more critical to sales effectiveness than any other element but many organizations invest huge sums of money on skill development of their salespeople, but invest relatively little in their sales managers.. A recent research report from Forum Corp. found that many salespeople are disconnected from their organizations' sales strategies and their managers often lack the leadership skills necessary to help them succeed.



Typically, the results of these efforts determine if there is an individual contributor, first-line leader, leader of leader challenge, or some combination of these. The first step used in working with our clients is to conduct a formal or informal needs assessment of their organization, their team, or their individual needs.


Senior Leaders

Research shows that at least 70% of all managers and leaders in today's organizations are not meeting the contribution expectations for their role. The needs of these audiences must be addressed. This includes senior leaders and executives.


Leadership Skills

The Leader Development Curriculum offers relevant learning across a wide range of challenges, ultimate flexibility with implementation to fit any organizational situation, and results based on competent leaders who are enabled with tools for reinforcement - all at the industry's most competitive price/value proposition.