Jan 19

Valuing leadership skills in frontline staff

Posted: 23 January 2019

When we think of a great leader we tend to think of someone who is in charge, who leads a company, manages a service or runs their own business. We rarely think of our frontline workers as being leaders. Maybe because we associate leaders with management, or because training in leadership skills is only offered to those who are in a senior or managerial role. But you don’t have to be in charge to exhibit great leadership skills. Successful organisations have many people working in care roles traditionally identified as level 2 and 3, who regularly demonstrate leadership skills and display leadership qualities in their day to day work. Although they might not even realise it… to them, it’s just getting on with the job.

Making decisions, working on your own initiative, taking responsibility at work, inspiring others, being a great communicator, making suggestions for improvements, supporting others and managing yourself are all leadership skills and behaviours.

But why is this important?

These skills can have a huge impact on the quality of life of the people we support. For example, staff are better able to communicate with relatives, team members and other professionals. They’re able to take the initiative to improve the care and support offered and can make a situational judgement when needed without having to constantly ask for direction. For this to work, staff need to know they are supported.

Our manager supports and encourages us to work on our own initiative within a non-blame culture. It makes me feel more confident, empowered and willing to get even more involved. Shelley Wood, Carer, Old Hastings House.

Frontline staff who are encouraged to develop these skills report a higher sense of job satisfaction, as they feel more in control at work, are able to take more responsibility and feel trusted to make situational judgements.

Being able to make my own decisions makes me feel appreciated and supported by my organisation. I have increased my confidence and feel proud to be consulted and supported by the management team. Husna Lomas, Social Worker, W.I.L.L.

This is, of course, great news for managers who can rely on their staff to run a good service in their absence or allows time to spend on strategic planning.

Frontline workers taking responsibility in their role and managing themselves reduces dependency which gives me more freedom to look forward. Jason Denny, Manager at Old Hastings House.

Knowing that people feel happy in their jobs improves workplace culture which has a positive impact on retention rates and, for some, it can help with succession planning.  

Many staff may already hold these skills but are not aware of their value or they’re not nurtured by the organisation.

So how can we nurture and develop leadership skills in our frontline staff?

  • We need to move away from the myth that leadership is just for managers. Leadership is for everyone and you don’t need to aspire to be a manager to develop leadership skills. 
  • Leadership skills among frontline staff can improve the quality of the service. Let your staff know that demonstrating leadership skills is valued by the organisation. 
  • One of the biggest barriers to developing leadership skills is confidence. Leadership is as much about behaviour as it is about skills. It involves changing the behaviour and mind set of everyone. Developing a culture of supporting decision making and responsibility is essential. 
  • Invest in developing leadership skills for frontline staff through learning and development.

We’re currently developing some guidance that addresses the value of leadership in frontline care workers and resources to help develop these important skills. Register your interest here and you'll be the first to know when the guidance and resources are available.

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