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Leadership & Communication

Let’s Grow! Matching frontline leaders to the right roles

20 Apr 2015, by Informa Insights

By Karen Schmidt*

Karen Schmidt

Frontline leaders need to be put in a position where they can do the most good, where their natural abilities will be helpful rather than a hindrance to the team. The term weed is often used in gardening circles. What is considered a weed in one garden is a useful plant in another. It all depends on what the plant is required to do. In other words, what role it needs to perform. Match the qualities of the plant and the part it plays in the garden and you have a great match. Get it wrong and you have a weed. So how do you avoid the same thing happening with your frontline leaders?

Teams, like gardens, go through development stages. Leaders, like gardeners, can have a preference for working with teams at different stages in their life cycle. I believe there are three specific types of teams that frontline leaders can be attracted to work with:

Starting from scratch The thrill of the “greenfield” site, as it’s called in the business world, excites some leaders who love the challenge of starting with nothing and creating something. They can often get bored once the team is up and running, preferring to move onto another new adventure. On the positive side many new leaders like the idea that they don’t have to live up to the reputation of a past leader. They can design things their way and leave their mark on the organisation. The down side is that they might be taking on too much so the chances of failure are higher.

Repair and renewal The neglected, run down team that has seen better days presents a world of possibilities for some leaders. They enjoy seeing a team come back to life, rescuing it from destruction, ridding it of disease and over grown weeds. They are at their best when challenged. Perhaps they were a member of the team and put their hand up to take on the role of leader. This can give them a headstart as they understand the issues and the people involved. In other cases bringing in someone who has not been involved in any of the past decisions might be what the team needs to recover.

Maintaining the status quo Some leaders know they do their best work when they are in charge of a great team that simply needs to be kept performing at its peak. The high functioning team can seem easy to take on but in some cases it involves living up to the reputation of a past leader, which has its challenges. Some leaders avoid this situation as it doesn’t present any challenge for them. Watch out for the team that pushes for one of their own to be the leader as they may be doing their best to ensure the status quo is maintained. This may not be in the best interests of the organisation. With change now a constant the status quo does not stay that way for long.

Matching leaders to teams has not always followed protocols like these. Often it is more about physical location and availability than anything scientific. To improve the chances of the leader being successful you must put them in a place where they can do the most good.

Karen Schmidt from Let’s Grow! is the Workplace Gardener. She helps frontline managers and small business owners grow into leaders using her workplace gardening philosophy. During the process people become energised, excited and empowered to find ways to germinate the skills that lie dormant in their team. To learn all about her range of programs and coaching services visit To book her to speak at your next event visit

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