Four Things We All Can Learn from the Line Leader

Line Leader

We all remember our elementary school years. The walk to the bus with our parents the first day of school. The nervous apprehension as we entered the classroom. The awkward introductions and familiarizing ourselves with our classmates. The need to feel connected and valued. As the year progressed, we built relationships and made friends. We developed an appreciation and admiration for our teacher. We started forming hobbies and interests.

Looking back, I am amazed at how habits and behaviors start to take shape at such a young age. There were the kids that gravitated towards sports. Those that gravitated towards books. The teacher’s pet and the rebellious trouble makers. The one’s that were extroverted and quick to form relationships. The kids who were introverted, being shy and timid. What I remember most are the ones that started to cultivate leadership characteristics and skills.

As a business psychologist and management consultant, the most memorable kids were the line leaders. The eager ones that had to run up to the front of the line prior to the procession to lunch, library, or recess. These were the kids that most likely went on in life to assume roles of leadership in whatever profession they chose. As I reflected on the line leaders it dawned on me that there are four things we all can learn from them.

  1. Line Leaders Charted the Direction for Others: The most successful leaders know how to set a vision. They are future-oriented and can anticipate trends. Once they start to formalize a vision they solicit insights and perspectives of others. They know how to get buy-in and drive alignment. They are collaborative, knowing that they can only get to their destination with the help of others. They are laser focused on achieving their desired outcomes. At the same time, they can re-evaluate, modify, and adjust the path to success along the way.

  2. Line Leaders were Proactive and Took Initiative: When leaders are proactive and self-directed they look for opportunities to drive the business forward. They’re usually one of the first people in the building and one of the last to leave the parking lot at night. They volunteer for special projects and assignments that go beyond their regular duties and responsibilities. They are problem solvers. They don’t complain to senior management about issues, they look to find solutions to challenges. They’re eager for feedback and are quick to solicit it from colleagues. They are innovative. They’re constantly looking for ways to improve processes and procedures.

  3. Line Leaders had Passion: Passion is a critical competency that every leader needs in their toolkit. It breeds diligence and commitment. It galvanizes others. It enables people to come to work every day with energy and enthusiasm. Some of the most passionate leaders that I have worked tend to be the most high performing people. They have an air of charisma about them that attracts others. They are great team leaders, having the ability to inspire and motivate others. They know how to focus on what’s working and not get bogged down in the details of things that aren’t.

  4. Line Leaders had Followers: Followership is funny topic. By nature, a leader has direct reports, teams, and employees. These are not followers. True followership comes from servant leadership. Leaders that put their people before themselves develop committed teams. They know how to model the right behaviors for others. They aren’t afraid to get in the trenches with their direct reports. They’re compassionate and empathetic. They take time to develop and grow their people. They’re quick to identify a person’s strengths and developmental opportunities, and aren’t afraid to provide feedback. These behaviors inspire true followership.

So, were you the line leader growing up? Do you remember the kids that were? Are your children line leaders? Yes, the line leader was always the first at the door. They were eager and excited to take their class to any destination that teacher mapped out for them. At the time, most line leaders just wanted to be out in front, but little did they know, they were cultivating skills that would impact their leadership later in life. Let’s applaud the line leaders. They are most likely the people we respect and look up to today.

Adam C. Bandelli, Ph.D. is the Managing Director of Bandelli & Associates, a boutique consulting firm focusing on leadership development and organizational effectiveness.

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Leadership Matters. Without It, People Fail.