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Longshore Insider
5 Fundamental Truths About Leadership Development for Front-line Leaders
Jan 27, 2020 - Joe White, AEU LEAD

At AEU LEAD, our mission is simple: to enable transformation. Transformation is the process of creating and sustaining desired changes for the purpose of growth and improvement. Whether it involves safety performance, customer service, or operational efficiencies, organizations are constantly seeking ways to gain an advantage in an increasingly competitive and ever-changing marketplace. Unfortunately, this is an area where most companies struggle. On average, 7 out of 10 change initiatives fail to deliver desired objectives.

Fulfilling our mission involves more than rhetoric. It requires a refined process and strategy addressing actual needs involving real companies. For most, the process of change originates as a seed of thought at an executive level. A need or improvement opportunity is recognized, a strategy is developed, and a prioritized initiative is cast into motion for implementation and adoption. Typically, the point of derailment occurs after handoff and during implementation. Seen in nearly all industries we serve, this pattern is the result of a consistent set of needs involving middle managers.

Our business model and portfolio of products and services are built around five fundamental observations and trends we see across the labor-intensive industries we serve:


1. The continuous pursuit of growth and improvement is an essential need most companies have.

According to research conducted by Prosci, 98% of companies have taken on major change initiatives over the past five years1. The rate of change has increased by 35% over the past two years alone. Change is the new reality and a prerequisite to future success as an organization.


2. Front-line supervisors play a critical role in driving change.

Employees prefer hearing about change impacting them or their jobs directly from their supervisor. For change initiatives to succeed, supervisors must be able to grow support, get buy-in, gain alignment, and gather commitment.


3. Most front-line supervisors don’t have the skills needed for success.

In a survey published by the Center for Creative Leadership, 70% of senior managers indicated they were dissatisfied with the performance of their front-line managers. In a CareerBuilder survey, 50% of all managers were rated as ineffective when dealing with direct reports. The skills needed to drive and implement change are people-oriented, something very few supervisors have had the opportunity to develop.


4.Few companies provide training or have the internal resources needed for supervisor development.

While management and leadership training collectively represent a $15 billion industry, it is primarily directed toward executives and senior managers. Front-line supervisors, despite being the point of interface between executive leadership and the workforce – and often the sole liaison between companies and their valued clients – receive very little, if any, training for needed people skills. Studies consistently show less than 40% of front-line supervisors receive any sort of training for their role in leadership. The unintentional consequences impact business performance in many areas, including employee retention. 50% of employees who leave your company voluntarily do so to escape their boss.


5. Organizations that invest in leadership development consistently outperform those that don’t.

While the current picture may be bleak, the upside involves a windfall of opportunities for those organizations ready and willing to invest in their front-line leaders. In a study conducted at Bersin by Deloitte, organizations with strong leadership programs in place consistently outperformed their peers. On average, business results were seven times greater – a significant margin of separation. Additionally, those investing in leadership development were 12 times more effective at accelerating business growth – a trait inherently related to change and transformation1.

The business case is clear. As more companies look inward for operational efficiencies to pursue, few investments can match the potential returns involving needed skill development for those in the middle.


This article originally appeared in the AEU LEAD blog on March 18, 2019.


Best Practices in Change Management, 2018 – 10th Edition, Prosci



As Director of AEU LEAD, Joe White focuses on helping members transform operational goals into actionable plans through a structured change management process. Prior to joining AEU, Joe was a senior consultant for E.I. DuPont’s consulting division, DuPont Sustainable Solutions (DSS). He joined DSS in 2011 to develop the next generation of safety practices using extensive research in behavioral sciences he’s compiled over a period of nearly two decades. His efforts resulted in the development of The Risk Factor, which is now the flagship instructor-led offering for the consulting division. Combined, Joe has 26 years of operational safety experience, the majority of which was with DuPont. Joe has been published in Occupational Health & Safety Magazine for his prominent work in safety relative to behavioral and neurosciences and is an event speaker at many leading industry conferences including National Safety Council (NSC) Congress and Expos, American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), and National Maritime Safety Association (NMSA). Joe is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and has a B.S., in Safety and Risk Administration.

The opinions and comments expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the opinion of ALMA, AEU or Amwins. None of ALMA, AEU, Amwins or the authors are responsible for any inaccuracy of content or for any loss or damages incurred by any party as a result of reliance on information contained in this article. Content may not be published or reproduced without the written consent of the authors. Prior articles may not be updated for accuracy as pertinent information changes over time. The Longshore Insider is intended to provide general information about the industry and should not be construed as legal advice under any circumstances. For legal advice, please consult a licensed attorney.
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