What Is a First-Line Manager, Why Is Their Role Critical, and How Can You Help Them Elevate Their Skills?


First-line managers have a critical role in helping companies effectively meet organizational goals and objectives. 

They are the individuals on the ground who have the strongest relationship with employees. They’re also the ones responsible for overseeing employees who get the work done. 

Their role is a critical one. If they are not effective, they will negatively impact employee morale and productivity. 

Unfortunately, many first-line managers come into their roles without formal training or a background in managing others. It’s important for organizations to understand how they can reinforce the role of first-line managers and provide them with the resources and support they need to be effective.

What is a First-Line Manager? 

quote on first line manager responsibilities

First-line managers, as the name suggests, are team leaders who lead employees who are on the frontline. They represent the first level of management within an organization and are responsible for ensuring that employees are productive and effective in performing the work of the department in an effort to achieve overall business goals. 

First- or frontline managers handle the day-to-day operations of a department by overseeing employees’ work and delegating tasks to them. These managers are less experienced than other levels of management within the organization. It is a role that generally represents supervisors’ or managers’ first experience managing others.

list of top 7 skills of first line managers

Top Skills of a First-Line Manager 

There are a number of skills that are important for first-line managers to have to ensure their effectiveness—and the effectiveness of their team members. They are:


First-line managers are held accountable themselves, and hold team members accountable to achieve individual goals in support of department and company goals. 

Problem Solver

They are problem solvers and have the ability to think on their feet and provide direction, support, and course correction for employees.

Clear Communicator

Effective frontline managers have essential communication skills both to ensure that employees understand what is expected of them and to provide clear and constructive feedback in support of engagement and productivity. 

Prepared for Change

They are comfortable with change and help team members effectively understand and deal with change. 

Relationship Builder

They have strong relationships both with their team members and with others in the organization and are committed to building a strong, cohesive team. 


Frontline managers have the ability to motivate others to put forth their best efforts and achieve their goals in support of the department and company goals.

Skilled at Conflict Resolution

They understand that conflict will be inevitable and are comfortable handling and resolving conflict when it arises.

quote on first line managers leading others

Clearly, first-line managers need to have a wide range of skills to help them effectively lead others. They are team leaders charged with leading team members to accomplish organizational goals. 

Many though have no prior experience in a management role. Providing them with practical training to help them both understand and effectively perform in a management role can help drive company results while ensuring that employees are engaged, motivated, and productive.

Taking your First-Line Managers to the Next Level 

The Leadership Journey (TLJ) focuses on 10 core competencies that leaders at every level, including first-line managers, need to be effective. This first-line manager training program will help your new and potential frontline leaders build the skills they need to lead their teams to success. 

Using a proprietary burst model for learning, with short modules that are immediately applied back on the job, TLJ focuses on delivering actionable insights and holding leaders accountable to deliver results through personal action plans and follow-up.

Successful organizations hold their supervisors accountable for learning and applying the practical how-to skills they need to effectively manage others. TLJ can help. Try a course for free today.

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Categories: Management, Supervisory
Scott Ulberg, Founder and President, Business Training Experts

Author: Scott Ulberg, Founder and President, Business Training Experts

Scott Ulberg is a leadership training expert. He’s dedicated over 20 years to turning supervisors and managers into high-performing leaders that positively impact their teams and organizations. High-performing leaders manage happy and engaged employees who love their work and give 110% every day, driving productivity and company performance. Scott believes in developing practical how-to leadership skills through real-world application. The companies he works with experience significant improvements, such as an 18% increase in productivity, a 15% increase in team member engagement, and a 10% reduction in turnover.