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The Makings of an Excellent Supervisor

Updated on May 1, 2013
ChrisMcDade8 profile image

Christine McDade is a Human Resources professional (PHR & SHRM-CP) with over 18 years in the public sector.

Christine McDade is an experienced human resources manager.

With the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901, Theodore Roosevelt found himself suddenly in the position of taking over the highest office in the U.S. His style of leadership brought a new energy to the White House.
With the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901, Theodore Roosevelt found himself suddenly in the position of taking over the highest office in the U.S. His style of leadership brought a new energy to the White House. | Source
Many employees study leadership to learn more about what attributes make a successful leader.
Many employees study leadership to learn more about what attributes make a successful leader. | Source

Who wants to be a boss?

Being a supervisor in the workplace is not a role that is right for everyone. The responsibility that this leader must take on is important for the success of the organization and the team. It is not a position that many employees desire. Furthermore, it is not one that many employees are qualified to have. The challenge of balancing the needs of the team with the needs of the employer can be a daunting task. A supervisor is a leader who takes on a role for others to observe and follow. The responsibility to mentor and act as a model for others to emulate can be a heavy burden for anyone to handle. Working through employee relations for quarreling employees is often a miserable task which takes much of a supervisor's time and energy. Many take on the challenges of leading and dealing with problems that employees often present, only to eventually fail due to being unprepared for the job.

What Makes an Excellent Supervisor?

There are many traits that have been known to make a supervisor great or called "excellent" by others. Books, magazine articles and blogs describe many commonly accepted characteristics that lead to the success of a leader in the workplace. Traits that often get discussed are:

  • Good Communication Skills - Successful supervisors have effective communication skills that are consistently demonstrated in the workplace. Employees appreciate a supervisor who thinks enough of their employees to communicate regularly with them about their work, current events from the senior leadership level and their ideas for meeting the goals of the workplace. Being an effective listener is also an important characteristic as it allows the employees to freely express their opinions and insight as input for the supervisor to consider.
  • Empathy Skills - Empathy is essentially the ability to understand the feelings of others. In the workplace, being empathetic is truly being selfless because it means understanding what the employees are experiencing, and being able to connect with them. Being empathetic does not mean one has to agree with them. Rather, it means that supervisors understand where they are coming from in their opinions on workplace issues and the work itself. Leading a team through difficult times, in particular, is aided with the ability of being empathetic of others. Being known as an empathetic leader will also make one approachable for those staff members needing direction and counsel.
  • Ethical Performance of Duties - Successful supervisors are ethical performers of the duties under their responsibility. They are honest in their dealings in the workplace. Colleagues and employees do not question the integrity of their work. These supervisors are known for being fair in the execution of work and treatment of their subordinates.
  • Visionary - Supervisors who see the "big picture" and have vision to lead a group forward to a positive future will have employees willing to follow their lead. Inspiring the employees under them, excellent supervisors will lead their team in a positive way that gets desired results.
  • Accountability - Supervisors who hold themselves accountable for their failings will impress others around them, especially their subordinates. Giving credit to employees who deserve recognition, and taking responsibility for their own failings will go a long way for those on their team. Employees can relate to supervisors who admit when they "goof" and then work toward improving the mistake for the better of the team.
  • Organized - A sloppy supervisor who arrives to a meeting late and unprepared will not set a good example for the team. Subordinates will be very supportive of supervisors who represent the team in a positive manner.

While effective leaders have these characteristics as well as others, they realize that many of these traits may need development to make them more successful in their roles in the workplace. Successful supervisors consistently work on improving those weaknesses that need improvement. They will seek different methods for becoming a more rounded and effective supervisor.

Not a People Person?

Without doubt, supervisors must like to work with people. Their attention to employee matters will unexpectedly become a new priority for their list of things to do on any given day. Supervisors will find that they have to spend time with employees when difficult situations arise. They cannot afford to utilize email communication, for example, to avoid having to directly deal with the different personalities and quirks that employees under their supervision possess. For those moments when there is an employee issue in the workplace, supervisors should meet privately with the employees to respect the confidentiality of the situation. Supervisors cannot afford to be withdrawn to the point of avoiding conflict with others on the team. In addition, they cannot ignore people issues because they do not wish to address awkward or difficult encounters. Avoidance of such situations simply means that they are neglecting their duties as a leader. Solving problems and directing employees to reach solutions are part of the supervisor's job description.

Taking good notes during training opportunities about effective leadership can come in handy for supervisors wanting to improve their leadership skills.
Taking good notes during training opportunities about effective leadership can come in handy for supervisors wanting to improve their leadership skills. | Source

Learn From the Best

An effective way to improve upon leadership skills is to follow the example of a mentor or successful supervisor. There are experienced supervisors who have been through many years of employee situations. They, therefore, have a lot to offer to those desiring to learn from their time as a workplace leader. They can share examples of the trials and tribulations that have built their own character and developed their supervisory skills over time. The wisdom that they share is valuable information that can be applied to other supervisory situations.

Supervision Must Be Taken Seriously

Being a supervisor means that one is no longer just responsible for their own actions. Rather, they are now responsible for others, and helping them meet the goals of the organization. Avoiding the tough employee situations is not an option for supervisors because they have the interest of the entire team to consider. Organizations rely on the leadership of supervisors to lead their team in a manner that is fair and productive for all. Supervisors who are successful recognize the seriousness of their actions, and do not want to take the needs of their team for granted. The success of the team relies on an effective supervisor who wants to see their subordinates have rewarding experiences in the workplace. Knowing the skills needed to be an effective supervisor and continually developing them through education and the work of others will increase the effectiveness of any supervisor.


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