Effective business management is substantially dependent on the quality and effectiveness of supervisors. Supervisors are responsible for assessing the qualifications and professional competence of personnel, identifying the relative strengths and weaknesses of individual employees, ensuring that working groups function in a manner conducive to organizational success, and for motivating personnel to achieve the highest performance level of which they are capable individually as well as in coordination and collaboration with others.
The specific attributes of good supervisors include psychological maturity and stability, , good interpersonal and communication skills, the ability to connect with, motivate, and earn the respect of others, and high levels of personal integrity.
Personal and Psychological Attributes of Effective Supervisors
Generally, people who are psychologically mature, emotionally stable, and who enjoy healthy self-esteem tend to attract and connect most easily with others who share those psychological traits (Maxwell, 2007; Robins & Judge, 2009). Conversely, people who are psychologically immature, emotionally unstable, and who suffer from to be uncomfortable around and even threatened by those who are much healthier than they are psychologically. As a result, over time, by psychologically healthy supervisors tend to reflect similar characteristics, as do those led by comparatively unhealthy or psychologically weak supervisors (Maxwell, 2007; Robins & Judge, 2009).
Whereas supervisors who operate at a high level of psychological maturity and stability are eager to share the rewards of good performance on the part of their subordinates, those who operate at a lower level of psychological maturity and stability only reward performance to a point but are often threatened by signs of very high performance among their subordinates (Maxwell, 2007). Instead of sharing credit with their teams (and blame, when warranted), to usurp the credit associated with the successes of their subordinates and allocate blame “downhill” regardless of whether or not it is deserved. As a result, good supervisors typically earn the trust and genuine respect of their subordinates; meanwhile, poor supervisors may inspire fear but they are rarely trusted or respected (Harari, 2002; Maxwell, 2007).
In many respects, those elements of good leadership in the supervisory capacity are merely manifestations of personal and psychological integrity (Harari, 2002; Maxwell, 2007). Good supervisors reward competence rather than flattery and they are genuinely interested in helping their subordinates achieve professional success. Conversely, poor leaders reward personal deference over competence and help others achieve professional success only to the extent it furthers their own success; they are more likely to undermine rather than support the professional development of their subordinates to the leadership roles they may demonstrate that they deserve (Maxwell, 2007).
Interpersonal and Communication Skills
According to organizational management expert John Maxwell (2007), another crucial attribute of effective supervisors and leaders is the ability to connect with others. In fact, Maxwell suggests that if leadership and supervisory effectiveness were capable of being boiled down to a single characteristic, it would be that good leaders are those individuals to whom others are naturally inclined to pay attention to and follow by virtue of their ability to connect with and achieve “buy-in” among their associates.
Good supervisors have the ability to communicate their wishes, their vocational values, and their expectations clearly; they also have the ability to give and take criticism fairly and in a manner that does not demean, embarrass, or undermine their associates (Harari, 2002; Maxwell, 2007). They also are good listeners, irrespective of relative position or authority. Poor supervisors, by contrast, tend to be ineffective communicators who listen poorly (or not at all, particularly to subordinates). Whereas good supervisors are usually open to bottom-up management when criticism is justified, poor supervisors characteristically create a climate that is unreceptive or even hostile to any criticism, especially from below (Harari, 2002; Maxwell, 2007).
Many times, the strength of businesses and other types of organizations is a direct function of the effectiveness of its leaders and supervisors. In many respects, leadership ability is an essential characteristic of effective supervisors. Psychological stability, high self-esteem, good communications and interpersonal skills, and the ability to establish connections with others are also important characteristics of successful supervisors. At a fundamental level, good supervisors also exhibit and reward personal and professional integrity and they are capable of earning the trust and loyalty of their subordinates.
Generally, effective supervisors cultivate a culture of competence and mutual respect throughout their areas of influence. Conversely, ineffective supervisors tend to cultivate vocational cultures that exemplify their own worst attributes among their proteges. Ultimately, that is why successful business organizations and other enterprises are those that value and reward effective supervisors and leaders.
Harari O. (2002). The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Maxwell, JC. (2007). The 21 Irrefutable Rules of Leadership. Georgia: Maxwell
Robbins SP and Judge TA. (2009). Organizational Behavior. Upper Saddle River, NJ: