New Supervisor

Guest article by Mark Rapier

Congratulations on your first supervisory position. It makes the beginning of your leadership journey. Learning to lead people and help them achieve more than they thought they could is an exciting adventure. To get the most advantage from this opportunity, there are two things you need to do:

Know the Definitions

The first is to understand the difference between supervision, management, and leadership.  Supervision is the work or activity involved in being in charge of somebody and making sure everything is done correctly. Management is the activity of running and controlling a business or similar organization. Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others towards the achievement of a goal.

Notice that the definitions of supervision and management overlap each other. Depending on the size of the team or the complexity of the activity supervisors will, in some ways, act like managers.  Likewise, managers need to supervise in some ways. Managers also work to influence the behavior of their teams to help them grow. In business, leaders almost always have managerial responsibilities for budgets, people, contracts, etc. The most important aspect of leadership is to bring everyone together as a team to accomplish their goals and help them grow their skills and abilities.

Observe and Learn

Observation occurs in many ways. Pay attention to how your peer supervisors go about their jobs,  focus on their results, and how they achieve them. If some of them fail to meet their targets, try to understand why. If they do meet their goals, examine how their teams behave in the process. If they thrive, learn why. If they do not, recognize that the behavior is counterproductive in the long term.

Look for the same things in the managers in your firm. Pay close attention to how effective managers act differently than others. As you gain more responsibility, you will need to adopt some of those behaviors.

Lastly, look at the leaders of your organization. Great leaders help achieve more than they thought they could individually or as a team. They inspire. They coach. Do not be misled by job titles. Many titles come with the expectation that the job holder is a leader. This assumption is frequently wrong.

Perhaps the most important leader to look for is the informal leader. In sports, these people are known as ‘locker room leaders.’ They positively influence the behavior of their teammates through their actions. How they practice, how they play affects how others approach the game. There is a good chance you were one of the informal leaders. This is what people may have seen in you and created the opportunity to be a supervisor.

Our journey to leadership is forever repeating. Through self-evaluation, trusted advisors, and coaches, we must constantly learn from our experiences and the experience of others. We must constantly push ourselves to expand our horizons and set expectations for ourselves. We must develop a strong moral compass to prepare for our next leadership adventure.


Mark Rapier is the Managing Director of The Rapier Group LLC.  His book, The Leader With A Thousand Faces, (CLICK HERE to get your copy) describes the leadership journey we all experience and gives perspectives to consider before you find yourself needing the answers.

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