9 Qualities of Every Successful Supervisor

women talking at work

Atstock Productions/AdobeStock

Profile Picture
AnnaMarie Houlis4.87k
Journalist & travel blogger
April 12, 2024 at 9:40PM UTC

Are you considering a role as a supervisor for a new company, or have you been offered a promotion to become a supervisor at your existing company? Whatever the case, you should fully understand what the role of a supervisor is — and what will be expected of you as a supervisor — before you accept a job as a supervisor. After all, a supervisor position is a big responsibility.

Here's everything you need to know about the job responsibilities of a supervisor — and the skills and experiences you'll need in order to do the new job well. 

What is a supervisor?

First things first, you should know exactly what a supervisor is. A supervisor is someone who looks after another person or an activity, program, department, etc. This person is directly in charge of the subordinate who they supervise, and they are the go-to person in charge of that activity, program or department.

You might be wondering: Is a supervisor a managerIn many cases, yes, a supervisor is indeed a manager. In fact, there are other names that are the equivalent of supervisor in some cases, including manager, boss, overseer, monitor, foreman, facilitator, area coordinator, etc. Of course, a supervisor's official title will be dependent upon the company based on the needs of that company.

What are the typical duties as a supervisor?

A supervisor's specific job responsibilities will vary by company and even activity, program, department, etc. That said, typically, a supervisor is in charge of the following duties across the board. A great supervisor:
  1. Makes sure that the activity, program, department or other area that they are supervising runs smoothly. They are in charge of overseeing the overall area so that everyone who works under them is safe, supported and, ultimately, successful.
  2. Is someone who sets goals for the person who they supervise or for the activity, program, department, etc. that they supervise. These goals may be in regard to deadlines, performance, results, etc.
  3. Is in charge of organizing workflow and delegating duties to those who work under them. They, therefore, are responsible for getting to know the individuals' who work in the activity, program, department, etc. in order to hone in on their strengths and create successful teamwork plans.
  4. Is responsible for monitoring employees who work underneath them in their area. They are, therefore, also responsible for coaching and counseling these employees and providing constructive feedback during performance reviews.
  5. May have to terminate some employees for not adhering to the company's policies, failing to perform up to par or breaking the law.

Ultimately, a supervisor wears many hats, but a supervisor's duties can all boil down to five clear roles. What are the 5 roles of a supervisor?

  1. Educator
  2. Sponsor
  3. Coach
  4. Counselor
  5. Director
In short, they should be able to educate those around them (equally their subordinates and their colleagues) to make sure that everyone is on the same page and moving forward together.
They should be a sponsor to employees who deserve sponsorship. (Learn more about sponsorship here!) Likewise, they should be a coach to their subordinates, as well as a counselor, so that those who work for them can further develop their skills and grow as professionals.
And they should be a director, in charge of overseeing their specific area of expertise — whether that's an activity, program, department or something else.

How can you be a good supervisor?

A good supervisor comes in all shapes and sizes. But all supervisors are, first and foremost, strong leaders. Every supervisor should:
  1. Be a motivator. They should be able to rouse their team and inspire those who work for them.
  2. Be able to give constructive feedback. They should be able to do this in a way that empowers those who work for them to do better, rather than discourage them.
  3. Communicate clearly. This not only means that they should be able to share ideas and verbalize their vision with their team, but they should also be able to listen well and receive constructive feedback, themselves.
  4. Be an aware and supportive mentor and coach. They should also be sponsors for some employees.
  5. Have strong problem-solving skills. They are the go-to person when employees have difficulties, and if they cannot fix the problem, they should know who to pass the problem onto who can.
  6. Be honest and have integrity.
  7. Have empathy and be able to give credit where credit is due.
  8. Be reliable, available and approachable.
  9. Be a goal setter and a visionary with sound judgment, prioritizing skills and the ability to work well under stress.

Browse jobs at companies women love on FGB.

AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook. 

Why women love us:

  • Daily articles on career topics
  • Jobs at companies dedicated to hiring more women
  • Advice and support from an authentic community
  • Events that help you level up in your career
  • Free membership, always