Manager, Supervisor: Three Roles Everyone Responsible for a Group
responsible for the performance of a group, then youre both.
No matter what you may have read in the last 20 years of management
literature, leadership, management, and supervision are not about
what you are. Theyre about your behavior and your roles.
fact is that all of the writing about the distinctions between managers
and leaders, about whether one is better than the other, about whether
we need both, and about whether organizations need more or less
of one or the other entirely miss the point.
The first time
that you become responsible for the performance of a group, your
life changes. When you were an individual contributor, you had pretty
much complete control over what to do in order to achieve better
results. Once you become responsible for a group of people and their
performance, though, that control disappears and is replaced with
In fact, the
higher you move up your organizations structure, the less power
you have (in the sense of the ability to directly create results)
and the more influence you have. That means that what you do an
say has more impact because people pay more attention to it. Youre
also responsible for other peoples performance in three distinct
ways. Those ways are your leadership role, your management role,
and your supervisory role. Lets look at them in reverse order.
is probably the easiest to understand. In supervision, you deal
with individuals and with tasks. No matter what level of your organization
you are, you will have some supervision work to do. You will have
people directly responsible to you and you will talk directly about
what they are going to do and how they are going to do it. Thats
In your management
role, youll deal with groups and priorities. Youll handle
things like scheduling problems and how to allocate scarce resources
to the projects you need to complete. Your planning perspective
will be tactical.
is planning to achieve objectives to support overall organizational
goals within a defined portion of the organization.
Now we come
to leadership, a term thats taken on almost mystical
connotations in the last 20 years. Leadership, and your leadership
role, is about purpose and direction. In your leadership role you
deal with strategic issues.
issues are the ones that affect the whole organization. If you
happen to be at the top of the organization, that means the whole
organization. But, if you head up a smaller sub unit, like a division
or office, strategy is what you do that affects your entire sub
As you move
up the organizational hierarchy, youre likely to have a greater
proportion of your time devoted to your leadership role and a lesser
proportion to your supervisory and management roles. But, no matter
where you are, if youre responsible for a group, youre
responsible for leadership, management, and supervision.
one more key point here. You dont get a choice about whether
youre a leader or not. Youre a leader because thats
what the people who work for you expect you to be. They will look
to you for purpose and direction.
also expect you to be a manager, and a supervisor. Theyll
expect you to sort out priorities from among many competing ones.
Theyll expect you to give you direction in how theyll
perform their tasks.
management, and supervision are three roles that you have as soon
as you become responsible for a group and for every similar job
The trick is
to figure out where the mix of roles is for you and then develop
the tools, techniques, and tricks that youre going to need
to fill those roles effectively.
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