Ask a supervisor to delineate the traits of a good supervisor and they typically pause and become rather introspective. The question requires them to look deep into their makeup and provide a conversational-length answer, to distill a complicated answer into a simple one. Indeed supervisors have a tough job and providing a synopsis is not easy.
Good supervisors aren’t easy to find. But you know for sure when you’ve found one. Maybe the best way to approach the question is to compare the traits of the good supervisor with those of the supervisors that are failing. More often than that the weaker supervisors are short on either:
- The skills to do the job or
- The character traits of a leader
Supervisors are stuck between the work force they are meant to lead and the superiors above them calling the shots. Those same superiors are the ones that made the judgement call to elevate a supervisor to their position therefore it is probable that those same superiors have demonstrated excellence in both sets of traits themselves. This bit of information should give the new supervisor confidence and it should provide a wealth of insight into how to cultivate the innate character traits and develop the task skills required to lead their team.
Please note that if a person lacks the traits of a good supervisor, one should challenge the judgement of upper management as much as denigrate the shortcomings of the supervisor. Management knows this therefore they want to do everything they can to make certain the supervisor succeeds.
The skilled set of a good supervisor is defined by how the supervisor approaches the job itself.
A good supervisor is first and foremost knowledgeable about his job—about the work his subordinates are expected to accomplish. But the supervisor doesn’t merely command or preach with this knowledge, he guides, and, at times, counsels as well. Success is more about leadership than it is about being the boss.
He initiates with a can-do attitude. He sets the tone of the work place and the staff. He sets the pace for the work, the direction towards that goal and the attitude that fuels the effort.
The character traits of a good supervisor have a slightly different focus. These have more to do with how supervisors care about and work with their people.
- Compassion is an important part character trait of a good supervisor.They need to care about their employees on both a personal and professional level.
- Supervisors need to be loyal and honest. Employees trust loyal and honest supervisors—especially when it’s time to go to bat for them. Moreover, honesty and loyalty are key components to a healthy workplace culture.
- Fairness and empathy are also key character traits of a good supervisor.When either office politics or personal emergencies play out, employees need to find their supervisor understanding and empathetic, not hostile or distrustful.
But none of this can be faked for an extended period of time. It has to be genuine. Empathy cannot be faked and is neither helpful nor becoming of a good supervisor. Good supervisors are genuine themselves, and that naturally transposes to those around them.
Putting Your Traits to work
The traits of a good supervisor are a combination of both – innate as well consciously developed. The traits of a good supervisor manifest in two ways:
- through the work itself, and
- through the people at the workplace.
Leaders are knowledgeable about both their own job and the jobs of those the lead; they also know how to treat the people around them because they genuinely care for them.