One of the questions was:
You close your book with advice on business leadership. What’s the difference between a leader and a supervisor?
Seeking brevity, I responded:
Nothing, if you are an effective supervisor. Supervisors might not be leading the broader effort – the organizational vision – but if they want their employees to succeed, they need to lead them there.
Leadership is needed in a variety of situations. It’s not unusual, however, for people to think of leaders as visionaries and heads of corporations. These people are not that evident in our daily lives.
[message type=”info”]Leadership can seem illusionary. But it’s not. We see leaders all around us – everyday – and yet we might not notice it. I wrote this blog because there is a need for the long answer about leadership.[/message]
Leaders we all recognize, like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Meg Whitman, have inspired many people to follow their vision to create something new or help a company succeed. These visionary-leaders are focused and usually do a good job painting a picture of their vision, so others can see what hasn’t yet happened. These people see the big picture. Visionary-leaders need help, however, with implementing the vision. They need to select other leaders who know how to execute their ideas. They need managers.
The leadership style of manager-leaders will have different qualities and skills than the visionary-leader. Managers are the organizers, who help to implement the vision. They can work out complex systems that help the vision move forward into a reality. Effective manager-leaders know how to lead teams from the vision to the product in a positive and productive process.
First-line supervisors need strong leadership skills, as well, but they will apply them differently than the visionaries and managers. The supervisor-leader works directly with the individual employee who is producing or processing the work. More personal and direct interaction is required of the supervisor-leader. The complexity of effectively managing personalities, work and production schedules can be very challenging. Leadership skills are a definite must for the supervisor.
We see leaders around us in our communities, as well. There is the volunteer coordinator, the teacher, coach, community leader, and parents. We interact with people in these positions often and we accept their different leadership styles every day.
So that’s the long answer. And, yes, an effective supervisor needs to lead.