Is Supervision Part of Leadership?

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Do employees really need to be supervised? Really? The answer is “sometimes” – yes. Supervision can be defined as…

“Management by overseeing the performance or operation of a person or group”, or

“To direct, manage, or oversee; to be in charge”

Most employees prefer to be led. In other words, they want leaders supporting them not supervisors prodding them however there is an appropriate time and place for leaders to exercise their supervisory responsibilities.  Supervision is a subset of leadership with the explicit goal of ensuring employees are meeting minimum acceptable performance standards. Most organizations set reasonable standards however too many ignore the need to hold the line on performance. I hear about it in terms of “lack of accountability”.

Leaders must be willing to confront performance (and behavior) that does not measure up.


  • Don’t allow your personal relationship with the employee to interfere with managing performance. Though important, friendship and empathy will get in the way.
  • Don’t be an enabler. Hold people accountable – covering up for substandard performance and accepting excuses puts both of you at risk.
  • Don’t allow the employee to deflect responsibility. Appropriate behavior and job performance is always the responsibility of the employee.
  • Do not let the employees personal problems be an excuse for unsatisfactory performance. Some leeway is fine but left unchecked will result in unintended consequences.
  • Do not discuss the employee’s behavior or performance with anyone else except those with definite need or right to know. This includes not reprimanding an employee in front of their peers.


  • Establish expectation levels. Set the limits that you will tolerate.
  • Be consistent. Treat all employees equally.
  • Document all issues (absenteeism, tardiness, incidents on the job, and poor performance). Be specific with dates, times, and people.
  • Base performance discussions on work performance – it should not be a personal attack.
  • Be direct. Speak with authority and without guilt.
  • Get a commitment from the employee as to what steps he or she will take to improve work performance. Always follow up on desired outcomes.
Kevin Leonard

Kevin Leonard

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