The Difference between Leadership, Management, and Supervision

A lot of people ask me, “What’s the difference between leadership, management, and supervision?”  Most people think it’s about where you are in the hierarchy—if you’re at the top, you’re a leader; if you’re in the middle, you’re a manager; and if you are closest to the people who are actually dealing with the customers, you’re in supervision.

I’d like to break the mold and forget about those labels. I believe all three are leadership roles. No matter whether you’re at the top, in the middle, or supervising people on the front lines, as a leader you first need to make sure that everybody is clear on goals. The first secret of The One Minute Manager is One Minute Goal Setting. All good performance starts with clear goals, which is the vision and direction part of leadership. The next thing you need to do is to help people accomplish those goals. That brings to mind the second and third secrets of The One Minute Manager. The second secret is One Minute Praising. After people are clear on what they are being asked to do, you need to wander around and see if you can catch them doing something right. Accent the positive and praise them. If someone does something wrong, but is a learner, don’t punish the person. Just say, “Maybe it wasn’t clear about what we were working on,” and redirect. However, if you are dealing with an experienced person who for some reason has a lousy attitude, give the person a One Minute Reprimand, which is the third secret of The One Minute Manager. That’s where you make clear what the person did wrong: “You didn’t get your report in on Friday, and I really needed it. Let me tell you how I feel – I’m really upset about it.”  Be sure, though, that you always end with a reaffirmation: “The reason I’m upset is that you’re one of my best people and I always count on you for that.”

Every level of leadership starts with clear vision and direction and then moves to implementation. Remember that managers, supervisors, and CEOs are all leaders. Don’t let yourself get hung up on labels.

10 thoughts on “The Difference between Leadership, Management, and Supervision

  1. The write up is an excellent description of of mobilising work force to achieve a set out goal.You feel important and part of the winning team.The end result in a sustainable manner is what matters.The structure ïn an organisation without corresponding result has little or no meaning in a highly competitive world.Wait a bit,the literature is short of details regarding the boundaries if any for an MBA student to draw between a leader and Manager.Forget about the supervisor,he is just part of the management.The difference between a leader and a Manager please?

    • Leadership is making people like to follow you. It is not about explaining, describing, convincing or making the goals crystal clear. It is about inspiring and creating a vision! “I really don’t know way – but I’d like to follow him!” That’s leadership – the rest is management.

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  3. I want to run my new business like this and people supposedly “in the Know” look at me like I’m crazy! Thanks so much for spelling it out so clearly.

  4. leadership is being original , creative , challenge the status quo , challenging procedures etc. Management is working within establsihed procedures to meet company objectives. Supervision is when you interact with people on a 1 to 1 basis.

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  6. Leadership it’s all about on how to deal people. Is a good leader born or made? For me, it’s made because it’s depend on you trained nobody knows that the baby was born he/she become a leader when he/she growing up. In business a good leader must have a briliant decision so that the people will be recognizing them.

  7. Management and administration are at times used interchangeably; however, they are two different levels of the organization. The administration is the top level of the organization with the decisive functions. They are responsible for determining the policies and objectives of the organization or the firm. Management, on the other hand is the middle level executive function. They implement the policies and objectives as decided by the administration.
    The administration includes the people who are either owners or partners of the firm. They usually contribute to the firm’s capital and earn profits or returns on their investment. The main administrative function is handling the business aspects of the firm, such as finance. Other administrative functions usually include planning, organizing, staffing, directing, controlling and budgeting. Administration must integrate leadership and vision, to organize the people and resources, in order to achieve common goals and objectives for the organization.
    Management usually incorporates the employees of the firm who use their skills for the firm in return for remuneration. Management is responsible for carrying out the strategies of the administration. Motivation is the key factor of a management. Management must motivate and handle the employees. It can be said that management is directly under the control of administration.

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