What is a Manager, Supervisor, and Leader?

What is a Manager, Supervisor, and Leader?  Many places consider these all the same role by default. Many times they are. However, they are actually three separate roles. The lack of understanding is where many in a managerial or supervisory role fail. The leader role is thought to be inherent, but in reality it is earned. It is because it is earn that I I dislike the term Team leader.  So I will discuss these.

First why do I dislike the term Team Leader?  Well, it is a term companies are starting to use to soften the effect of someone  who is a manager or supervisor.  Many people fear those terms because they expect a person to be “bossy.” So the companies use the Team Leader term to create a softer role that is looked to as a leader. There is one problem with that, I believe a Leader role is earned. Why?  The best leaders are ones whom people naturally follow. When people feel forced to do something, they are less likely to be receptive to a leader.

For me a leader is just that, a person who has earned the respect of others and people naturally follow them. Just because a person has the title of leader does not mean they are due respect to be followed.  The true worth of the leader is their ability to have a following that respects them and are able to influence that following with respect. Respect is two ways and it is earned. As I feel a leader values respect then the ability to be a leader must be earned.

So what is a manager then? Manager is a person who has been given the responsibility of controlling an aspect or section of an organization. In short, they manage resources. A Manager is not a Supervisor.  However, being a supervisor is one role that may be assigned to a manager.  In fact, a Manager can very well supervise no employees. AN example an organizational procurement manager may over see all procurements having control over that part of the operation. That person can also be the sole person for the job with no subordinates. A manager ensures that the necessary resources are where they need to be when they are needed. 

What is a Supervisor then?  This is what most people think of when they hear the term Manager.  A supervisor oversees employees.  The supervisor coaches and takes corrective action when necessary.  While a Manager might write an employee schedule, the Supervisor ensures employees adhere to the schedule.

What does a successful person look like who is a Manager with Supervisory roles attached? They may write the schedule and make sure employees adhere to it.  When a customer complains about an item they investigate fairly to determine if it warrants employee corrective action or if a process needs adjusted.  Perhaps the employee or process needs a new tool. If the manager that is a supervisor can balance all this (and perhaps a budget) with the respect of the employees who gladly follow that individual, then that person can also be labelled a leader.

Hopefully, through my opinion based definition you can better understand and answer What is a Manager, Supervisor, and Leader?