Effective Leading, Managing and Supervising – What It Takes


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If you search for “effective leadership" on the Internet, you come upon 1,680,000 hits. “Effective management" produces a list of 4,060,000 sites and “effective supervision" points to 237,0000 references. Amazon lists over 10,000 books on leadership, managing and supervising. One would think that most organizational leaders, managers and supervisors would have, by now, internalized enough information about effective leadership, management and supervision to take their rightful place in the Great Leaders, Managers and Supervisors Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

In spite of the wealth of information, many leaders, managers and supervisors are challenged when it comes to a clear understanding of what it is that defines high performance.

Businesses, groups and organizations spend billions of dollars every year on education, training and development for leaders, managers and supervisors often with less-than-expected appreciable outcomes. There's certainly no dearth of training and development programs, workshops, seminars, and courses. The reality is that so many of these efforts are too involved, too complex, too unwieldy or far too simple to create any positive, practical and long-lasting change or transformation.

So, the question remains: “What in fact works when it comes to developing high performance leaders managers and supervisors?"

In my coaching experiences over the years, I've found five qualities that characterize high performance leaders, managers and supervisors. These qualities most often permeate the workplace context and culture regardless of whatever the company, organization or group is focused on: quality improvement, customer service, client relations, teamwork, process improvement, etc.

These five qualities are: Focus, Authenticity, Courage, Empathy and Timing


High performance leaders, managers and supervisors focus on outcomes and results. Outcomes are the beacons which guide their efforts and support them to stay on track. High performance leaders, managers and supervisors communicate their focus on outcomes by proactively adhering to, and living, the company, organizational or group values which are also included in their mission and vision statements. This focus on outcomes drives high performance leaders, manages and supervisors to ensure their workforce has the appropriate knowledge, skills and tools to move the organization in the direction of realized outcomes. Focus on outcomes allows high performance leaders, managers and supervisors to be resilient, responsible, change-oriented, and creative as opposed to being chained to unrealistic and unreasonable rules, regulations, and needless bureaucratic, control-oriented, policies, processes and procedures.


Authenticity is “showing up" as one's true and real self, as one really is, in integrity, vulnerable, not as an imposter, not wearing masks. Authentic high performance leaders, managers and supervisors are magnetic; they attract followers who want to follow, followers who know what to expect and who are supportive, reliable and dependable in good times and in not-so-good times. Authentic leaders, managers and supervisors create a culture of openness, transparency and trust. They are open, honest and direct. And a culture of openness, honesty and trust is what creates buy-in from stakeholders.


Leaders, managers and supervisors today are consistently challenged by their teams, clients, customers, the public, the media and other stakeholders. Often, what's required to face and overcome challenge is intestinal fortitude, self-discipline and courage. Courage means standing tall, firm and strong in the face of confrontation, challenge and conflict. Courage also means being able to admit one's missteps and mistakes. Courage means both making, and acting on, decisions rather than merely paying lip service to visions, ideas and plans. Courage means being demanding of others, expecting others to tell the truth and expecting others to work in integrity.


Empathy is the ability to feel what another person is feeling, and why. It is the ability to recognize the emotions in others and to “feel with someone. " Empathic leaders, managers and supervisors are powerful listeners; they listen for understanding. They listen “at level three" above the words and even above the meaning of the words, to the feelings between and underneath the words. They care about someone “as a person. " Empathic leaders, managers and supervisors facilitate teamwork, motivate others and serve as inspirational role models for others. Empathic leaders, managers and supervisors listen to the ideas of others, and proactively acknowledge and reward others for their ideas, input and contributions.


In today's fast-paced environment, time is of the essence. With change happening at lightning speed, the timing of decisions (both making and not making decisions) is critical to the success or failure of business. None of the four qualities mentioned will lead to high performance leadership, managing or supervising, if poor decision-making is sabotaging the organization. High performance leaders, managers and supervisors are consciously conscious of when and how to act. They have their finger on the “pulse of the clock" and know when to act, when to wait, and when to defer. They know not only how to plan, organize, prioritize and execute but, more importantly, when.

So, some $10 food for thought questions are:

  • On a scale of 1-10, how focused am I?
  • Do I walk our mission-vision-values talk?
  • Do I inspire others? How do I know?
  • Do I support others to focus? How so?
  • Do I perpetuate needless and outdated bureaucracies, processes, policies and procedures?
  • Do people see me as being authentic? How do I know. How do I feel about asking my colleagues if they perceive me as being authentic? If not, what's my resistance all about?
  • Am I the same person at work as I am when I'm standing naked in my bedroom at 4:00 in the morning when no one can see me? Am I really two different people? Do I wear masks? If so, why?
  • Do I live the courage of my convictions? Do I wilt under criticism?
  • How do I act when I'm wrong and I know it?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how empathic am I? Would others agree with me?
  • Do I “listen to" or “hear" others? Do I know the difference?
  • Do I promote a sense of community and inclusiveness in my workplace?
  • Do I foster open and honest dialogue? If not, why not?
  • Do I make and execute decisions in a timely manner?
  • Am I creating a culture of high performance?
  • How do I feel after asking myself these questions? Did I have the courage to answer honestly, sincerely and self-responsibly?

    Copyright 2005, Peter G. Vajda, Ph. D. and SpiritHeart. All rights reserved worldwide. You may reprint this article as long as the article is published in its entirety, including resource box.


    Peter G. Vajda, Ph. D, is co-founder of SpiritHeart, an Atlanta, GA firm specializing in coaching, counseling and facilitating. Peter's expertise focuses on personal, business and relationship coaching. He is a professional speaker and published author. For more information about his services, email Peter at pvajda@spiritheart.net .

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