7 Types of Supervisors and How They Lead

Being a leader is an honor and a privilege. As a leader, you have the responsibility to guide a company or other organization to success. You can also motivate, teach and reward those around you who help your business move forward.

Leaders and supervisors are in a unique position. On the one hand, they must ensure that the objectives of their organization are achieved. They also need to ensure that the team they work with is valued, happy and working together in harmony. Trying to balance the two is one of many responsibilities of a supervisor that many potential leaders are missing.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a supervisor, or an employee, it’s important to know the different types of supervisory leadership styles out there. For entrepreneurs, knowing this can help you be a better leader. Understanding these types of styles can also help you when hiring supervisors for your business.
For supervisors, knowing these types is equally important. When you understand the type of supervisor you are, you can better play to your strengths. Or you can focus on improving your weaknesses.

As an employee, there are benefits too. By recognizing these types of supervisors, you can better communicate their effectiveness to your supervisor. You can provide feedback or suggestions about how these types of supervisory management influence your work.

There are many qualities of a good supervisor. Just because a person is considered a supervisor type doesn’t necessarily mean they are good or bad. It’s all in the way the person leads and the way they use that particular style of supervision. Here are 7 types of supervisors.

Autocratic supervisors

Autocratic supervision is a type of supervision where the leader demands a high degree of control and authority. Sometimes it is also called managerial supervision. In this type of leadership, the supervisor makes decisions unilaterally and expects employees to follow his directives without question.

They focus primarily on one thing: task completion. Supervisors who practice this type of supervision place little emphasis on employee development or fostering a supportive work environment.

This may seem to always be an ineffective way to monitor. However, autocratic supervision can be effective in some situations. For example, when quick decisions and strict adherence to rules and procedures are required.

This approach is more suitable for organizations with a hierarchical structure, as well as for companies with a high-stress environment. The reason is that employees need clear guidelines to do their jobs well.

However, it can lead to decrease in employee morale and job satisfaction. In addition, this type of leadership can stifle creativity and innovation. Autocratic supervision is best used with caution. Supervisors must consider the culture of the organization and the nature of the tasks being performed.

Democratic supervisors

The next type of supervisor is the democratic supervisor. This type of supervision emphasizes employee involvement in the decision-making process. Unlike autocratic supervisors, democratic supervisors will seek input from others.

Supervisors who use this approach encourage open communication, collaboration, and shared decision making. They value employee opinions and ideas.

Employees who work under democratic supervisors tend to report greater job satisfaction. They are also more engaged as they feel ownership of the company’s growth. Democratic oversight is particularly effective in environments that require creativity, such as in research and development, marketing, or product design industries.

However, there are some disadvantages to this approach. One is that the collective decision-making process can consume valuable time since many more people are involved. This type of oversight also creates leadership uncertainty. When a decision is made collectively, leaders can be blamed if the decision goes wrong, even though they were not the ones who chose the solution.

Let supervisors do it

Laissez-faire supervision, also known as loose or permissive supervision, is a style in which supervisors operate with a minimal level of direct supervision. This allows employees to be given a high degree of autonomy. Supervisors who take this approach provide general guidance and resources, allowing employees to make decisions and manage their work independently. These types of supervisors rely on their team to get the job done without constant supervision.

Laissez-faire supervisors can be effective in organizations where employees are highly skilled. If everyone already knows what they’re doing and is motivated, they don’t need to be watched closely. You will often see these types of supervisors in the technological, academic, or creative fields. Laissez-faire leaders are also great for morale and retention. That’s because micromanagement can lower morale and job satisfaction.

A disadvantage of this type of supervisor is the lack of involvement. Because these supervisors are not involved in the work of their employees, they are often unaware of the challenges, obstacles, and other issues that their employees experience.

Another drawback is that some employees need direction. If you have employees who need motivation, guidance, and external feedback, a laissez-faire supervisor may feel frustrated by this leadership style.

Transformation supervisors

Transformational supervision focuses on inspiring and motivating employees. This type of supervisor wants employees to reach their full potential. Transformational supervisors encourage their teams to push beyond their perceived limitations. Supervisors who use this approach serve as role models. They typically exhibit qualities such as vision, charisma, and emotional intelligence. They work to create a positive work environment, fostering trust, communication and collaboration among team members.

This type of supervision is particularly effective in dynamic and competitive industries, as these types of supervisors can inspire employees to embrace change, take on new challenges, and develop their skills and abilities.

While this leadership style may seem to have no downsides, there are a few to be aware of. A disadvantage is that transformational supervisors can focus too much on “the big picture.” While seeing the big picture is great for taking a business to new heights, employees preoccupied with day-to-day tasks can become frustrated with a lack of guidance in this area.

Another disadvantage is the possibility of losing employee buy-in if employees do not agree with the vision. Since transformation supervisors are visionaries, they paint a picture of future potential. But when staff members disagree about the future toward which the leader is moving the organization, conflict can arise.

Transaction supervisors

Transactional supervision is based on the principle of the exchange of rewards and penalties. These types of supervisors are good at focusing on clearly defined tasks, goals, and performance expectations. Supervisors using this approach establish a system of rewards for good performance and penalties for poor performance. They tend to micromanage and closely monitor employees’ work, providing feedback and addressing issues as they arise.

This type of supervision can be effective in environments where employees need clear direction and performance expectations to accomplish their tasks. Transactional supervision may be appropriate for organizations with a strong emphasis on efficiency, productivity, and measurable results, such as manufacturing.

However, the focus on rewards and penalties can sometimes lead to short-term thinking. This could backfire on the transaction supervisor. Employees may prioritize meeting performance goals over exploring new ideas and strategies.

Bureaucratic supervisors

Bureaucratic supervisors tend to focus on the importance of roles, procedures and structures. They also often emphasize strict adherence to established policies and guidelines. Much of their time and energy is devoted to making sure that employees follow the same rules and protocols in their work.

They focus more on maintaining order, consistency and control within the organization. This type of supervision can be effective in large organizations. For example, government agencies or highly regulated industries. Bureaucratic oversight helps minimize the risk of errors, resulting in better stability and predictability.

However, bureaucratic oversight can also lead to rigidity. Bureaucratic supervisors tend to practice inflexibility and resistance to change. Also, their commitment to rules and procedures can stifle the creativity of others.

Employees may become overly reliant on established protocols, hindering their ability to think critically, solve problems, or adapt to new situations.
Unknowingly, bureaucratic supervisors can cause employee morale to decline. This may be because employees feel constrained by strict rules and hierarchical structures.

Situation supervisors

Situational supervisors, also called flexible supervisors, use a supervisory style that is adaptable and versatile. As the name suggests, they adjust their leadership style to suit the situation.

For employees, these types of supervisors are great because they get the right level of guidance and support based on their needs. This can keep employees happy, knowing that their supervisor will accommodate them.

However, for the supervisor, this style can be more difficult than all the others. The situation supervisor’s job can be much more demanding. The reason is that it requires a deep understanding of the needs of your employees and the tasks they perform.

It may also require more time and effort. Supervisors must constantly monitor and adjust their supervisory style. This constant back and forth can lead to more stress and exhaustion. It can also be more difficult for the supervisor to achieve the company’s goals because it must be continually adjusted based on the circumstances of the employees.


As you can see, there are many types of supervisors. All of them can be effective in their functions. And there are many challenge each supervisor faces Some can help an organization achieve its growth goals, while others can help improve employee morale and company culture. The best approach is to make sure a supervisor fills the right role in the right organization. Supervisors thrive when they are placed where their style can be best used. Conversely, supervisors who are in the wrong role or in the wrong organization will falter, often finding themselves at odds with other leaders and their employees.

To maximize the effectiveness of supervisors, it is crucial to understand the different types of supervisory styles and their strengths and weaknesses. This understanding allows organizations to select and develop supervisors that best suit their specific needs and goals. Also, by being aware of their supervisory style, supervisors can capitalize on their strengths while working to improve their weaknesses. By doing so, they can become better leaders and create a more positive and productive work environment for their employees.

Read also:

How to be a good supervisor: 8 things to start doing today

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At Ikaroa, we understand that a successful supervisor is the backbone of a successful team and company. That’s why we believe in taking the time to get to know the different types of supervisors out there to ensure that the supervisor style you have works for your team.

In this article, we will discuss the 7 types of supervisors and how they lead.

1. Autocratic Supervisor: This type of supervisor believes in complete control over their team and their work. Rigidness and strictness are the norm for them, and they often make decisions without consulting their team.

2. Democratic Supervisor: Unlike the autocratic supervisor, the democratic supervisor believes in collaborating with their team and allowing them more say in what they do. They seek input from the team members and value their feedback in decision-making.

3. Transformational Supervisor: The transformational supervisor encourages their team to reach their highest potential by inspiring them to be more successful. They motivate their team members to think creatively, come up with new ideas, and to embrace change.

4. Visionary Supervisor: The visionary supervisor has a clear vision for success and sees the bigger picture. They pass this vision onto their team and believe that their team has the power to make it a reality.

5. Collaborative Supervisor: The collaborative supervisor works closely with their team and encourages them to work together. They focus on attentive listening and use that feedback to help problem-solve and make decisions.

6. Coaching Supervisor: A coaching supervisor uses their expertise to empower and help their team reach their goals. They teach their team how to navigate challenges, develop their skillsets, and boost their confidence.

7. Servant Supervisor: A servant supervisor puts the needs of their team above their own. They go above and beyond to make sure their team is provided with the best resources to succeed and that their team is empowered to do their best work.

At Ikaroa, we believe that in order to have a successful team, you need to have a leader who is the right fit for your team. Understanding the types of supervisors and their leadership styles can help you better assess which type of supervisor you should have for your team.


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