What Makes a Good Supervisor: 22 Characteristics

What would the world of work be like if every employee worked for a world-class manager? Well…that’s a lot to consider…and we can’t say for sure. But we’re like 99.99% sure it would be UH-MAZ-ING!

But to even take the first step in getting to uh-maz-ing, we first need to know what a world-class supervisor looks like.

Perhaps the single most common mistake we see when it comes to leadership is promoting or selecting the wrong individuals for supervisory roles. And when you start with the wrong person, you’re less likely to get the results you want.

When employers choose to promote the wrong person into management, it’s usually because that person is either a) quite experienced or b) a great individual performer. Unfortunately for those employers, there is almost no correlation between the amount of professional experience or individual expertise a candidate has and their subsequent effectiveness as a supervisor.

The skill sets required to be an all-star individual contributor are vastly different than the skills required to be an effective manager.

So, if you don’t base your manager promotion decisions on experience or individual performance, what criteria should employers look at when they are promoting new managers? We’re glad you asked.

BetterCulture has identified 22 characteristics that are positive indicators of supervisory talent. No candidate will be perfect on all 22 of these characteristics, but you will tilt the odds very much in your favor when you promote someone to a leadership position who demonstrates these characteristics.

What to Look For in Supervisors

  1. A passionate, enthusiastic teacher – someone who catches teachable moments and acts as a mentor rather than just a run-of-the-mill boss
  2. Open to innovation and ideas – embraces change while also encouraging others to think creatively
  3. Eager for new learning – intellectually curious and will encourage others to seek out learning opportunities so they can continue to grow
  4. Responsive – shows good time management and makes the needs of others a priority
  5. Views each individual uniquely – no group think, no judging books by covers, and is able to act with a sense of understanding
  6. Keeps an even keel – mature, professional reactions to pressure and adversity while staying level-headed during times of difficulty
  7. Great active listener – stays in the moment and focuses intently on what is being said to them
  8. Good at problem identification – uses logical questioning and solid analytical skills to identify and fix issues as they arise
  9. Facilitates meetings well – leads group discussion and decision making to make sure all relevant voices are heard
  10. Will take the ball under pressure – isn’t afraid to grab the bull by the horns when things get tough
  11. Personally empathetic – offers support when it is most needed


That’s only half of the 22 characteristics we suggest you look for when evaluating supervisor potential. To receive the rest, download our full (and free) printable 22 Characteristics of Successful Supervisors.

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