Discover the nuances between strategic oversight and operational control in leadership

In the intricate world of organisational hierarchies, the job titles “supervisor” and “manager” are often thrown around - sometimes interchangeably. But is there a difference between a supervisor and a manager? Yes, there is. 

In this article, we unpack the supervisor-vs-manager dynamic, outlining their key differences, similarities, and the skill sets required to succeed in each role. 

What is a manager?

A manager is a key stakeholder in the business and is at a higher level than a supervisor. They have a significant level of responsibility, often owning a certain process, budget, or team.

If you picture a RASCI, managers are the people that are usually accountable: the buck stops with them. They may delegate certain responsibilities to supervisors, team leads, or employees, but they oversee the team and make a final call on several initiatives, including budget management and recruitment.

Some of the key responsibilities of a manager include:

  • Defines the long-term visions, goals, and objectives for the team or department

  • Develops plans, proposals, and roadmaps to achieve objectives

  • Handles resource requirements and allocation, spanning budgets and personnel

  • Monitors individual and team performance, including setting targets

  • Sets clear directions and expectations to guide the team

  • Communicates business and leadership updates to the team

  • Addresses conflicts that arise within the team

  • Coaches, mentors, and trains team members

  • Ensures team members comply with company policy, values, and plans

  • Collaborates with HR and recruiters to hire new personnel

  • Sets goals for the team and reports on performance

  • Reports to stakeholders on team performance and objectives

  • Collaborates with other managers on cross-departmental projects

  • Handles unexpected issues which may impact the department

What is a supervisor?

A supervisor is below a manager in a functional organisation structure. They are similar to team leads and are accountable for the performance of the employees they are supervising. They are also a bridge between employees and managers, often collaborating directly with managers to ensure objectives and tasks cascade down effectively. 

Supervisors are often responsible for the training, task delegation, and performance of the employees they supervise. Managers may give a supervisor an objective, and the supervisor will decide how to use the resource available to meet that objective. While supervisors have authority and autonomy, they can't sign off on critical decisions and must lean on the managers for that.

Some key responsibilities of a supervisor include:

  • Implements the strategies mapped by the manager to help achieve short and medium-term goals

  • Delegates tasks to employees and empowers them to succeed

  • Runs the day-to-day operations of the team and ensures tasks are completed effectively and on time

  • Produces performance and project reports for management

  • Trains and integrates new team members

  • Monitors the performance of team members, provides feedback and addresses performance gaps

  • Handles minor conflict resolution

  • Facilitates communication between staff and management

  • Manages tools and equipment to support the team

  • Assesses whether staff comply with company policy, values, and plans and reports to the manager

  • Leads daily standups or scrums

  • Quality checks completed work before it's delivered

What are the differences between a manager and a supervisor?

If we were to summarise the key differences between a manager and a supervisor, we could distil them into the following four areas:

Role scope

On the whole, the scope of a manager's role is much broader than a supervisor's, as they oversee large areas and long-term plans - often spanning one to five years. Managers could oversee teams, departments, or even divisions and, as a result, have a very broad scope of influence. 

Supervisors on the other hand have a more narrow scope. They are more tactical and zoom in on tighter time scales, from the day-to-day to a few months out. They ensure that the team is running smoothly and to the right standard, so that the bigger picture planned by the manager is realised.

Authority level

Managers are typically more senior than supervisors, but the scope of the role can depend on the size of the business. In a typical company, managers are also called middle management. They have cascading direct reports and report up to a Director or the C-suite. 

Small businesses with a flat organisation structure often only have one or two middle managers to act as a bridge between staff and the Managing Director, and often have more scope to their role and more authority. There's no space for supervisors in a flat structure.

When an organisation is medium-sized or larger, supervisors or team leads are essential. They report to a manager and will supervise a team, but won't necessarily be a line manager to any of the team members they supervise. 

Think of a supervisor as a manager's number two. If a manager has mapped out a plan and resource requirements based on the Director's objectives, the manager gives this to the supervisor to carry out, who will then assign tasks to the team.

While supervisors don't manage a team, they have a responsibility to lead. And yes, there are some key differences between a manager and a leader. They should lean on leadership competencies to support, motivate, and guide team members, so that they can complete tasks to the right standard in a fulfilling way. 

As a number two, supervisors are usually the first port of call for any questions and issues from the team. The supervisor has the autonomy to decide whether the query is in their scope of work or if it needs to be escalated to the manager.


While entire teams are all working towards the same departmental and company goal, staff have individual objectives which contribute to those top-level goals.

A manager's primary objective is to establish the strategic initiatives which will feed into the company's annual objectives. They often plan out a one to five-year roadmap that outlines the milestones the department needs to meet every year, to ensure the team hits growth targets. 

Part of this strategic roadmap may include a benefit and risk analysis, budget and resource requirements, and value and performance forecasts, which should all be aligned with the business's strategic initiatives

A supervisor's objectives are different. They are more focused on ensuring that the work happens, to aid growth and help the team to meet the department's strategic objectives. 

A supervisor has objectives which are focused on managing a team's day-to-day workload, by establishing priorities and ensuring that tasks are completed on time, to the right standard. A supervisor is also tasked with fostering team cohesion and ensuring team members are trained appropriately, otherwise the work doesn't happen.


As you would expect, since managers are higher in the hierarchy than supervisors, they earn more. And this makes sense. After all, they have more authority, are accountable for higher stakes, and have a broader scope of work.

According to Glassdoor, the average salary for a manager in the UK is £53,400, with an average bonus of £6,324 per year. Glassdoor also states that the average salary for a supervisor is £28,750. Managers may also be eligible for additional employee benefits because of their seniority. 

What's important to note is that while Glassdoor is a reliable source for average salaries, the numbers aren't necessarily an accurate depiction of what you could earn. Salaries are dependent on the company, industry, and location. Plus, supervisor roles are not always required in companies, whereas managers are, which also warps the average salaries. So take the numbers with a pinch of salt.

What are the similarities between a manager and a supervisor?

In the discussion of supervisor vs manager, we've noted there are plenty of differences between the two roles, but there are a whole host of similarities too, including:

  • Performance evaluation: Both roles are responsible for evaluating the performance of employees, monitoring progress, and giving feedback

  • Reporting: Both roles report to someone - the supervisor reports to the manager and the manager reports to the Director

  • Common goals: Both roles play a key part in the bigger picture and are tasked to work towards the company's objectives and goals

  • Delegation: Both roles require the ability to delegate and monitor whether tasks and projects are being completed on time and to the required standard

  • Leadership: Both roles require the behaviours of a good leader to guide and motivate a team

  • Team management: Both roles involve managing people to ensure objectives are met

  • Training and mentoring: Both roles are responsible for training, coaching, and mentoring team members 

  • Conflict resolution: Both roles require the ability to settle conflicts and devise solutions

  • Collaboration: Both roles require collaboration skills to align individuals or stakeholders

  • Communication: Both roles require strong communication skills, to engage the right audiences and convey information effectively

What skills are required to be a manager?

All manager roles have very similar requirements, regardless of the industry, and will span management and leadership functions.

Key management skills include:

  • Strategic thinking

  • Decision-making

  • Problem-solving

  • Resource and budget allocation

  • Delegation

  • Project management

  • Performance management

  • Time management

  • Risk management

What skills are required to be a supervisor?

A supervisor needs a range of specific skills in their arsenal to help them be an effective leader and to successfully complete tasks and projects delegated by management. If you're applying for a supervisor job, these are the most important supervisor skills:

  • Written and verbal communication

  • Interpersonal skills

  • Decision-making

  • Adaptability

  • Teamwork

  • Time management

  • Honesty

  • Empathy

  • Confidence

  • Emotional intelligence

  • Conflict resolution

  • Positivity

  • Willingness to learn

What skills are required to be a leader? 

As we've seen, both supervisors and managers need excellent leadership skills to thrive. These include:

  • Coaching and mentorship

  • Empowerment

  • Vision and alignment

  • Integrity

  • Conflict resolution

  • Adaptability

  • Emotional intelligence

  • Collaboration

  • Negotiation

  • Empathy

  • Written and verbal communication

Frequently asked questions

Here are a few of the common questions asked when comparing supervisors vs managers:

Is a manager higher than a supervisor?

A manager is typically at a higher level in an organisation than a supervisor. Supervisors ensure the work is done on time and in line with quality standards, whereas managers focus on what needs to be done to achieve objectives.

Is a supervisor a manager?

A supervisor has a level of responsibility which could be classified as the management of a workload, but they are not a manager in terms of workplace hierarchy or responsibility. Managers are responsible for leading and controlling a group of staff whereas supervisors oversee and direct the work of staff.

Is supervisor a management level?

There is a management layer known as “supervisory management,” which is the act of overseeing a team and guiding daily operations in that team. However, not all organisations recognise supervisors at a management level. If there were two layers of supervisors, for example, a supervisor and a senior supervisor, the senior supervisor is more likely to be classified as management.

There are key differences between a manager and a supervisor. The former focuses on strategic vision, while the latter is all about operational efficiency. If you're looking to showcase your potential in a manager or supervisor job application, submit your CV for a free review and find out if you've displayed your skill set in the best possible way.

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