What are the Characteristics of a High-Performing Manager/Supervisor of People?

Nine leaders reveal the essential behaviors of high-performing people managers
High-performing managers
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Mick Hurrey, Vice President, Product Development, InCarda
Mick Hurrey, Vice President, Product Development, InCarda

A highly effective manager is someone who inspires through empathy, humility, integrity, and accountability. A great leader’s primary role is truly caring about their people and ensuring they are supported. If their needs come before yours and you empower them to be great, they will. This doesn't mean that you don't push for results and demand excellence, it means that they will make your team more effective and achieve better results through trust.


Bill Carroll, Carroll Applied Science, LLC
Bill Carroll, Carroll Applied Science, LLC

I’ll summarize one of my favorite books “Good to Great” by Jim Collins into three “E” words.  Ethics, Empathy and Enthusiasm.  People respect an ethical manager who says what he does and does what he says.  They appreciate an empathetical manager who can picture herself in their situation.  And they are energized (another E word) by an Enthusiastic manager who works hard and believes in the program and the team.


Judy Giordan, 2022 American Chemical Society president-elect; Managing Director, ecosVC
Judy Giordan, 2022 American Chemical Society president-elect; Managing Director, ecosVC

Search the phrase “high-performing manager/supervisor of people” and you get 314,000,000 results in 0.58 seconds. It seems to be a topic on which people have a lot of opinions. So here are my top five points....

  1. SPEAK and ACT with integrity and respect toward all 
  2. LISTEN and hear what others are saying
  3. communicate, Communicate, COMMUNICATE and be sure you are consistent in what you say
  4. LIGHTEN UP! Humor helps!
  5. WALK the WALK...be the example

Lori Spangler, ACS Career Consultant
Lori Spangler, ACS Career Consultant

Based on my experiences with good supervisors, a high-performing manager:

  1. Mentors employees in new roles
  2. Listens to their direct reports and provides honest, direct feedback
  3. Understands the strengths of team members and plays to those strengths
  4. Helps employees develop a plan for the next stage of their career and helps them gain the skills to move on to their next role

Jackie Thomas, Group Scientist, Procter & Gamble Company (P&G)
Jackie Thomas, Group Scientist, Procter & Gamble Company (P&G)

Three characteristics I have observed in high performing managers:

  1. They are clear in their communication.  They do what they say they will do, and they mean what they say.
  2. They are good listeners.  They listen to everyone (up and down) to understand the bigger picture, needs of the organization, etc.
  3. They genuinely care.  They bring a real passion to leave their organization in a better spot, and elevate their people. 

Beth Lorsbach, Global Small Molecule Discovery & Development Leader at Corteva Agriscience
Beth Lorsbach, Global Small Molecule Discovery & Development Leader at Corteva Agriscience

There are three important characteristics that I believe all high-performing managers have. One is bias for action; they remove barriers for people and make decisions quickly.  Two is confidence to be vulnerable; they admit when they don’t have the answer and they admit when they are wrong. Three is risk taking; they take risks themselves, but they also encourage employees to take risks. They aren’t afraid to fail and recognize that projects fail not people.   


Adam Myers, Senior Project Manager, Research Development & Innovation, Evonik
Adam Myers, Senior Project Manager, Research Development & Innovation, Evonik

A high-performing supervisor should be a facilitator. They should facilitate the success of their direct (and indirect) reports. This means not only providing the environment and resources for employees to successfully conduct their work, but also providing opportunities for their career growth and development. The current and future success of employees is the ultimate legacy of a great supervisor, and leads to organizational success.


Lynn Andrews, VP, Strategic Marketing at CoorsTek, Inc.
Lynn Andrews, VP, Strategic Marketing at CoorsTek, Inc.

A leader who:

  • Provides clear expectations.
  • Inspires individuals and team to higher performance.
  • Spreads the praise (when things go right) and takes the blame (accepting personal responsibility when things go wrong). 
  • Gives timely feedback and graciously receives it. 
  • Acts with integrity.
  • Walks the talk and meets commitments.
  • Respects other viewpoints and seeks diverse opinions.
  • Admits mistakes and learns from them.
  • Regularly re-recruits team members, reminding them of their contributions.

Lori Ana Valentin, Founder, Radiant Journey LLC
Lori Ana Valentin, Founder, Radiant Journey LLC

Emotional intelligence and effective communication distinguish the best managers I’ve had. Emotional intelligence drives effective communication. Take the time to “read” the people you are communicating with, and adjust your communication style to match the individuals and the circumstances. Ask others for their preferred style of communication, and respect it. Take time to check-in and gain a broader view of their circumstances, strengths, and challenges. And always take your ego out of the equation.


The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.

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