Webinar Notes: Role of the First Line Supervisor

Course Description (0:23)

  • Examine the relationship of first line supervisor’s leadership styles, communication skills, and decision making on the effective performance of followers.
  • Examine the relationships between the leader and follower
  • Compare these interactions and their influence on the organizations that employ both the leaders and the followers


Resource Speakers (00:59)

  • Dr. Jeffrey C. Fox, PhD


    • Public Safety trainer, educator, and consultant for Fox Public Safety
    • Served for 27 years in the field of criminal justice, 21 of which were with the VA State Police
    • Taught over 400 college level courses
    • Teaches courses in the University Level dealing with risk and vulnerability assessment, and mitigation strategies


The Justice Clearinghouse (02:04)

  • Peer-to-peer educational program/resource for justice professionals
  • Year-round virtual conference on justice related topics
  • Events are free-to-attend, with subscribers having 24/7 access to recorded webinars and eligible for certifications which may be used for continuing education credits.
  • Interactive webinars with quick polls, Q&A, and survey


Overview (04:20)

  • Foundations of a good leader

    • Leadership styles
    • Communication skills
    • Decision making
  • What should the leader do?

    • Challenging
    • Inspiring
    • Enabling
    • Modelling
    • Encouraging


Preparedness Training (8:00)

  • There usually isn’t enough training and mentorship.
  • Supervisors learn on the job.
  • Moving forward you’d want your people to be better prepared.


Ten Percent (08:29)

  • Life is 10% what happens to us, and 90% how we react to it!
  • Ten percent will create ninety percent?

    • 10% of your people will create 90% of your problems
    • Applies to management and employees


Leadership (10:13)

  • Why is the first line supervisor the most important and influential position within an organization?


    • Communicates and demonstrates values, standards, and culture of the department to the men and women under your supervision—you guide the Department’s ethos!
    • Most immediate and personal contact with the employees and public.

      • Who guards the guardians? Supervisors do.
    • Based on your job knowledge, skills and abilities, you will direct the daily work of employees.
    • You will wear many hats: trainer, coach, counselor, mentor, and a role model. An analyzer, pathfinder, goal setter, cheerleader, persuader, and stabilizer.
    • You are a strong influence and have a major impact on the employees you supervise

      • Seagull effect
  • Successful First Line Supervisors possess:

    • Strong leadership ability
    • Self‐confidence
    • Competence
    • Management skills
    • Sound core values
    • Understanding of your influence

      • Some people can influence others more, and some are influenced more.
  • Leadership Core Values

    • Honor
    • Integrity
    • Valor
    • Courage
    • Respect

      • Must be mutual
    • Service
    • Commitment
    • Duty

      • To what’s morally and legally correct
    • Loyalty

      • Cause lots of problems
      • You must be loyal to correct ideals, beliefs, and rule of law
      • What’s ethical, legal and proper
      • Loyalty to a person has a negative effect: (e.g., Covering up for other people)
    • Trust
    • Excellence
    • Reflection

      • Stop and think what you just did
      • Ask people about your performance, decisions, etc.


Management (17:11)

  • Functions of a manager?

    • Planning
    • Organizing
    • Leading
    • Controlling

      • There’s nothing wrong with being a manager
  • Basic Principles of Management

    • Span of Control

      • Unbroken line of authority that extends from the top of the organization to the lowest level
      • Normally 5‐7 people
      • Two complimentary concepts to span of control

        • Authority

          • With authority must come responsibility and accountability
        • Unity of Command

          • A person should have only one superior to whom he or she is directly responsible
          • No supervisor shopping allowed

Leadership and Management (19:41)

  • Paradigms
  • The “People” Paradigm

1. Leadership

2. Effectiveness

3. Spontaneity

4. Causes

5. Release/Empowerment

6. Programmer

7. Transformation

8. Investment

9. Customer service

10. Principles

11. Synergy


  • The “Thing” Paradigm

1. Management

2. Efficiency

3. Structure

4. Measurement

5. Effects/symptoms

6. Control

7. Program

8. Transaction

9. Administrative efficiency

10. Techniques

11. Compromise

12. Scarcity


  • Nothing wrong with having both paradigms, you need a balance of both.
  • Levels of Leadership

    • Similar to KSAs
    • Not official, but visual
    • Conceptual thinking is the big picture, thinking 2 steps ahead


Technical Skills

Human Skills

Conceptual Skills

1ST Line Leader/Manager




Mid-level Leader/Manager




Executive Level Leader/Manager




  • Human skills are always critical
  • Leadership vs. Management

    • Leaders work on the system; Managers work within the system.
    • Leaders do the right thing; Managers do things right.
    • Both are important and are needed.
  • Characteristics of Admired Leaders (TOP SIX)

    • Honest

      • Don’t sugarcoat
      • When things need to be fixed, call it out and fix it
    • Forward-thinking
    • Inspiring
    • Competent
    • Fair Minded
    • Supportive


The Supervisor (25:46)

  • What kind of powers do or should supervisors possess?

    • There are five different types of power:

      • Reward Power

        • Thank you
        • Letter of commendation
        • Pay raise
        • Promotion
      • Coercive Power

        • Use this the least and as a last resort
      • Legitimate Power
      • Referent Power

        • Knowledge
        • Skills
        • Abilities
      • Expert Power
  • As a first line supervisor, you are part of the Department’s management team.

    • Not a position that you are free to choose sides.
    • Should not foster a “us” versus “them” mentality.
    • Some new supervisors have difficulty with this concept
    • Having just been promoted from the ranks, it is only natural to want to continue to be one of the group
    • But to be effective as their leader, you must gradually and diplomatically differentiate yourself from those you supervise

      • It can be a lonely job
      • People will have an unsubstantiated fear of you
    • Sometimes this is not an easy or pleasant task. Set yourself apart just enough


Negativity in the Workplace (28:37)

  • Conditions that may increase negativity:

    • Change

      • People are creatures of habit
      • People fear and get aggravated with change
    • Unrealistic work expectations
    • Unclear objectives
    • Inadequate tools and training
    • Lack of control
    • Lack of feedback

      • Spend time with people especially those that seem to be the weakest link
    • Inadequate incentives
    • Physical discomfort
    • Lack of recognition


Motivation Theories (33:32)

  • Herzberg’s Motivation‐Hygiene Theory

    • Hygiene Factors

      • The basics.
      • Certain conditions one expects: breaks, restroom, lighting, temperature, necessary police equipment. The reasonable expectations on the job of the working conditions
      • They negatively affect morale if not present
    • The belief that an individual’s relation to work is basic and that one’s attitude towards work can very well determine success or failure
    • Hygiene factors

      • Company policy and administration
      • Supervision
      • Interpersonal relations
      • Working conditions
      • Salary
    • Motivators

      • Achievement
      • Recognition
      • Work itself
      • Responsibility
      • Advancement
      • Growth

        • Money is not a real motivator
  • Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy Motivation Theory

    • Physiological
    • Security
    • Belongingness
    • Esteem
    • Actualization
  • Equity Theory

    • Employees weigh what they put into a job situation (input) against what they get from it (outcome).
    • They compare their input and output.
    • When employees see an inequity or they aren’t being treated fairly, they make a choice:

      • Distort either their own or others’ inputs or outcomes
      • Behave in some way to induce others to change their inputs or outcomes
      • Behave in some way to change their own inputs or outcomes
      • Choose a different comparison referent
      • Quit

Ten Commitments of Leadership (38:31)

  • Challenging the Process
  1. Search out challenging opportunities to change, grow, innovate and improve
  2. Experiment, take risks and learn from the accompanying mistakes
  • Inspiring a Shared Vision
  1. Envision an up lifting and ennobling future
  2. Enlist others on common vision by appealing to their values, interests, hopes, and dreams
  • Encouraging the Heart
  1. Recognize individual contributions to the success of every project
  2. Celebrate team accomplishments regularly
  • Enabling Others to Act
  1. Foster collaboration by promoting cooperative goals and building trust
  2. Strengthen people by giving power away, providing choice, developing competence, assigning critical tasks and offering visible support
  • Modeling the Way
  1. Set the example by behaving in ways that are consistent with shared values
  2. Achieve small wins that promote consistent progress and build commitment


The Key to Leadership (40:47)

  • Setting Priorities

    • It’s not only how hard you work; it’s how smart you work!
    • Priority Principle

      • Efficiency is the foundation for survival!
      • Effectiveness is the foundation of success!
    • Under normal conditions we are efficient
    • As emergencies arise, we become effective
  • Solving Problems

    • Bring your problems, bring your solutions
  • Having a Vision
  • Right Attitude

    • The pessimist complains about the wind; The optimist expects it to change; The leader adjusts the sails.
    • Our attitudes determine what we see and how we handle our feelings – factors determining our success
    • Walt Emerson – “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
    • Our attitudes cannot stop our feelings, but our feelings can stop us.
    • Always remember:

      • Leadership in its true form must do less with the position as it does disposition.
      • A leader’s attitude is caught by his/her followers more quickly than his/her actions.
  • Self‐Discipline

    • Steps Toward Responsibility

      • Be responsible to others.
      • Be responsible for what you can do.

        • Say if you can’t do it
      • Be responsible for what you have received.
      • Be responsible for those you lead.
      • Accept Accountability!

        • These breeds Character!
    • Character Driven v. Emotion Driven

      • Character-driven

        • Do right, feel good
        • Commitment driven
        • Principle-based decisions
        • Actions control attitude
        • Believe it, then see it
        • Create momentum
        • Ask: “What are my responsibilities”
      • Emotion-driven

        • Feel good, do right
        • Convenience driven
        • Popular based decisions
        • Attitude controls action
        • See it, then believe it
        • Wait for momentum
        • Ask: “What are my rights?”
  • Teamwork!


    • Eight Dimensions of Team Excellence:
  1. Clear, elevating goal
  2. Results‐driven structure
  3. Competent team members
  4. Unified commitment


    • Pushing and pulling to the same direction
  5. Collaborative climate
  6. Standards of excellence


    • Nothing wrong with setting high expectations
    • Pygmalion effect


      • Tell people that they’re doing good and they’ll do good; Tell them they’re bad, they’ll do bad
  7. External support and recognition
  8. Principled leadership


    • Characteristics of Principle‐Centered Leaders


      • They are Continually Learning
      • They are Service‐Oriented
      • They Radiate Positive Energy
      • They Believe in Other People
      • They Lead Balanced Lives
      • They See Life as an Adventure
      • They are Synergistic
      • They Exercise for Self‐Renewal
  • My Favorite Leadership Styles/Theories


    • Fusion of three styles


      • Servant Leadership


        • May seem weak for some when it is the opposite
      • Transformational Leadership
      • Situational Leadership


        • Dependent on your people
    • A touch of transactional when needed


Who are you? (48:27)

  • Where are you day-in and day-out of your work?


    • Best Day


      • Happy
      • Glad
      • Excited
      • Motivated
      • Cooperative
    • Worst Day


      • Sad
      • Angry
      • Depressed
      • Upset
      • Worried
  • Where are you every day?
  • Where are the people you work with or lead?
  • Who would you rather work with?
  • Who would want to be lead or trained by a person with 60% attitude/achievement potential?


    • Great achievers 90% of their potential
    • Others 60% of their potential
  • High expectations will normally yield high results!




Poll Questions

  • Have you ever been or are you currently a first-line supervisor? (05:21)


    • Yes          85%
    • No           15%
  • When you became a first line supervisor do you feel you were adequately prepared or ready for the role? (06:33)


    • Yes          29%        
    • No           71%        
  • How important do you think the first line supervisor is to the success of an agency and its employees? (50:57)


    • Very important                      90%
    • Important                              10%
    • Kind of important                 0%
    • Not really important             0%


Final Thought (53:14)

  • Sew a thought and reap an act.

Sew an act and reap habits.

Sew habits and reap character.

Sew character and reap your destiny.



Books by Dr. Jeff Fox

Books by Stephen Covey

Books by John Maxwell

San Jose Model FTO Program

Getting to Yes

Verbal Judo


 For questions and clarifications, contact:

Dr. Jeffrey C. Fox, PhD

Fox Public Safety: Training, Educating, and Consulting, LLC


Office: (540) 524-9103

Cell: (540)-420-7423

Email: jcfpdf@msn.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-jeff-fox-phd-5b103848/



Are there any resources that you would especially recommend, books that you would recommend on leadership? (54:47)

There’s a list of references at the end of the slides which you may refer to. At the top of my mind, anything written by Stephen Covey and John Maxwell.


For other attendees and Dr. Fox – Do you have a model supervisor FTO program that you'd be willing to share? (55:49)

 I've used the San Jose Model. I have PowerPoint stuff and documents as well that I can share.


How do you deal with a disgruntled employee or person that doesn't want to be part of your team? (56:56)

I believe in openness and honesty. It may be a discipline or personality issue. You need to spend time with them and find out what's the problem, confront it, don’t ignore. They might be disgruntled, but he may be my best worker.  I'm a firm believer in progressive discipline. Fix it, follow progressive discipline, if needed, part ways. But make sure to follow procedures.


Do you have any information on conflict management for first time and first line supervisors? (59:06)

Getting to Yes and Verbal Judo are two good resources.


What do you see as the hardest thing for our new first line supervisors to let go of as they transition from an employee or a worker to a supervisor? (1:00:30)

They have to realize that they are now in-charge, they have a new role to play. It can be difficult when people/colleagues know so much about you. It can likewise be a problem when they want it more to be the nice guy instead of being the leader.



“How many of you had training, or prepared, or you're mentored? Did you go through a process where you were trained and prepared for that? Most of the time, that is not the case. You learn on the job. Which isn't really the best way to do it. And those are things you can take away from this. And maybe, as you move up the food chain, you might think, "Well, I want to help my people be better prepared on day one.”


"I heard a saying once, that if you want to see what a person's like, they're like a toothpaste. If you squeeze them, if you put pressure on them, whatever that's inside will come out."


"There's nothing wrong with being a manager but we also need to be leaders. I think you already know the difference between a manager and a leader. Quite frankly, I think there's nowhere near enough leaders in the world but we have a lot of managers. Managers are safe. You just do what you're supposed to do. You plan, you organize, you lead but don't get too out there crazy, and you control. That's pretty safe. But when you do a leadership role, you go back to the things I talked about earlier, and you're taking risks, okay? And that's a little bit more dangerous. I might not move up the food chain as quick if I'm a leader. If I'm a manager, I just do everything right and make sure the train leaves the station at the right time, we're good to go."


"If you don't meet the physiological needs, a person isn't worried about getting to the top of that pyramid. If they don't have the physiological needs met, or the security, or the belongingness, then they're not going to reach self-esteem. If they can't reach this phase, they can't reach self-actualization. A lot of your employees aren't there. They're at the beginning of their career, they're working on those bottom rungs. You might be working on the top. You might get to the point in your career where you've reached self-actualization and you want something different. So, you might move on and actually start over at the bottom again and challenge yourself. But it's important to understand that we don't have these bottom things, we can't move up the food chain."


"Even if you're a fantastic leader, which I know you are, you can be even better. Go back and think about – What can you tweak? Colonel Hal Moore said, he had many good sayings, but one was "Three strikes and you're not out", and another one was, "What am I doing that I shouldn't be doing, and what am I not doing that I should be doing?". It's always good to reflect. Every day I try to find a way to become better as a person, or as a teacher, or as leader, or whatever it is that I'm doing. I always try to find a way to become better."

Additional Resources
2 years ago
Role of the First Line Supervisor
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