I am looking for the adjective or short phrase to describe a supervisor who, in addition to leading the team and handling personnel-related activities such as scheduling, is also hands-on, participating in the day-to-day work of the team.

Working supervisor doesn't do it for me, since an employed supervisor is supposedly working.

Example sentence: "Susan is a [working] supervisor; in addition to formal supervisory responsibilities over three subordinates she handles 30% of the workload herself."

  • The phrase that leaps to mind, and I'm not aware of having heard it anywhere, is 'in-team supervisor.' ---> "Susan is an in-team supervisor" Oct 23, 2015 at 19:57
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    A senior worker who is primus inter pares might be a shift lead[er] or team lead[er]. But having a manager who is also a worker would be against the rules in a union shop in the U.S., at least.
    – choster
    Oct 23, 2015 at 20:00
  • Like @choster, my first thought was lead.
    – stevesliva
    Oct 24, 2015 at 3:53

3 Answers 3


Consider, hands-on supervisor.

hands-on: characterized by active personal involvement: a hands–on manager M-W

Because he was intimately familiar with the traffic engineering program, having been a hands-on supervisor, he was a valuable asset to traffic safety as the commissioner. Secrets of an Expert in Traffic Engineering and Safety

  • This works! Thank you. I guess I should have thought of that, having used the term in my question, but it is very helpful to see it formally cited.
    – Elby Cloud
    Oct 23, 2015 at 20:14

I used to have a job like that and the portion of my title was "Team Leader." It connotes membership and leadership.

Functionally, in sports a Team Captain does the same, and many times in the military a Sergeant is out in the field with his/her team.

  • I like this, but hands-on supervisor worked better for my needs, since in this case the person was a supervisor who was actively part of the team. Not all team leaders are supervisors, I have held the role of team leader without formal supervisory duties.
    – Elby Cloud
    Oct 28, 2015 at 16:26

In large companies today, however, 'supervisor' no longer implies doing the same work as those under supervision. This is why 'working supervisor' means something different than 'supervisor'.

To my mind, 'hands-on supervisor' doesn't mean the same as 'working supervisor' but rather more direct supervision (in the real sense, not the matrix sense) rather than simply by numbers. Large companies fully believe in supervision by numbers. Excuse me -- metrics. ;-)

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