Organizational Wellness

Supportive Leadership: Master the Art of Empowering Your Team

Feb 2, 2024
Last Updated Feb 2, 2024

Whether you are leading a department or project,  it’s important to consider your  leadership style. You might be a pacesetting leader who instills confidence in your team. Or you could be a democratic leader who promotes teamwork by making decisions as a group. 

One style that can be powerful to  develop is supportive leadership. This approach has you working alongside your team on a  project from start to end. A more hands-on strategy than many other philosophies, it can dramatically impact how your team operates. 

Let’s dive into supportive leadership — what it is, the characteristics of a supportive leader, and ways you can start developing the skills required for this leadership style. 

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What Is  Supportive Leadership?

Supportive leadership is where a manager supports an employee until the task’s completion — they don’t simply  delegate tasks and receive results. Oftentimes, that may include helping team members fully develop to operate autonomously. The goal is to help each employee learn to:  

  • Work independently
  • Make their own decisions
  • Complete their assigned project 
  • Hit deadlines
  • Achieve the desired level of quality

Supportive leadership differs from other styles, especially toxic leadership and micromanaging. Toxic leaders might play the blame game and resist feedback. On the other hand, a supportive leader won’t criticize people for setbacks. Instead, they want to work with their team to overcome the obstacles. 

A micromanaging or supportive leader will both rarely delegate. However, there are different motivations behind that choice. A micromanager will refuse to turn over tasks because they want to stay in control. It can also stem from a lack of trust in their team members. A supportive leader will rarely delegate because they’re working with their team members both to complete the project together. 

Key Characteristics of a Supportive Leadership

A great leader will work to embody many positive traits. Here are six to consider:  


A supportive leader doesn’t hand work off and then check out. Instead, they will try to foster an environment of collaboration where they’re actively involved in the project’s tasks. . For example, a manager might code with the developer, as the programmer learns a new language. Or they could offer regular check-ins for any employee on the project. A supportive leader may set goals with each team member. 


The ultimate goal of supportive leadership is growth. When a supportive leader guides the team, they’re helping each individual understand processes and skills. They might teach everyone how to use a new tool or to perform a task more efficiently. When a leader isn’t sure what is best, they could consider meeting with their teammates for input to learn what support they need. 


A supportive leader is also empathetic. They work to understand each individual and how to best support them. To do this, the manager might practice active listening. This becomes especially important when someone has a unique need. For example, an employee with high demands in their home life may need their leader’s empathy. Together, they can determine what is fair and how to ensure the team meets deadlines. 


Supportive leaders typically accept their individual team members. That includes meeting employees where they’re at and helping them grow. While they don’t need to accept poor work, they do understand the current ability levels on the team. It also means welcoming differences. A great leader respects teammates of all backgrounds, including races, ethnies, religions, identities, and more. They understand that diversity is a business powerhouse.


A supportive leader will try to stay positive to create a good environment for their team. Even in the face of challenges, a supportive leader helps to keep the team focused on what is in their control to foster  success. Being positive can include focusing on wins when they happen, or praising each individual whenever they complete a task that contributes to the department’s KPIs


In addition, helping employees develop requires some patience. You may have more expertise than your employee. Having tolerance for different learning styles and skill levels can help the team member feel supported. The leader may need to put in some time to see a team member progress. Being patient might include offering regular training or providing additional instructions.  

The Impact of Supportive Leadership in the Workplace

Developing this leadership style can impact your team for the better. Three ways you can benefit your team by maturing as a manager include: 

  • Establish a positive culture. When a leader understands their team members, it can create a safe environment for everyone. Each person is individually encouraged to be their best. 
  • Build relationships. A supportive leader can foster positive relationships between coworkers. They can help team members understand and accept each other. 
  • Fuel professional development. A great manager values training and understands how it contributes to the long-term success of the team and individual. These types of leaders will put employee learning front and center

How to Cultivate a Supportive Leadership Style

If you’re looking for some key principles to get started, these are four to consider: 

Build Relationships

One of the best ways to become a supportive leader is to build strong connections with your employees. Establishing such positive relationships  helps put you in a position to guide teammates. Supportive leaders will also focus on building relationships between team members as well. A group that’s highly committed to each other gets tasks done. Consider implementing team building activities that let employees get to know each other. 

Encourage Teamwork

As a supportive leader, you will want to work alongside your team. Doing so can help encourage teamwork among your entire team. When you sit down to work with someone, you’re modeling teamwork and showing them skills. Doing so may help everyone on your team work with each other. 

Be Available

To fully lead your team, you need to be available. That doesn’t mean you have to be accessible at any hour of the day or night. Instead, you might have regular blocks of time where your team members can meet with you. You might also consider communication channels. Having clear contact info can help your team members know how to reach you when they need support. 

Get Your Hands Dirty

Don’t be afraid to do some of the tasks with your employees. For example, if a teammate is crafting a budget for an upcoming project, you could work one-on-one with them. The employee might complete the task, but you’re there thinking it through with them. Working with your team can also help you understand the challenges they may encounter while learning a new skill. When you understand that, you’re more likely to be able to support them and keep your team moving forward. 

Boosting Your Team’s Wellness as a Supportive Leader

Supporting your team in their day-to-day work is just one important aspect of being a good team lead. Being a truly supportive leader also requires keeping their holistic wellbeing top of mind. This shows you care about them as people, and can drive better team results — departments with engaged workers are more profitable than those staffed with a miserable team.

Offering a wellbeing program in your employee benefits package institutionalizes your commitment to workforce wellness. It proves your employees' access to the tools and programs they need to thrive, from sleep trackers to personal trainers. 

Boost your team’s wellbeing — talk with a Wellhub wellbeing specialist today! 

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Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


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