What Is a Line Manager?

Definition & Examples of a Line Manager

Business meeting with a line manager gesturing at a posted diagram

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Line managers oversee other employees and the operations of a business while reporting to a higher-ranking manager. They play an important role in the operation of many businesses, supervising and managing workers on a daily basis and acting as a liaison between employees and upper management.

Learn more about what line managers do, their role within an organization, and how they differ from project managers.

What Is a Line Manager?

A line manager is responsible for managing employees and resources to achieve specific functional or organizational goals. Some of these include:

  • Recruiting and hiring talent to fill team positions
  • Providing training and support to new hires
  • Cross-training employees to ensure job rotation and minimize assignment coverage gaps
  • Providing coaching and performance feedback to all team members
  • Communicating and ensuring understanding of functional or departmental goals
  • Measuring individual and team metrics and performance against targets and monitoring progress
  • Identifying the need for corrective actions when necessary
  • Ensuring quality standards for all processes on their team
  • Evaluating overall team and individual performance and delivering performance reviews
  • Engaging and coordinating with other line managers across the organization
  • Providing reports on productivity and other performance indicators to senior management

A bit part of a line manager's job is ensuring that the employees reporting them are doing their jobs effectively and efficiently. Important skills for line managers to have include effective communication, active listening, the ability to prioritize and delegate tasks, leadership, and organization.

Alternate names: Direct manager, supervisor, team leader

How Line Managers Work

Line managers can be found across many types of organizations, from retail and foodservice to media and finance. They often head a revenue-generating department within a company, and they're usually the main interface between an organization's executive management team and its front-line workers.

Good line managers are actively involved with their team members, providing support, offering encouragement, and delivering constructive feedback on a daily basis. They directly influence employee satisfaction and engagement and, as a result, organizational productivity and even customer satisfaction.

Although senior management is involved in developing and approving a firm's strategy, the hard work of implementing that strategy often takes place at lower levels of the organization. Line managers are critical cogs in ensuring that employees in a company implement new programs in a timely and effective manner. They're well-positioned to identify problems with the strategy execution programs. The input of a line manager is essential for organizational learning. 

Talent development is a key priority for any organization, and line managers have a good amount of control over the identification, development, and promotion of talented professionals on their teams. The next generation of line managers often emerges from these teams. 

Line managers' detailed knowledge of business processes and how the organization works can make them ideal candidates for broader general management roles. It's common for top-performing line managers to either rise through the ranks of management or broaden their responsibilities to encompass other areas of a firm's operations.

Line Managers vs. Project Managers

Line Managers

Project Managers
Run departments

Run projects

Direct the work of other employees across departments Direct the work of other employees in their own department
Are responsible for administrative management of employees they direct Not responsible for administrative management of employees they direct

Some managers, like project managers, are responsible for directing the work of other employees, but they're not responsible for the administrative management of those individuals. They're responsible for making sure that projects are done well and on time, but they don't discipline employees, promote or demote them, or make salary adjustments.

In a typical matrix management structure, the project manager gives work direction to the project team members regardless of what department or functional group they came from. The people who run those departments and groups and manage all the individuals in them are the line managers.

Key Takeaways

  • Line managers, also known as direct managers, oversee other employees and operations of a business.
  • They act as a liason between employees and upper management.
  • They work to ensure programs are implemented effectively in a department to help the organization meet its goals.
  • A line manager is not the same as a project manager.