BACKGROUND: Front-line managers of supported accommodation for people with intellectual disability are assumed to have a key role in the realisation of outcomes for service users. Yet, their job has been little researched. A job analysis from Minnesota that identified 142 competencies required of effective front-line managers was used to examine what was expected of the equivalent position in Victoria, Australia. METHODS: These competencies formed the basis of semistructured interviews with an extreme sample of 16 high-performing house supervisors and 5 more senior managers. RESULTS: Ninety-two percent of the original competences were retained, with changes in language and terminology to reflect the local context. Emergent findings highlighted the importance of house supervisors' "orientations." CONCLUSIONS: The findings support the proposition that the front-line manager's job is underpinned by core competencies and that the role merits further study. Issues of wider significance for human service organisations and researchers are discussed.