Coaching Leadership (not to be confused with Executive Coaching) is one of the two most effective styles of leadership. Coaching isn't a style to be used to the exclusion of others, but a set of tools to be used in conjunction with other management techniques. Leadership expert Daniel Goleman identified Visionaryand Coaching as the two most effective among six styles of leadership, the other four being Affiliative, Democratic, Pacesetting and Commanding. Pacesetting (think competition) and Commanding (think crisis response) are the styles most often misused and therefore most often ineffective, yet they're sometimes needed and occasionally effective. The best leaders use two, three, even four of these six styles and move seamlessly between them as situations demand.
What is coaching leadership? Coaching is a style of leadership that moves the organization forward by connecting what individuals want with the goals and needs of the organization. While the overarching goal of the leader is to move the organization forward, effective coaching leadership requires a genuine caring about the personal and professional development of individuals within the organization. Coaching techniques without empathy and rapport are ineffective because they're experienced as manipulative.
Can coaching leadership be learned? While some leaders seem to be natural coaches, coaching techniques can be learned by any leader and further developed by the leader with natural coaching talents. As noted above, it begins with genuine caring for the people who work with you and for you. Show your interest by asking questions like, "What kinds of projects do you want to work on?" "What do you want to learn?" "What kinds of clients do you want to work with?" "What are your concerns and challenges?" "How can I help you?" Resist the urge to offer solutions prematurely and just listen.
The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought
and attended to my answer. Henry David Thoreau
What's the next step? After asking thoughtful questions, listening attentively to the answers and probing for additional information, you can help your people write their own development plans and be alert for opportunities to help them achieve their goals. Don't forget to challenge them to s-t-r-e-t-c-h. Keep their strengths and goals in mind when you assign work and clients, recommend and approve training, provide performance feedback. Delegate thoughtfully to advance development plans and s-t-r-e-t-c-h goals. Check progress regularly to let people know you're thinking about their goals and you care about their development, as well as your firm's needs and goals.
What if you lead too many people to coach them all personally? You can coach those who report to you or work closest to you and have brief coaching interactions with others as opportunities arise. You can teach your colleagues to use coaching techniques to move the organization forward by aligning what people want with what the organization needs.
Coaching leadership is transformative. It results in increased loyalty, commitment, engagement, retention, productivity and profitability. Isn't that what you want?