This article provides a practical explanation of the Coaching Leadership Style. After reading this article, you will understand the basics of this powerful and valuable leadership style.
What is the Coaching Leadership Style?
The Coaching Leadership Style is a relatively new and guiding leadership style. Instead of making all decisions and delegating tasks yourself, as is the case in the autocratic leadership style, the coaching leader takes the lead to get the best out of his employees or team. A coaching leader must not be confused with a coach, but does have coaching skills. The leader has these skills when he is able to develop and improve the performance and competences of his employees.
The basis of the Coaching Leadership Style is the dynamic interaction between the leader and the employee. This gives rise to valuable insights and the achieved results are discussed and analysed. This is done by means of providing and receiving feedback, asking questions and conducting motivating conversations. A good coach encourages the learning process of the coached person and promotes the responsibility and independence of the employees. A coaching attitude of the leader ensures that the employees continue to work autonomously and independently without removing the initiative from them. A good coaching leader has his employees perform their work independently, but still makes them feel supported and involved in their work. The independent aspect in coaching makes this style excellently suitable for independent teams.
As stated above, the goal of coaching is to develop qualities and competences. In combination with leadership, the goal is to encourage the employee’s task maturity. A task-mature employee is sufficiently self-reliant, willing and able to perform tasks independently.
Conditions for effective coaching leadership
Because coaching and leading are certainly two different matters, the leader must have a number of additional competences. The coaching leader is closer to his employees than the authoritarian leader and will probably know his employees better. The coaching leader looks where opportunities exist for employees to improve themselves, but also takes their preferences into account. By taking this into account, everyone will be working in the right place, which will advance productivity. A requirement is that the leader knows exactly what is happening on the workfloor and what the role of the coached person is.
Social skills and tact. When the leader functions as a coach, the employee can call on him in case of personal problems. In doing so, various privacy-related situations may be discussed, such as financial problems, relationship problems or health problems. These sensitive matters must be handled with tact and professionalism so as to create a safe climate for the employee. For this reason, it is important that the coaching leader has integrity.
Good communicative skills are invaluable in each leadership style, including in the coaching leadership style. Objectives and expectations must be discussed, so everyone is clear on his role. When the team starts working, the leader only has to set the pace occasionally.
Feedback. There must be enough time for feedback and reflection in order to coach effectively. Feedback must be provided based on concrete points for improvement. This constructive feedback must be purely professional and may not include any personal judgements or attacks. Feedback is often only half understood and processed and therefore it can be valuable to recheck whether the person receiving the feedback actually understands it.
Asking questions. A good coaching leader only gives limited instructions and lets the employees think for themselves about a possible solution to a problem by asking questions. In this way, the employees are encouraged to work in a responsible manner and creativity is encouraged as well. Carrying out responsible work ensures that they will remain motivated, and this means there will be less or no compulsory advice or suggestions needed towards the employee. Good questions to make employees think about task-oriented matters can be drawn up by means of the GROW model. With the GROW model, the situation is examined from four different angles: ‘goal’, ‘reality’, ‘options’ and ‘will’.
As in every leadership style, it is important that the leader works in a result-oriented manner. This result-orientation arises from the established objectives. Because the coaching leader is particularly aimed at developing and improving qualities and talents of the employees, this is oriented more at development. A good balance between these two visions will therefore have a favourable effect.
Relationship with the Situational Leadership Model (SLM)
The road to task maturity is not equal for everyone and so there are various situations in which certain leadership styles are more effective than others: Two key questions from the Situational Leadership Model (SLM) of Hersey and Blanchard are:
- Is the employee sufficiently motivated?
- Does the employee possess sufficient expertise?
When a person scores low on one of these two questions, coaching leadership could be an effective leadership style. When the employee is sufficiently motivated but simply does not have the knowledge or expertise, the leader must adopt a guiding role. The leader will then show the employee that the required capacities can be learned. He does this by having the employee ask questions and building on the answers to those questions.
If the employee has sufficient expertise, but is not motivated, the leader must adopt an encouraging and coaching style. The leader must ensure that the built-up resistance the employee feels is removed by giving him the space to make suggestions or by giving him a say in the activities in some other way.
Pros and cons of the Coaching Leadership Style
Adopting a coaching leadership style can work particularly well, but is not always as effective and desirable. However, natural leaders are able to switch between styles and thus use the right style at the right time. Advantages of a coaching leadership style are:
Positive organisational culture
A coaching style encourages the sense of responsibility and commitment in employees. This is because these leaders express the feeling towards their employees that they believe in the qualities and competences they possess.
The coaching leader offers his employees sufficient space and freedom to brainstorm about the tasks that must be carried out. Coaching leadership can be summarised in the words: ‘try this’.
The leader is closer to the activities on the workfloor than an external coach and therefore has a better idea of the goings-on in the organisation.
Yet, there are still disadvantages to a coaching leadership style:
The hierarchical structure within an organisation can make it difficult to strive for equality in a coaching leadership style. When the employee and leading coach have a functional work relationship, the employee may fear that the coaching meetings influence the results of the assessment interview. In that case, the coaching process is better conducted by an external coach who knows the organisation well or another manager from a different department.
Coaching leadership is pointless with unmotivated employees
Coaching means developing qualities, but when the employees do not feel motivated, they will not invest any effort in self-development.
Coaching is not always the key to the better functioning of an employee
Often, coaching is used as an instrument to solve the dysfunctioning of an employee. However, this dysfunctioning can have different causes, such as severe private issues or psychological problems. In these cases, therapy is a better option.
It’s Your Turn
What do you think? Do you recognize the explanation about coaching leadership or do you have anything to add? When do you think a coaching leadership style is effective? What do you think are factors that contribute to coaching leadership?
Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.
- Kombarakaran, F. A., Yang, J. A., Baker, M. N., & Fernandes, P. B. (2008). Executive coaching: It works!. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 60(1), 78.
- Stoker, J. I. (2004). Coachend leiderschap in de praktijk. Kluwer.
- Stoker, J. I. (2008). Effects of team tenure and leadership in self-managing teams. Personnel review, 37(5), 564-582.
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