The Coaching Style of Leadership – Part 2

In the workplace, a leader who uses the coaching style of leadership helps employees identify and leverage their personal strengths.  By intentionally delegating work to your staff that stretches their ability to develop those strengths, you are helping them learn by experience as well as demonstrating that you have confidence in them.

First, help your staff set both short term and long-term goals and provide training opportunities that align with those goals.  Next, it is important to teach your staff how to fend for themselves.

  • Don’t always give ready answers to their questions
  • Don’t quickly provide all the solutions
  • Guide them to discover the answer themselves.

You do this by training them to bring forward potential answers to most or all obstacles they are likely to encounter in a given situation.  You do that by using the “Socratic method” – by asking questions.

A “leader” who insists on having the staff come to them for guidance on every issue sees himself as a genius with a group of helpers rather than a leader.  He views himself as the only person that can deliver the right answer.  This is the perspective of an individual contributor who is in a leadership role, rather than a true leader.

Conversely, a leader that asks the staff to bring forward the solution(s) to the problems they are facing is developing future leaders by teaching them how to be self-sufficient and self-starters. That’s one critical way this leadership style develops future leaders and helps ensure continuity of corporate intellectual assets and future success both for individuals and the company.

Often, I am asked to identify the most important traits of leadership.   Over the years my opinion has changed, but one answer has remained constant.

Developing future leaders may be the single most important practice that defines and predicts  a real leader.  One of my proudest moments was when I realized that all of my direct reports, all of whom had become supervisors, were staff that had been developed internally.  When you are able to fill all or most of your vacancies from within, you will be reaping the rewards of the coaching style of leadership and know that it is helping your organization to thrive.

Note that this leadership style focuses on strength, not weakness.  Leaders should focus on strengths because the best that can be done with a weakness is to turn it into a mediocrity—with mediocre results.  On the other hand, a strength can always be leveraged into something much greater.  Recognizing strengths in your staff is the first step toward building a strong team.  A leader who is also a coach looks for and is able to identify these strengths in their direct reports.  A strong leader will go as far as reassigning staff based on their observable strengths instead of their desires. Sometimes we can see strengths in others they may not be aware of themselves.

We’ll continue this discussion in next week’s post!