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What is Coaching Leadership? When to Use it for Success

By Numly - Leadership Coaching Group
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Leadership is challenging because  it is tricky. It is constantly changing, shifting, and evolving to meet the changing dynamics of the business and work environment. Present-day and future leaders now need a new arsenal of strategies and skills to lead effectively as the world of work becomes hybrid, change becomes constant, and disruption becomes a mainstay. 

The leaders in today’s work environment have to handle global customers and employees, embrace technology, and be empathetic and caring towards their employees. They have to increase their resilience to confidently engage with the unknown while practicing curiosity and leading others with confidence. 

In this new world of work, we need leaders to become the enablers of employee success. Leaders should be able to help their employees grow and develop professionally and personally to meet their long-term goals. 

This has led to the rise of coaching leadership.

What is coaching leadership?

Coaching leadership is the leadership style that enterprises need today where VUCA reigns supreme. As disparate, global teams and hybrid work become commonplace, it is important to build leadership styles that drive collaboration and offer support and guidance. 

Coaching leaders bring out the best in their teams by guiding them through their goals and helping them navigate their obstacles. 

How does coaching leadership work?

Coaching leadership recognizes the strengths, weaknesses, and motivation of an individual to drive change and achieve success. This leadership style helps in driving positive outcomes and promotes the development of new skills while creating a positive employee experience since it is rooted in empathy and understanding.

Coaching leadership becomes imperative in the new world of hybrid work to build highly engaged, productive, and innovative teams by driving the principles of the growth mindset. 

Manage constant change and disruption 

Since rapid, constant, and disruptive change is a norm now, what succeeded in the past no longer holds relevance. 

Today, leadership must make the shift from a command or instruction-based approach to being a more empathetic and supportive one. Leaders need to give employees the tools to adapt to constantly changing environments. They have to do so in a way that unleashes energy, enthusiasm, and commitment. 

The role of the leader, in short, is now of becoming a coach who capably drives intentional change. The coach explores strengths and gaps, develops a learning agenda, and then drives accountability for implementing and practicing new behaviors and learnings.

Identify learning opportunities 

Coaching leadership is about assisting others to make a change, spotting a learning opportunity, setting up the framework, and then seeing things through. 

Coaching leaders become very relevant to today’s dynamic working landscape, especially because 

  • There is a need to upskill and re-skill to navigate the ever-increasing skills gap.
  • Trends like the Great Resignation make it important for leaders to help the employees gain complete clarity on how to bring about change.

Let’s take for example an individual, who we call John, who has recently upskilled to meet the needs of his new role as a team manager. While John is great at his job, he now knows that he needs to build his leadership skills to lead a new team. He attends the leadership training programs to gather the required skills. However, he receives feedback that he needs to retool his approach to his work and team. 

In another case, an employee, let’s call her Karen, is great at her work and delivers immediate results. She’s got tremendous potential and can solve immediate problems while delivering great results. She also has a good working relationship with her teammates but is always transactional and direct in all her interactions. While she wants to one day join the C-suite she becomes aware that her leadership style needs work to deliver better results in a geographically dispersed team. 

In both cases, there is a clear learning opportunity – John needs to learn how to be a leader and he needs constant support to identify and build his leadership style. Karen was a good team worker and manager but needed an inspiring leadership style. 

Coaching leaders can help identify these learning opportunities and clearly draft a learning path to help them achieve these with quantifiable action. They also offer support all along the way to ensure that the learners remain accountable and committed to their goals. Regular interaction, intentional conversations, and accountability ensure that the individuals are moving closer to their goals and eventually reaching what they set out to achieve. 

Drives employee engagement and experience

Coaching leaders operate from a point of compassion. They actively practice non-judgment and capably assess the individual’s willingness to change. 

Coaching leadership becomes crucial as organizations become more focused on driving employee engagement through career pathing initiatives. 

People achieve more sustainably when they are psychologically motivated. Since coaching leaders coach with compassion, they capably build a resonant relationship – one that uses exploration, curiosity, and open-ended questions to identify challenges and discover solutions. Coaching leadership becomes a co-creative relationship. It, therefore, becomes easier to drive change as both the coach and the learner are working together to bring about the change. It is not directional, and that is why it works – Because people change when they want to, when they feel the need. 

Coaching leaders help their learners see the problem and get closer to a predetermined goal. Since it is focused on exploration and rooted in compassion, it does not build a stress response. 

When to use coaching leadership?

  • Build shared vision – Given the constant disruption and change at work, ideally, coaching leadership is an ideal default leadership style. Having said that, this leadership style is particularly well suited for environments where people do not have the knowledge or skills to build a shared vision. 
  • Change management – Coaching leadership is a great way to align personal goals to align with organizational development goals. As such, it is well-suited for change management and also for developing shared accountability and success across global and hybrid teams.
  • Overcome people-related issues – It is an effective leadership strategy to overcome people-related issues that can be cultural or emerge due to lack of time. It helps change the perception of control and helps people become more in charge of their outcomes. It helps people adopt a growth mindset toward their long-term career prospects and workplace experiences.
  • Eliminate limiting beliefs and thinking traps – Coaching leaders help their teams eliminate limiting beliefs and thinking traps and identify biases that impede DIEB initiatives. This leadership style encourages balanced, empathetic, and nuanced thinking to make the workplace more equitable and accepting of differences.
  • Improve time management – Coaching leaders also help their teams manage and master time management and take a balanced approach. It helps in avoiding traps like over-optimistic estimates, poor planning, or constantly shifting goals. This leadership style brings in a sharp focus on the goals while establishing a culture that allows space for constructive and continuous collaboration.  

There are many examples of coaching leaders in the industry. Satya Nadella, for example, joined Microsoft when the organization had lost most of its momentum. Nadella started listening to everyone and displayed his ability to show support without judgment. He encouraged a mindset shift and worked on moving it from a “know it all” to a “learn it all” mindset.

Coaching leadership is based on emotional intelligence and works towards developing others to be future-ready. 

Organizational leaders and managers trained in coaching leadership build and use their teams’ strengths to create an environment of continuous learning, communication, and collaboration. This ultimately contributes to the long-term success and resilience of the organization.

Our AI-enabled coaching platform helps managers and organizational leaders augment their leadership capabilities by adopting coaching leadership. Connect with us to see how it can help you drive employee engagement and experience by delivering the leadership skills needed for this new world of work.

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