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Why is Coaching a Vital Leadership Skill?

Why is Coaching a Vital Leadership Skill?

Although business coaching is a relatively young discipline (mainly growing popular over the last 25 years or so) the strong view across the profession is that coaching should be highly individual or “coachee” centered. In other words, coaching should be mainly about creating space for, supporting, and encouraging the person being coached and giving him or her the necessary refection time to come up with their own answers and then take responsibility for the choices they make. In this sense, coaching has a lot in common with what a leader should be doing. 

When we think about coaching at the most basic level, it mostly involves quietly asking well-crafted questions and then listening carefully to what is communicated in response.  Although this is often quite difficult for most leaders to do in practice this process naturally creates an opportunity for an individual to learn from a particular experience and then apply that learning in very practical ways in the future. As a result, the simple act of gently asking questions and then closely listening and watching is a great skill for any leader to develop. 

While a professional coach learns to ask these well-crafted questions, which encourage new perspectives or ways of thinking in a “pull-oriented” way, many leaders may see their role to be more “push-oriented” or directive.  In other words, it is important for leaders to learn how to speak less and limit their input to just a few comments and questions when necessary. This may not come naturally at first but becomes more intuitive over time. 

The following list offers a brief idea or assessment of when a given leader is not using a coaching-centered approach:

  • You tend to predominantly issue “orders” or “commands”
  • Conversations with employees are very one-sided or “telling oriented”
  • Individuals often delegate their problems upwards to the leader to solve
  • People come to the leader for answers, and how to do something, rather than remembering what he or she said last time they asked the same question
  • The leader ends up spending his or her time on someone else’s area rather than his or her own.
  • The leader is reactive not proactive.
  • The leader has little or no chance to think or quietly reflect and is mainly a “fire-fighter” 

Conversely, if a leader is engaged in a more coaching style or approach they:

  • Issue few or no commands and just explain what is to be achieved overall and then let individuals discuss how they will go about the task
  • Don’t need to take ownership of all the problems people bring to them – simply provide advice and guidance.
  • Tend to have have many short, focused and steering oriented conversations with employees
  • Have no need or expectation to need to know the answer to everything
  • Spend a lot of time listening to people rather than talking at them
  • Tends to be proactive rather than reactive
  • Seems to have plenty of time to think or quietly reflect and is therefore seen as very planful and proactive

This whole second approach tends to build trust based relationships with team members and creates a climate in which the leader can learn considerably more essentially because they listen at least twice as much as they speak.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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One Comment

  1. Rachel StoneMay 18, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    Superb article and certainly coaching is the way to go. I alsways say that all coaches are leaders but not all leaders are coaches. Sometimes it is not appropriate to coach but most times it is a vital bit of skill that you can deploy. It’s transformational.

About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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