Leaders Who Coach

‘Leadership’ has been defined, re-defined and re-re-defined. While there are many ways to demonstrate leadership and as many different situations demanding even more hybrid applications of leadership: in order for people to work in organized and efficient modes toward successful results, leadership is required.

In the context of the fast-paced, ever changing workplace of today, the most successful leaders are those who face new challenges with current and relevant solutions. Those who attempt to solve the issues of today with the solutions of yesterday may find themselves obsolete. That would be like trying to run the newest version of Excel on the 286 microprocessor.

One of the most successful approaches to the current demands is the style, ‘leader as coach’. ‘Leaders who coach’ balance their concern with people performance with the goals of the company. The ‘leader as coach’ models the behavior desired by those around him or her. They serve as mentor and teacher allowing individual talent to flourish. They foster independence and accountability by exercising a high level of engagement. They often surround themselves with people as talented or more talented than they are and continue to develop them. Rather than being threatened by the talent of subordinates, they link arms and treat them as valued colleagues.

This type of leadership fosters a culture where long-term performance is valued over short-term. The hierarchy is blurred with fewer levels of command replaced by a stronger informal network and increased communication between people. This builds a foundation of trust and inclusion. This type of leadership is nimble and agile in responding to change. This culture is prepared for the future to hold the unexpected in both threatening and opportunistic forms.

‘Leaders who coach’ are strong in adaptability and secure in their roles. They equip their people with the knowledge and tools they need to make sustainable decisions on their own. In these environments, performance and flexibility are a passion. These adaptive leaders value differences of opinion and encourage the healthy debate. As a result, employees feel valued and loyalty is the norm.

This type of leadership is certainly a contradiction at first glance. However, what these leaders know and understand is that in ever-changing environments, the best way to maintain control is to give it away. As they empower their employees, a more confident workforce emerges.

As we observe companies failing on a regular basis, organizations that are faced with instability and stress will suffer the same result as all other living things under the same circumstances, they must adapt to what they are faced with or they will become extinct. This elevates the necessity for agility and adaptability as the basis for survival.

Organizations being led by this type of leadership must have some very unique skills. Most employees must have the goal of becoming great problem solvers with well-honed decision-making skills within their areas of responsibility. The more volatile the environment - the less time to get final approval on every decision from the top. This requires that people be able to identify trends, principals and processes and feel confident in making decisions that advance the organization’s objectives.

Organizations focused on the development and performance of all employees will create a common thread of organic knowledge transfer. Succession planning will develop as the natural result of talent management, as opposed to an annual structured event. Customer response time will increase as more ownership is fostered and expected.

No longer is the dictatorial ‘command and control’ leadership model effective in response to the challenges of today’s workplace. Perhaps, we should begin identifying and developing leaders who coach for tomorrow’s success.  There are those who will claim this model will never work, that people must be controlled and told what to do.  I challenge them to find talented people who desire an oppressive workplace.

This is certainly a shift that will take time and planning, as well as culture transformation. However, the investment today may provide ongoing success in the future.

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