The Supportive Coaching Leader

This article is part III of our 12-part series on the different leadership styles. You can check out October’s Monthly Huddle to get a general overview and follow along each week as we explore them in-depth. 

Coaching leaders live and die to be an inspiration to others. They rest easy at night knowing that they’ve poured their heart into their team, and wake up each morning eager to watch each person they lead flourish. 

What Defines a Coaching Leader?

Coaching leaders have a never-quit attitude that drives results, though those results might take some time. 

They play the long game, constantly seeking out ways to both encourage and correct until their team runs like a single entity, capable of more than the sum of its parts. 

Personality

The coaching leader is all about high expectations, and they’re more than happy to put the work into empowering their employees to exceed those expectations. 

A true coach commands a room not by fear or demanding respect, but by forming deep connections with each person that comes under their care. They ensure that others are heard before demanding that others listen and are skilled at asking the right questions to help everyone see their potential. 

Coaching leaders truly believe that every person has the power to become the best version of themselves, so long as they are given the tools to do so. That support typically looks like challenging, yet attainable work that creates a sense of fulfillment. 

This leadership style values personal responsibility, creativity, and true engagement, often to stellar results. Their ultimate goal is to create a team capable of self-coaching through trials and tribulations. 

Famed coach leaders, unsurprisingly, typically consist of actual coaches. Think Vince Lombardi, Pat Summitt, and Bobby Knight.

Decision-Making

There is no “I” in team, and coaching leaders live by that sentiment in every decision they make. 

People with this leadership style don’t believe in the “top-down” approach. Instead, they implement an “all for one, one for all” mindset that increases employee buy-in to a shared vision. 

Coaching leaders believe that teams thrive when they are an essential and fundamental part of the bigger picture. To them, autocratic leadership only dampens spirits and decreases engagement. No one is going to throw their best efforts at achieving someone else’s goals. 

Rather, the goal should be one that benefits and rewards each person through a sense of camaraderie, empathy, and collaborative triumphs.  

Situations Where Coaching Leaders Thrive

  • The team is worn down, and they need someone with a big personality to coax them out of their “funk.” By default, a coach leader wants to mentor, praise, lead, and encourage. At the point where a team is wondering why they come to work every day, this leadership style will give them a reason. It feels good to know what’s expected of you, and that your leader is doing everything they can to ensure you can reach their high expectations. 
  • A team is effective but could be more so with the right collaborative environment. Give a coach a team in need of communication skills, and they’ll make it happen quickly. The coaching leader is stubborn. They will wait until each person has said their piece, and if they believe someone is holding back, there will be follow-up on why that employee feels they can’t speak their mind. Eventually, interpersonal collaboration will be the norm because it becomes the foundation of the entire business culture. 

Wrap Up: The Pros and Cons of Coaching Leadership

Much like a football coach pours their heart and soul into their team, the business coach leader is motivated by watching their employees flourish through constructive feedback, balanced transformation, and self-empowerment. 

In some environments, though, coaching leaders may find themselves falling behind on checkpoints and goals because of their willingness to always talk things out. 

Pros

  • The team can always trust that their coach leader has their best interest at heart. 
  • There’s rarely an ulterior motive to any conversation. They simply want to understand and be understood. 
  • They excel at cultivating a long-term growth mindset. Long after an employee leaves a company, the lessons they learned from their coach leader about facing setbacks inform their decision-making process. 

Cons

  • In results-driven environments, coach leaders may lose that invaluable time they have to work one-on-one with their employees. 
  • Coach leaders can burn out quickly, especially if it’s not their natural leadership style. It requires a lot of emotional investment in each individual member of the team, something that is hard to balance with the everyday duties of their position. 
  • If a team and a coach don’t quickly establish a trusting relationship, it’s not going to work out. Coaching leadership requires honesty, and without mutual trust, that can’t happen. 
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