It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change. – Charles Darwin

The quote above reveals a profound truth. The long game of survival is won not by might or intelligence, but by one humble trait, adaptability. 

Leadership is not a short, thrilling T20 game, but a gruelling test match. Might, intelligence, or ability are inadequate if you want to be in the long game. When push comes to shove, can you adapt? That decides whether you survive 5 years or thrive 25 years in the leadership space.

These are rapidly changing times in the business world, with technology disruptions and socio-eco-environmental instability. In these VUCA times, leaders like you need to evolve and adapt to changing climes to keep yourselves and your organizations ahead of the curve.

Do you want to have an enduring leadership legacy? Then the coaching style of leadership is the game changer. Leaders as coaches such as Sathya Nadella of Microsoft and Sheryl Sandberg of ex-Facebook (now Meta) are examples of a new wave of leaders who are ahead of their game, thanks to their coaching leadership style.

The Role of a Leader

 As a leader, your role would include 

● Managing teams and employees

● Maximizing your team’s/organization’s potential and performance

● Stimulating innovation and growth

● Shaping new leaders

Adopting a coaching leadership style would enable you to do all the above much more efficiently and holistically. How? Read on to find out!

What Is the Coaching Leadership Style?

Coaching leadership style is a management style where the leader partners and collaborates with employees to unlock their potential, and then harness that potential to achieve organizational objectives.  

In coaching leadership, the leader-coach does not use a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to manage team members. They customize their interactions according to individual strengths, weaknesses, and motivations.

A leader as coach listens, supports, guides, and partners with their employees to facilitate personal and professional development.

Must-Have Coaching Skills Every Leader Needs

The coaching style of leadership incorporates basic professional coaching competencies and skills. If you want to be a coaching leader, these are the skills and competencies you would need in your toolkit.

⦿ Balance care & challenge: Are you sensitive to the needs of your employees?  Do you also challenge them when required? A coaching leader finely balances both. The leader as coach propels team members to beyond to achieve goals without losing the human touch.

⦿ Focus on potential: A leader as coach concentrates on employee potential rather than looking superficially at current performance. As a leader-coach, direct your energy towards unlocking that potential.

⦿ Active listening:  Listen to your team members with undivided attention, minus any agenda. This is a vital, yet tough skill every coaching leader must master to be a great leader-coach.  Jean-Phillipe Courtois, a member of Sathya Nadella’s leadership team at Microsoft describes Sathya Nadella’s ability to listen. “He’s with you. You can feel it. You can see the body language. It doesn’t matter if you’re a top executive or a first-line seller; he has exactly the same quality of listening.”

⦿ Ask rather than tell: A leader as coach uses powerful questioning to handle issues, solve problems and elicit creative ideas from employees. Ask open-ended, concise questions.

         For eg. What did you find challenging?

         How would you approach this issue?

         If you feel you are right, what is holding you back?

⦿ Provide a non-judgmental safe space: Leaders as coaches encourage their team members to communicate freely without fear of judgment or retaliation. Sathya Nadella encouraged the people at Microsoft to be open about their mistakes and to learn from them.

⦿ Give feedback: As a coaching leader, give your team members constructive feedback that would help them grow professionally and personally. You too should be open to their feedback for self-improvement. 360-degree feedback for coaching leaders and employees makes the coaching leadership style highly effective. 

⦿ Champion learning and development: Leaders as coaches take time to develop each member of their teams by mentoring, guiding, and supporting them, as per the requirement. Leaders as coaches empower team members to discover the larger role and purpose they play in their organization and this helps enhance individual performance immensely.

How Does Coaching Leadership Style Unlock Potential?

“Nike has always stood for a belief that everybody has a well-spring of potential inside of them that’s even greater than they understand..And that is how I’ve always viewed leadership in my career. How do I get people that are far better than I am on the playing field…to buy into a higher purpose, come together as one team…and perform at even higher levels.” 

John Donahoe, Nike CEO

The Nike CEO couldn’t have summed up how coaching leadership style unlocks potential any better!

The coaching style of leadership believes in maximizing both the personal and professional potential of employees, uniting them towards a higher vision, and partnering with them to get there.

In coaching leadership, leaders as coaches facilitate the personal and professional development of team members. The leader as coach collaborates with team members to identify individual strengths and achievements, which are applauded and honed. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook (now Meta) is known to celebrate the successes of her employees. She believes this encourages them to greater achievements. Leaders as coaches partner with team members/employees to spot weaknesses and work on them.

At no point does the leader as coach instruct or direct. Team members /employees decide and own the changes they want to initiate. The leader as coach functions as the cheerleader and sounding board. This empowering process enables employees to unlock their personal and professional potential, creating highly motivated individuals.

How Does a Leader-Coach Improve Performance?

Coaching works on the premise that once potential is unlocked, optimum performance is a natural outcome. 

As a coaching leader, you have already established the momentum of performance by igniting the potential of your team members. These motivated individuals are raring to put in their best at work. All they need is a streamlined process to direct their skills and concentrate their efforts productively. 

The GROW model developed by Sir John Whitmore is such a process. In this model, the leader-coach takes the team members through 4 steps that finally result in credible action – Goal setting, establishing the realities of that goal, discovering options, and then deciding what to do.

To know more about how a coaching leadership style can power performance, read our blog Coaching Leadership Style

Why Do All Leaders Need to Be Coaches?

Here’s why adding coaching to your leadership style would be the best thing for you, your team, and your organization.

1. Handling change and disruptions: Covid, economic slowdown, the Russia-Ukraine war, Brexit; these are unpredictable, constantly changing times we live in. A coaching mindset enables you, a leader-coach, to be a more resilient, agile leader. The coaching environment you establish as a leader-coach creates a safe environment for your team to operate at their full potential, no matter what the challenges and changes your organization may encounter. 

2. Enhances productivity: A Deloitte research report reveals that organizations whose senior leaders coach effectively have better business results (an increase of 21%) than organizations who do not have coaching leadership. 

3. Improves collaboration: Leaders who coach are better equipped to inspire and motivate teams to resolve conflicts, collaborate effectively, and work towards common goals. Sathya Nadella’s coaching leadership style was instrumental in transforming Microsoft’s competitive culture to one of collaboration.

4. Problem-solving: Coaching is a highly impactful tool by which a leader can wear the hat of a coach and enable struggling teams to pinpoint problem areas and discover solutions themselves. This path of self-discovery motivates teams and team members to adopt corrective measures and move to excellence. 

5. Coaching culture: When you establish a coaching leadership style, the coaching mindset trickles down and eventually becomes a part of your organization’s culture. Coaching leaders at TCS, though small in number, have been able to create a coaching culture that has empowered employees and enabled the company to tackle challenges that came with Covid.

6. Achieve short-term and long-term goals: Leaders as coaches can enable teams to achieve both short-term and long-term objectives effectively using the GROW model. Constant achievement of short-term goals keeps the leader-coach and team members motivated to work toward the long-term vision of the team or organization.

7. Adapt to the current workforce: Millennials and Gen Z form a large percentage of the workforce. Their motivations and aspirations are starkly different from their predecessors. Thus traditional leadership styles such as command and control are counterproductive for this breed of workers. They are seen to respond best to new-age leadership styles such as the coaching leadership style.

8. Manage diversity: Leaders as coaches are seen to be more inclusive and empathetic while managing a diverse workforce.  At TCS, coaching leaders who were supervisors began to respect different time zones. This sensitivity came about as a result of a coaching mindset.

Become a Leader-Coach Through Regal Unlimited’s Leader-as-Coach Program

Regal Unlimited’s Leader As Coach (LAC) program, a premier leadership program in India has empowered more than 1000 leaders to add coaching to their skill set.  These leaders as coaches have gone on to inspire and motivate their teams and transform the fortunes of their organizations. 

7 Reasons Why Regal Unlimited’s Leader as Coach Program Is the Best You Can Get:

  1. Get coached by Subash CV (MCC), a leadership and executive Regal coach who has more than 21 years of industry experience as a corporate banker and leader.

  2. 10 hours of concepts, theory, process, and skills. Some of the topics we deal with are Level 5 Leadership, Emotional Quotient for Leaders, Vulnerability & Authenticity for Leaders to Lead Organizations)

  3. 10 hours of mentored coaching practice with a Regal coach

  4. Assignments to keep you enriched with learnings

  5. Regal@60 exercise for better personal and professional alignment

  6. One hour of personal mentoring after 30 days of the course to address roadblocks.

  7. Access to the dynamic Regal Community of Coaches (300+) for continued learning. 

Click here to know more about the Leader as Coach program.

Download our Leader as Coach brochure

Transform yourself into an inspiring coaching leader through Regal’s Leader as Coach program. 

Schedule a free discovery call with your leadership mentor Anirud C. Call 6361579338.

Reach out to us at in case you have any queries.

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