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  • Writer's pictureNatalie Robinson Bruner

The Power of Coaching Leadership in Unleashing Team Potential

Updated: Mar 27

In the dynamic landscape of leadership, various styles have emerged over the years, each with its unique approach to guiding teams and achieving organizational goals. In a Harvard Business Review article, Herminia Ibarra and Anne Scoular describe how command-and-control leadership no longer works in the face of constant and disruptive change—today’s managers can’t be expected to know all the answers. That is why organizations have begun to shift from authoritarian leadership towards “a model in which managers give support and guidance rather than instructions, and employees learn how to adapt to constantly changing environments in ways that unleash fresh energy, innovation, and commitment.”

This coaching style of leadership stands out as an effective and transformative approach. Unlike traditional authoritarian or directive leadership, coaching focuses on unlocking the potential within individuals, fostering growth, and creating a culture of continuous improvement. Coaching leadership is not about dictating orders or micromanaging; instead, it involves guiding and supporting individuals to discover their strengths, overcome challenges, and reach their full potential. It's a collaborative and empowering approach that views each team member as a unique contributor with their set of skills and aspirations.

In this blog, we'll explore the principles and benefits of developing a coaching style of leadership.

Key Principles of Coaching Leadership

Active Listening

Effective coaching begins with active listening. Ibarra & Scoular recommend listening simply to understand, reiterating what you’ve heard, and leaving room for silence. Leaders must create an environment where team members feel heard and understood. By listening attentively, leaders gain insights into individual concerns, aspirations, and challenges, allowing for personalized guidance.

Asking Powerful Questions

Rather than providing all the answers, coaching leaders ask thought-provoking questions. Ibarra & Scoular recommend asking simple, open-ended questions, which encourages team members to think critically, evaluate their options, and arrive at solutions independently. It fosters a sense of ownership and accountability. which can lead to conversation and innovative problem solving.

Feedback for Growth

As Kara Dennison describes in her Forbes article, another unique aspect of the coaching leadership style is that it “focuses on 360-degree feedback, on communication, and on helping people develop themselves.” Instead of focusing on mistakes, coaching leaders use constructive feedback to highlight opportunities for improvement. Feedback should be specific, timely, and framed in a way that promotes learning and development.

Setting Clear Goals

Dennison explains that “employees are more likely to be enthusiastic about the work they do when they know their coaches are genuinely invested in their growth and willing to work with them on their short term and long term goals.” Coaching leaders work collaboratively with their teams to establish clear, measurable, and achievable goals. This not only aligns individual efforts with organizational objectives but also provides a roadmap for personal and professional development.

Encouraging Autonomy

Ibarra & Scoular quote Sir John Whitmore, leadership expert, as saying that skilled coaching involves ‘unlocking people’s potential to maximize their own performance.’” Leaders as coaches need to find the balance between providing direction and eliciting potential solutions from employees. Empowering team members to make decisions fosters a sense of ownership and responsibility. Coaching leaders trust their team's capabilities and encourage autonomy within a supportive framework, promoting innovation and creativity.

Leadership Growth

Another important aspect of employing a coaching leadership style is that it also requires you to build and refine your skills as a leader. As Dennison says, “in order to be an effective coach, you should be thinking about what your employees need from you.” To start, you need open communication, trust, vulnerability, and honesty that goes both ways. Coaching does not come naturally to many people, and it will require a dedication to learning, growth, and regular practice.

Benefits of Coaching Leadership:

  1. Individual Growth: Coaching leadership focuses on the personal and professional development of employees, helping to unlock their potential. This results in a more motivated and engaged workforce.

  2. Enhanced Communication: The emphasis on active listening and open dialogue improves communication within teams. Team members feel valued, and the free exchange of ideas fosters a positive and collaborative work environment.

  3. Adaptability: As a coach, inspiring your team to explore and implement their own solutions allows them to be more adaptable and resilient. They are more equipped with the tools to take on challenges, navigate change, and generate innovative solutions.

  4. Improved Performance: As individuals receive targeted feedback and guidance, their performance improves. Coaching leadership aligns individual employee goals with organizational objectives, resulting in a more efficient and effective team.

  5. Positive Organizational Culture: The coaching style of leadership contributes to the development of a positive organizational culture. Trust, transparency, and a focus on growth create an environment where individuals feel supported and motivated.

Developing a coaching style of leadership is an ongoing journey that requires commitment and a genuine interest in the well-being and growth of your team members. By embracing the principles of active listening, powerful questioning, and feedback for growth, leaders can create a positive and empowering work environment that unlocks the full potential of individuals and contributes to the overall success of the organization. In the ever-evolving landscape of leadership, coaching remains a powerful tool for cultivating talent, fostering innovation, and achieving sustainable success.

If you want to transform leadership within your organization, we can help you get started. Reach out to us at or click here to learn more about our EmpowerED Leadership Development Program.

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