It’s Time to Talk About Coaching-Based Leadership as a Strategic Imperative

If you’re not talking with your senior business leaders about the strategic imperative of coaching-based leadership, I personally think it’s time to get started. Here’s why:

The Increasing Complexity of Change Has Completely Re-Wired What We Need from Leaders

Back in the day when change happened in a more or less orderly fashion, the main role of leaders was to control their resources and ensure compliance with the directives that came from above, usually in brown envelopes that were delivered to the leaders’ desks a couple of times a day. In those simpler times, people believed there were “right answers,” which managers distributed, as needed, but only if needed. Workers were given clear instructions that they followed. It all seems rather idealistic in the rearview mirror.

Now that change is a sometimes disruptive, often unpredictable constant that encompasses large swaths of our organizations, and even seeps out into the community at large, we need our leaders to do very different things. Things like:

We Still Train Leaders to Contract and Control in the Face of Change

We may not like to admit it, but the old style of Command and Control leadership is still very much alive, although it’s not doing that well. If you look and listen carefully, you’ll notice that the foundational assumptions and beliefs of Command and Control leadership still guide the choices leaders make on a day-to-day basis. Assumptions and beliefs such as:

These assumptions and beliefs about leadership are expressed in day-to-day interactions as subtle warnings not to fail, confusing instructions that can’t be challenged, avoidance of the conversations needed to resolve differences, and the like. As a result, people contract back into the “safe” space of waiting to be told what to do, avoiding risks, defending rather than inquiring, and often disengaging after reaching a state of overwhelming confusion and inertia. That’s the last thing you want to have happen in the face of complex change.

Coaching-Based Leadership Gives People the Tools to Create Together 

Interestingly, coaching and complex change grew up together. They were both ‘born’ in the 90’s and have evolved quickly, in ways that few people ever expected. Personally, I think they were made for each other, because taking a coaching approach to leadership is what turns complex change into a gold mine of opportunity. That’s because coaching-based leadership—the integration of coaching approaches into any conversation with anyone at any time—is founded on principles that embrace change as a way of life, including:

Your Company Is In A Race of Strategic Importance, But May Not Know It

The first organizations in your industry to make coaching-based leadership a way of life will be able to drive change faster. And they will pick up speed—merging faster, innovating faster and seeing opportunities faster—as they get better at it. If your organization isn’t even thinking about making coaching the leadership style of choice, you’re in danger of being left in the dust of other organizations that have made that connection. And more importantly, are actively embedding coaching-based leadership into the fabric of their organizations right now.

As the pace of change quickens it seems plausible that the only enduring competitive advantage over time will be the ability to embrace increasingly complex change as an opportunity to push the edge on what’s possible. Establishing coaching-based leadership as a way of life is the foundation that this new world is built upon.

If the senior leaders in your organization still believe that “Coaching is nice, but not necessary” or “We’re too busy to bother with coaching right now” (because our change initiatives are going so badly), then it’s time for you to engage your leaders in coaching conversations about the strategic importance of coaching-based leadership. Don’t wait. This is one race that tortoises aren’t likely to win.

Dianna Anderson, MCC
CEO, Cylient

Join the Conversation

How have you helped senior leaders understand the strategic importance of coaching-based leadership?


2 Responses to It’s Time to Talk About Coaching-Based Leadership as a Strategic Imperative

  1. mark thomas says:

    Great review on what’s happening in organizations today. We are working to “shift” leader’s perspecive on their role as coaches. No longer a “nice to have” but imperative as we move forward with the significant changes facing health care. Need a consult and reflect approach not command and control!! mark

  2. Dianna Anderson says:

    It’s terrific that your organization is so far ahead of the curve on instilling coaching as your preferred leadership style! That will give you real competitive advantage in an industry where everything is moving all at once these days. Taking a coaching approach to change will turn all that chaos into a land of opportunity for your organization.

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