Back in the day, command and control environments prevailed in organizations. Everyone including the employees assumed that employers have mastered every kind of knowledge and therefore they can command their subordinates on how things work in the organization. As for managers, it was assumed they know what to do and teach their employees a similar way to do things. The ultimate goal was to command and direct the employees into whichever direction employers wanted. 

But today, things have changed. Rigid attitudes are no longer successful and flexibility is what every employer and employee now prefers. In the 21st century workplace, if you think you know everything, you may be wrong. No one can have all the answers and everyone needs some guidance at some point. 

In this article, you will go through the alternate way of command-based leadership i.e coaching-based leadership. In addition, you will learn how to be a good coach in the workplace.

What is Coaching Leadership?

Before we begin, let’s define what coaching is. Coaching is a process aimed at improving a person’s performance by guiding or training them on the basis of their experience. In coaching leadership, the leader acts as a coach and helps their employees learn things that they lack. Through collaboration, support, and guidance the leaders coach their employees to bring out the best in them, instead of merely giving instructions. The objective is to train employees for any obstacles they may face during work. 

Coaching leadership has become more widespread now because a strict or commanding leadership style doesn’t align with achieving company goals. Today, more organizations are investing in training leaders to be good coaches. This way, coaching leadership has become integral to the learning culture of organizations. 

To practice a great coaching leadership style, managers ask questions instead of becoming know-it-alls, guide their employees instead of judging them and help them develop in the areas they lack expertise. 

John Whitmore, who pioneered the coaching style of leadership has described coaching as “unlocking people’s potential to maximize their own performance.” He gave a coaching model called the GROW model, which we discuss in the coming sections.

How to Be a Coaching Leader?

To be a coaching leader you first need to change your mindset. You should be ready both physically and mentally to coach an employee otherwise the results won’t be fruitful. Coaching by leading may seem simple. It involves training your employees, helping them develop and flourish but it takes much more to become a good coach in the workplace. In the next section, we discuss how to be a good coach.

How To Be a Good Coach in the Workplace?

A few coaching guidelines in leadership are given below:

Practice the GROW Model


When you begin coaching an employee, establish a Goal of what they want to learn. 


For the Reality part, ask them questions that elicit facts. These questions begin with what, when, where, or who. Such as what are some things we need to know?  When you ask an employee a how-question, they begin exploring more reasons than facts. To be a good coach, you need to ask the right questions and carefully listen to the response. 


For the Options part, when an employee comes to you with options, they’re stuck between the two things they could go for. In this scenario, help them broaden their perspective and encourage them to place out all the pros and cons of all the options on hand. 


Having set a goal, laying down all the options your employee should make a decision now. This is called Will. At this stage, you should be asking them questions like How likely are you to do this? Or What will you do now?

Coaching leadership

Learn to Balance

As a good coach, you should be able to find the perfect balance between praise and criticism for your employees. When an employee hasn’t done something perfectly, try coaching them with constructive criticism. Begin by praising followed by feedback. Anything that begins on a positive note leads to criticism well received.

Determine Areas that Require Your Help

Being a great coach would require a lot of your attention. In this case, you need to be in constant touch with your employees. Ask them questions. Determine the areas of improvement based on that. Sometimes, your employees will need to be told what to do. Other times they may need help with career decisions. Assess each situation and finally, guide them accordingly.

Consider One-on-one Sessions 

One-on-one sessions are great if you need to keep up with your employee’s progress. Setting up weekly one-on-one sessions with them will help you see where they struggle, what is their take on different matters, how they handle things, and most importantly where they need your help. During your meetings, listening is very important. Listen to their problems, notice their tone, and see what their body language conveys. 

Be Persistent

Good leaders as coaches would never give up on their employees even after many tries. Being persistent with your work is the key to being a good coach in the workplace. When you do that without getting discouraged, you will motivate your employees with your persistence.

Research a Lot

Another thing that being a good coach requires is your knowledge about everything that happens in the workplace. Before guiding someone, you need to research a lot. Be sure to fully understand a concept before you hand out knowledge to your employees. This is especially important since your employees will be counting on you for every hurdle they face.

Establish Trust

Establishing trust is important in every relationship. In the coach-employee relationship, trust matters a lot because without trust your employees will not come to you with their troubles. Practice support and establish positive interactions on all levels.

Follow Up

Without checking up on your employees’ progress, you would do them no good. It’s crucial that you follow up with them. Sometimes if you have helped your employees with a matter before, they may be hesitant to ask for your assistance again. In this case it is a good idea to follow up. Ask them open-ended questions. Yes or no questions stop the person from thinking. Sometimes a simple question like ‘What else?’ is helpful in eliciting useful information.

Be Sincere

If you want to practice good coaching leadership for your employees, being sincere in your work is important. If you aren’t sincere in guiding them, not only will your employees face problems but the organization will also suffer. 

Pros and Cons of Coaching Leadership Style


Two Way Collaboration

Coaching leadership is a two-way collaboration between leaders and employees. It allows more open communication within the workplace and builds a flexible work culture.

Enhanced Performance

With leaders coaching the employees, performance is bound to improve. When there is proper guidance for things employees lack the knowledge of, employees feel more valued and less distracted. 

Positive Work Culture

Leading by coaching gives rise to a positive and healthy work culture when both leaders and employees communicate freely. 

Development of Employees

Coaching leadership is meant to put employees on the path of development. Through training and coaching, managers help them grow in a way that is not commanding or controlling. The whole point of coaching leadership is to promote a flexible work environment.

New Opportunities

Coaching leadership is all about providing new opportunities to the employees. It helps to increase the productivity of employees and empowers them to think freely.

Growth and Creative Thinking

A coaching management style helps employees develop, flourish, and work with fresh energy. When a flexible and friendly work culture like this is built, growth and creative thinking develop. They think of things with new and broad perspectives.

Coaching leadership enhances creativity


Coaches May Be Unenthusiastic

The biggest downside to coaching can be that leaders may not be willing or enthusiastic enough to coach employees. Being a manager is obviously not a piece of cake. When you have to manage your regular work and on top of that coaching someone, it gets exhausting.

Lack of Coaching Skills

Coaching leadership relies heavily on the fact that the coach must be skilled enough. Sometimes when the coach isn’t themself a specialist or experienced, wrong information gets passed on. This lack of skills gives birth to more unskilled employees. 

Lack of Time

Lack of time can hold many leaders back from training or coaching an employee. Sometimes they’d simply be too tired to add another thing to their tight schedules. Coaching leadership styles require a lot of time. Firstly, for being prepared, researching, coaching, and then evaluating the progress of an employee.

Coaching Can Be Hard

 Even for most competent managers, coaching can be a hard job. It requires a well-planned strategy to train someone in things they aren’t experienced with. Most managers would hesitate with the coaching process because it requires a lot of energy and resources. Another downside is that coaching leadership may not be the right thing for organizations that are strictly result-driven.

Coaching Leadership Style Examples

Some coaching management style examples or scenarios are as follows:

Career Decisions

An employee may need coaching if they have to change careers within the company. As a coaching leader, you can help them decide what’s best for them. This is especially important in training them with skills that the new career may require.

Changing a Behavior

If an employee’s behavior is affecting others or the organization, they may need help in adapting to new behavior. For example, to an employee who never submits their work, you will coach them on time management skills.

Improving Performance

For underperforming employees, you will teach them skills to be productive. You will monitor their progress and help them evaluate their own performance. 

Problem Solving

An employee will need the most help from you in problem-solving. To solve a problem you will help them with techniques like mind mapping, brainstorming, laying out all the options, and putting aside the pros and cons of each and storytelling. Brainstorming involves a bunch of people thinking of various ideas and the one that is suitable is adopted. In mind mapping, you visualize a problem and connect it to its solutions. In storytelling, you visualize your problem by creating a story and find reasonable solutions through that. 

Goal Setting

Setting a goal is one of the most common skills that an employee needs assistance with. Use the following proven ethics to coach them on goal setting:


Coach them how a goal should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. This framework is the most popular with general goals such as completing a project.


Another proven goal framework is OKRs which stands for objectives and key results. This framework helps employees set measurable goals and track their outcomes.

The Bottomline

Coaching leadership is important to have a flexible environment at work. Command and control leadership isn’t as successful in today’s era. Guiding, coaching, and training your employees is a fast and effective way to have a good working relationship and a healthy work culture.


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