What Is Coaching Leadership Style [How to Develop One]

December 8, 2021

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Even the best leaders require guidance, motivation and a systematic process to be able to lead effectively. Corporate leadership coaching offers these decision makers powerful tools & methods with which they can become more self-aware, get deeper insights into inter-personal communication, think out-of-the-box, develop strategic planning & analytical skills, focus accurately on their issues, solutions and end goals to reach optimum potential, and finally improve personal and organisational performance. 

Coaching has many approaches and coaching leadership style is one of the most popular methods of management where leaders/managers themselves become coaches for their team members in order to deliver stronger and more effective management. Let’s find out more about coaching leadership style, how implementing it can deliver effective results for a company, and its challenges and benefits. 

What Is a coaching leadership style? 

Statistics show that leading organizations invest in leadership coaching for their top management to upgrade their competencies to prepare them for newer challenges and lead the company towards a successful future. 

While coaching, up until recently, was restricted for the topmost executives of the organization, an approach that is now steadily gaining popularity is the coach leadership style where organisations train leaders and managers at various levels to successfully take on the role of a coach for their team to help employees achieve their goals, find satisfaction in their careers and simultaneously work towards the larger goal of the organization.

Some well-known coaching leadership style examples include:

  • Democratic – an empathetic, balanced approach to coaching where the coach and client both work towards finding solutions to problems
  • Autocratic – a coach style leadership where decision-making is centered only in the hands of the top executives and decisions are passed down to subordinates without any discussion or input from team members
  • Laissez-faire – a more relaxed, hands-off coach leadership style that believes in delegating work to team members where there is trust between the coach and client  
  • Holistic – a more inclusive coach style leadership where the coach is often a role model to the client and the final outcome is the result of collective team effort

Leadership coaching style (the opposite of the autocratic coaching style where decision-making is a top-down process) is one where the leaders (who coach) focus on getting the best out of their teams by recognizing individual strengths & weaknesses, encouraging collaboration, being supportive of employee’s individual growth & providing guidance to employees so that they can achieve their goals – all of which finally (and collectively) results in improved outcomes for the organization. 

How to develop an effective coaching leadership style? 

When a top executive takes on the role of a coach, they become much more than just a strict manager to their team members.

The current leadership coaching style recognizes that human resources are a company’s true asset and having satisfied employees by supporting their individual development, nurturing their talents and respecting their career ambitions & goals is vital to an organization’s success (or failure, in case of absence).

Keeping in mind long-term goals and future transitions, many companies are training their leaders to become effective coaching leaders to their team. 

But becoming a coach to your team is not quite so straightforward. In order to be effective coaching leaders, leaders must improve on their existing competencies. Here’s how top leaders can develop an effective leadership coaching style:

a. Ask the right questions 

Effective coaching style of leadership is all about guiding your team members to understand their challenges and make the right decisions. As a leader, don’t tell your employees what to do, instead, communicate with them by asking discerning questions and subtly lead them to arriving at their own solutions.

But know that this is a two-way street, and you should be open to answering questions as well and receiving feedback from your team. 

b. Connect with your team 

Establishing trust via open, honest communication between team members and the leader is a must for any successful engagement. Once the team members are assured that their leader is only looking out for their best interests, they will be more forthcoming with their issues and aspirations.

It is necessary that the leader-as-a-coach connects with their team through positive interactions that are professionally supportive. 

c. Find out exact problem areas

Another way to develop an effective coaching leadership style is to make time to have frank conversations with the team to get a real handle on their ideas and perspectives. Personal interaction with team members can be helpful to the leader while determine the exact issues.

A solid understanding of your employees can help pinpoint the real problem and chart out an effective counter strategy to solve the issue. 

d. Encourage individual development 

A satisfied employee is one that stays. One of the best ways to ensure employee retention is to actively work towards their individual development. The leader-as-a-coach should find out their employees’ career advancement goals and support them on their path to achieving them.

To foster a positive environment, avoid harsh criticism for short-term disappointments and adopt a more long-term growth-oriented mindset that values the skills of employees more than minor setbacks. 

e. Keep a balance between appreciation & constructive feedback 

One of the delicate balancing acts that a leader needs to learn is to give praise and assessment in a fair manner. Appreciate the good work and success but also give frank, constructive feedback about areas that need improvement. As all human beings respond better to approval, ideally begin by pointing out areas of strength and then gradually transition to critique.

A leader needs to convey feedback in a manner that makes the employee understand that both – the good and not so good – are all coming from a place of genuine interest in the employee’s development. 

f. Follow up on tasks & set up accountability 

As a leader who is also a coach, it is not enough to only guide employees in bettering their performance – they need to make sure there is a regular follow-up on the assigned tasks. This can be done by setting up regular meetings with team members so that they understand that they are accountable for completing the assigned tasks.

Having a reward system (a public appreciation of their good work, extra time off for a job well done, personal note of thanks, small, fun gifts that convey their importance to the team, etc.) in place may also be a good way to motivate employees to perform better. 

g. Analyze own coaching style of leadership 

Just as a leader helps employees understand their strengths, weaknesses, motivations & goals to deliver an all-round improved performance, it is also imperative that they themselves have checks & balances in place to reflect on their performance as a coach every once in a while. 

Taking notes during sessions, getting direct feedback from employees on coaching style, reflecting on the positive points that have helped as well as the challenges that are yet to be met are some of the ways with which a leader can evaluate their own coaching style and find answers on how to improve the process even further. 

Benefits of a coaching leadership style

  • Establishes a positive, inclusive work environment
  • Improves communication between leader-as-a-coach & their team members
  • Provides uninterrupted & continuous leadership 
  • Encourages open & free thought process and novel ideation 
  • Promotes self-awareness & self-discipline
  • Assigns more responsibility & accountability to employees
  • Enables employees to realize their true potential 
  • Reduced employee turnover
  • Increased work productivity leads to improved all-round performance 
  • Results in positive outcomes for the organization 

Challenges of a coaching leadership style

  • Not enough qualified leaders available
  • Lack of time to have coaching sessions 
  • Uninterested and non-responsive employees make the process difficult
  • Vision of leader-as-a-coach and team members are unaligned 

Ultimately, a coaching style of leadership will deliver the desired results only if the coach and their team are on the same page. The success of any project depends on all the stakeholders putting in their best efforts.

And the same goes for a coaching leadership style – only when the leader who coaches and the team collectively work together to the best of their potential and create a successful coaching engagement, will it result in value addition for an organization.


1. What is leadership coaching and how is it beneficial?

Leadership coaching offers top professionals the tools and techniques to reflect on their goals & issues, explore novel ideas, and recognize their full potential to meet future challenges successfully. It has varied benefits for all stakeholders, the leader, the team members as well as the organization. 

Leadership coaching empowers leaders to become better leaders, encourages open thinking, infuses greater self-awareness and self-discipline, improves communication, provides deeper insight for strategizing and analysis, reduces employee attrition & promotes an inclusive, positive work culture.

All these benefits finally help deliver positive, measurable outcomes that align closely with the organization’s objectives & goals. 

Similarly, coaching style of leadership, a newer concept embraced by many organizations, trains leaders to coach their employees to improve individual & team performance, which in turn benefits the organization at large as well.

About Simply.Coach

Simply.Coach is an enterprise-grade coaching software designed to be used by individual coaches and coaching businesses. Trusted by ICF-accredited and EMCC-credentialed coaches worldwide, Simply.Coach is on a mission to elevate the experience and process of coaching with technology-led tools and solutions.  

About the author

An avid reader with love for books on history, sci-fi and popular fiction, Pallavi is a gifted content writer. She is also a keen listener of Indian semi & classical music. Currently, she juggles her duties of being a full-time mom with part-time content writing.

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