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What is a coaching leadership style?

What is a coaching leadership style - Empowerment Coaching Kraków Blog

The coaching leadership style is an approach that creates a culture of high performance at work, but also supports a sense of individual satisfaction. The hallmarks of this culture are collaboration, empowerment, and individual fulfillment. Collaboration is the most important of these characteristics and often contrasts with a "command and control" approach that suppresses individual potential.

In addition to explaining what a coaching leadership style is and where it comes from, we will also provide an example of what a coaching conversation with an employee looks like and how much impact it has compared to the classic approach.

You will also find links to supplementary information, e.g. to a comprehensive study entitled 'Leader as a coach', which contains, among others, examples of specific questions and coaching tools that a manager can use in coaching conversations with an employee.

At the end of the article, you will find a link to a free ebook that allows a leader to build the psychological safety of an employee thanks to the technique of asking coaching questions.

The foundations of the coaching leadership style of management

Coaching leadership and management encompasses coaching mindsets and behaviors, combining them to create the best kind of leadership possible. This is done by focusing on getting the best out of each team member.

The coaching style of leadership and management is based on specific skills. It is also deeply rooted in ethics. Its key elements are:

  • Partnership and cooperation

  • Faith in human potential

  • Trust and security

  • Pure intention

  • Continuous learning and development

  • Strong questions

  • Active listening

  • Feedback

In recent times, due to the impact of the Covid-19 epidemic, empathy is also becoming increasingly important.

Who is the creator of the coaching leadership style?

The pioneer of the coaching style of leadership was Sir John Whitmore, widely recognized as the father of modern business coaching. It all began in the late 1970s when Sir John brought to Europe the concept of The Inner Game created by Tim Gallwey for the sports community.

A group of IBM executives who had experienced the concept as skiers asked if they could bring it to their company. They were very intrigued by this method of releasing human potential. Sir John accepted the challenge and the 'leader-coach' approach was born.

This is what Sir John Whitmore said about it:

“A leader’s task is simple: to get the job done and develop employees. Coaching is one process with both effects.”

What is a coaching leadership style - 2 - Empowerment Coaching Kraków Blog

What is the difference between a coaching leadership style and a traditional management style?

The traditional "command and control" management style is one where leaders know best and have all the answers (or feel they should). The coaching style of leadership, on the other hand, creates a collaboration between the leader and team members that empowers everyone. The introduction of this change puts people behind the wheel of their actions.

The video below shows this fundamental difference live in 5 minutes:

Is the coaching approach related to emotional intelligence?

In the book entitled "Coaching for Performance", known as the "Bible" of business coaching, Sir John Whitmore explains that coaching is the practice of emotional intelligence. It is primarily a mindset, a way of being, not just a set of skills.

What are the advantages of a coaching leadership style?

Among the most immediate benefits are the reduction of stress both for team members who feel more empowered and for leaders who no longer feel they have to give all the answers. Independent studies also show a measurable improvement in employee engagement and the hard bottom line (please see the post: History of Coaching).

Leaders who adopt a coaching approach are called "leader-coaches". They increase their people's sense of responsibility and self-confidence. They offer choice wherever possible while providing a good balance between support and challenge.

According to Performance Consultants, co-founded by Sir John, the benefits of this change of style are far more far-reaching and affect not only professional life but life in general.

"It will change your life, not just the way you work with others."

The feature was written based on materials from Performance Consultants.


I also invite you to visit a special subpage on our website, which is part of the coaching knowledge library and is entitled

There you will find, among others:

  1. An intriguing comparison of two leadership styles: Leaders focused on solving problems and achieving results and Leaders acting as a coach

  2. Four specific tools that you can start using immediately and start practicing the coaching style of management

Leader as a Coach - tools - Empowerment Coaching Krakow


In addition, the Empowerment Coaching website has a free e-book in pdf file format entitled "The Engaging Leader Questions Library".

There you will find sets of specific questions that are used to develop and practice a coaching style of leadership and management.

Their great advantage is that they build the psychological safety of the employee and thanks to that they naturally increase engagement and motivation.

In this free PDF e-book, you will also find a special chapter supporting the work of a leader on yourself. And in it, among other things, an orderly process of collecting feedback about yourself. Of course, based on properly formulated coaching questions.

The Engaging Leader Questions Library - free pdf ebook - Empowerment Coaching Krakow

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