The Leader As Coach

Defining the role of leader 

  • As an expert who has answers?
  • A mentor who trusts team members to be responsible?
  • A champion who connects, supports and challenges teams?
  • An authority who inspires and directs what needs to happen and when?

Amid complexity and rapid change, today’s leadership is evolving. As the Co-Active Training Institute (CTI) suggests, leadership can come from in front, behind and beside, from the system and within. With the emergence of methodologies such as Agile, leaders find themselves not only serving as guides, experts, mentors, champions and authorities, but actively adopting a coaching skillset and culture throughout their organizations.


The idea of a coaching culture may come as a paradigm shift, a re-evaluation of what leadership looks like. It can also be a revelation as you recognize an approach which supports what you already believe.


In incorporating a coaching mindset, leaders encourage conversation and connection, individual responsibility and shared accountability and growth and development in an organizational team.

Different types of leadership

  • Core leadership is about understanding yourself as a leader, and developing the skills and presence needed to support your team members as they take an active role.
  • Collective leadership draws on the combined intelligence of a team.
  • Change leadership empowers the collective to notice what is trying to happen and work with emergence.

Why should organizations invest in adding coaching to the leadership mindset? This question speaks to the essential work of supporting systems as they move forward with an inspired, aligned and grounded purpose. A coaching approach to leadership is key to empowering the collective intelligence within a system, and fostering a collaborative and generative culture.

You may lead from the very top of a company, or influence others as a manager, a human resources professional or an organizational development consultant. Perhaps you are a leader who simply wants to create connection within a team or community.


We all have different definitions of leadership. In fact, effective leadership can look quite different from organization to organization. Using coaching principles to actively encourage connection recognizes that when the relationship is right, the work flows from that.

What is a coaching culture?

As a team coaching approach filters throughout an organization, we begin to recognize that leadership comes from everyone, and extends beyond titled leaders.

A coaching culture:

  • establishes mutual goals and values
  • taps into collective intelligence and the potential of everyone involved
  • addresses and works through conflict
  • and relies on open communication and collaboration to advance change.

In this environment, vulnerability is respected and team members are able to discuss their hopes and fears. Over and over, we hear people say that learning how to openly address and navigate these emotional undercurrents helps to navigate conflict and align on how to move forward together. Frequently people begin to use coaching skills in their personal lives, within their families, and in multiple contexts.


What is a coach?

Recognized coaching accreditation bodies, including the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC), along with coach training schools such as CTI and CRR Global, have established principles and competencies used by professional coaches.

Leaders can draw on these concepts and skillsets in creating a coaching culture in their organizations.

Concepts drawn from the ICF coaching competencies include:

  • fostering an open, curious and flexible mindset
  • creating clear agreements about the working relationship, process, plans and goals
  • maintaining a safe, supportive environment which nurtures trust
  • remaining responsive, actively listening and inviting ideas about how to move forward
  • partnering in designing goals, actions and accountability
  • and using a reflective approach to build from what has been learned.

Ideas from CRR Global’s systems coaching principles suggest:

  • each team or system has a unique identity
  • systems are constantly changing and emerging
  • a collective is naturally intelligent, generative and creative
  • every member of the team is a voice of the system
  • and systems rely on roles to organize and carry out functions.


What’s the value of a coaching culture?

Often, leaders adopt a coaching approach after seeing how successful team coaching can be within their organizations.

Novalda worked with one team which had experienced seven different leaders in the space of three years. A toxic culture had left them exhausted, burned out and lacking in energy, enthusiasm and efficacy.

After the coaching engagement ended, we returned to follow up on how the team was doing. It was an entirely different team. While they had experienced more shifts and had new people join the team, the team was now capable of riding the ups and downs.

Team members were talking to each other more, understanding one another better, and no longer played the blame game. They were smiling.

While before the coaching engagement people had regularly been calling in sick. Now, everyone was at work.


It’s fascinating to watch the ripple effect as team members recognize the value of coaching tools and skills which foster strong connection and relationship. Recognizing how well their own group is functioning,  they want to extend the coaching into other divisions and across the organization.


Often, clients share stories with us of using a tool learned in a team engagement to great success in their private lives.

Once you begin to extend a coaching culture so that you’re working with teams of teams, it really takes off. Life grows in those edges between different subsystems in the organization, and in the intersections where something new can emerge.

With more organizations beginning to actively develop a coaching culture, the next frontier may be co-leading, and creating formal and informal space for reflective practice.

In serving as coaches, titled leaders become able to be vulnerable and open, to speak to what’s really happening, and to recognize that they do not have to supply all of the answers. The entire culture and energy of an organization changes. Colleagues discover how to create relationships capable of navigating conflict and nurturing connection, so that they can deal with complexity and move forward in aligned and mutual purpose.

Imagine the possibilities and the potential as coaching principles, skills and tools filter through and come into use across our entire society.


As director of Novalda,Kerry Woodcockdevelops core, collective and change leadership capacity in leaders, teams and organizations, coaching pioneers and influencers to amplify the power of relationship and lead over the edge of change. 

Question | Does the idea of adding coaching to your skillset appeal to you?

If so, let’s connect to discuss possibilities.


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Novalda Coaching & Consulting Inc.