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The Leader-as-a-Coach Model: A New Cultural Construct for Today's Workplace

Coaching leader shares wisdom and knowledge
The Coaching Leadership Approach

Culture is a popular topic these days, and for good reason: working conditions drive everything from creativity and innovation to discretionary effort and self-motivation or else lead to low performance and productivity and premature turnover. It’s easy to describe what a healthy culture should look like, but it’s much more difficult to attain and maintain one. Culture is simply the way an organization does things in addition to what it encourages and values. Culture encompasses leadership style, multigenerational inclusion, conflict resolution, ethics and morals, diversity orientation, strategic thinking, operational tactics, and so much more. When you get right down to it, though, it’s an organization’s style, philosophy, and mission all wrapped up into one big corporate persona.

Workplace Culture Impact


The leader-as-coach model influences culture significantly. It focuses on values held by management that heavily influence the work experiences of teams and individual contributors. And while you can’t change the culture of your entire organization yourself, you have the power to create your own subculture in your department or team that influences all members’ experiences of working at your company and, more importantly, working for you.


The leader-as-coach model creates a culture of strategic clarity, clear goals and objectives, high expectations for success, and ongoing accountability. It’s based on building a relationship of trust, tapping a person’s potential, building commitment, and executing goals. Coaching bases itself on the assumption that everyone can grow and that everyone has the potential to become something better, regardless of the point of departure. It focuses purposely on building self-confidence, challenging paradigms, providing effective real-time feedback, and listening empathically (i.e., with your eyes and your heart in addition to your ears). It challenges people to reframe their point of view, find their own solutions, and set their own goals and achievement markers.

Selfless Leadership


The coaching model stems from the principle of selfless leadership, where leaders put others’ needs ahead of their own and expect them to respond in kind. It accepts the premise that no job is great enough for the human spirit and asks a humble question: How many of you believe you possess far more talent, ambition, competence, skill, and passion than your current job permits you to express?


And understanding that a majority of workers will acknowledge the limitations placed on them by time, resources, and yes— their leaders’ personal shortcomings or lack of engaging work—it attempts to help those being mentored to reinvent themselves, execute their predesignated goals flawlessly, and celebrate achievements and accomplishments. It stems from your pure concern for others’ well-being. It thrives on your willingness to listen, to have someone’s back, and to encourage someone to be their best self—marrying both individual career and company interests. It’s about emotional intelligence, active listening, light-handed guidance in which you ask questions more than give answers, and fun and laughter. In short, it’s about otherness.


You’ve likely experienced this already in your career but may not have realized it. Did you work for someone who made you feel like your opinion mattered, who challenged you to do things you didn’t necessarily feel you were ready for, or who otherwise made you somehow feel special? If so, then you had an amazing coach who demonstrated selfless leadership firsthand.

The Leader-as-a-Coach and Role-Model Boss


The question to ask yourself now is, how will you pay it forward? How will you become that person to those that follow you? Do you want to be known as a person who is excellent at growing teams, turning around flagging groups, and developing high-potential employees who may not have seen in themselves what you saw in them?


Selfless leadership, emotional intelligence, and genuine care are the ingredients needed to make a coaching culture work. Never forget, the whole world is watching you. They’re watching for the gift you’re about to give them. Give a gift of encouragement, genuine concern, lightheartedness, and celebration. The culture of your immediate team may not be reflected company-wide, but your team will become the one that everyone wants to work on, you’ll be the leader that everyone wants to work for, and results will naturally follow. That’s what a coaching culture creates. That’s how it changes the personality of the company over time. Best of all, it can start right here, right now, as long as you’re willing to be the first domino.

Adapted from The First-Time Manager: HR by Paul Falcone (HarperCollins Leadership, May 2024) Consulting Services


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