Leadership Coaching And What It Can Do For Your Career
For the longest time, we have entertained the concept of some people being “born leaders”, coming into this world gifted with the characteristics of one who is able to lead and motivate.
However, as time went by, and more studies and researches were made into human behavior and the extent of man’s capabilities, there were several who postulated that, while some exceptional characters may have been born with the knack for leadership, most leaders are actually made and not born.
THEORIES ON LEADERSHIP
The idea that leaders are “born and not made” was presented in two theories. First is the Trait Theory of leadership, which basically states that people are born inherited leadership traits, and that if they have the right combination and the right amount of these traits, they are destined to become good, even great, leaders.
The Great Man Theory took the same stance, saying that being a leader is something that one is born with, and his greatness as a leader will come out when it is greatly needed. This theory even attached a degree of mysticism to the personality of a leader, who just “magically appears” when there is a need for him.
Of course, behavioral theorists eventually came out to refute this, taking the other side of the argument by saying that anyone can become a good leader if he undergoes a learning process. Leadership is not something that is inherited and embedded in the genes, because it can be acquired and learned through perception, teaching, training, practice and experience, over a long period of time.
As discussed by Brigette Hyacinth, author of The Edge of Leadership: A Leader’s Handbook for Success, leadership is an ART, more than a SCIENCE. It is also a matter of timing, and there is a great degree of dependence on certain factors such as the environment, location, and other external forces. Most of the time, leadership is also a choice.
While she agrees that leadership is comprised of a set of traits and qualities that are innate in the individual, these traits and qualities are stimulated, refined and perfected through both formal and informal education, training, learning and experience. At the end of the day, the individual will decide whether to be a leader or not.
Most theorists reconciled the two sides of the leadership coin by saying that leaders are partly born and partly made. In any case, there is an unspoken acknowledgement that leadership – or at least parts or aspects of it – is learned. In structured environments, leadership programs are institutionalized. One of the initiatives included in such programs is leadership coaching, now seen as one of the most essential tools for personality and professional development.
LEADERSHIP COACHING DEFINED
John Whitmore defined coaching as “unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance” and basically describes it as “helping the person to learn, rather than teaching him”. In a coaching relationship, there are two parties: the coach and the person being coached. More than as an expert or a highly knowledgeable and authoritative figure, however, the coach is one helps the individual to learn. He is not a teacher; he is a learning facilitator.
Many take coaching as one and the same with mentoring, but there is a slight difference. The coach helps you to discover new ways of learning; the mentor will guide you by showing you exactly how to do something. Thus, it is expected that the mentor must have extensive knowledge and experience, enough to call him an expert.
In the context of leadership coaching, where coaching is referred to as the process of helping an individual to unlock his or her own potential, the objective is to release the leadership traits and qualities that are within the individual, to enable him to develop into a good leader.
According to the Executive Coaching Handbook, leadership coaching is an experiential and individual leader development process that builds a leader’s capability to achieve short- and long-term organizational goals.
Again, let us be clear about this: Leadership coaching is not about teaching an individual how to be a good leader. Instead, it is about helping that individual to learn how to be a good leader.
Other terms used to refer to leadership coaching are “business coaching” and “executive coaching” aimed primarily at leaders. In this relationship, there are the two parties typical in any coaching relationship. There is the coach and the leader, or any individual put in a leadership or supervisory role, performing functions that involve being responsible for other people, say a team, a division, or a business unit. However, there is a third party in this relationship, and that is the organization where the leader belongs to.
All three work collaboratively throughout the coaching process, forging a partnership that will help the leader develop and grow and, in the process, aid the organization in the attainment of its goals and objectives.
THE IMPORTANCE OF LEADERSHIP COACHING
Business is filled with risks and uncertainties, and the constantly evolving business landscape – from economic conditions and industrial or market trends, to technological developments and ever-shifting values and priorities, business organizations always have to stay on their toes to keep up, and stay ahead.
Often, this involves businesses having to adapt to changes and evolve with the times. From time to time, businesses have to reinvent themselves, and this requires a similar reaction on the part of the members of the organization. Employees must update their skills and, obviously, the leaders of the company have to take the lead, no pun intended.
Thus, we can name the following reasons why leadership coaching is necessary.
- To stay competitive. As discussed earlier, leaders and businesses have to keep up with the fast pace of change in the business world. It is so easy to be left in the dust as others go full speed ahead, but coaching will help ensure that you are able to keep pace with the rest of them… and even take the lead.
- To resolve problems and issues. Coaching can help leaders recognize solutions for problems in a quicker and more efficient manner. While it is true that they may eventually get there, and find that solution, getting a little help through coaching can speed things up a bit, so that problems are resolved in a shorter time, and with less waste or expense.
- To aid in professional growth and development. Leaders have a natural inclination to map out a career, identifying ways to keep them on track and to allow them to advance faster. Coaching is one of those ways. There is a need to acknowledge the reality that there are things that we cannot do alone and, even if we can do it, the road is not going to be as easy as we would want them to be. Coaching will help ease that path a little, and help leaders attain their career and professional goals. You will also find that organizations have one pervasive reason for engaging coaches for their leaders, and that is to develop the capabilities of their high-potential performers.
- To foster personal growth and development. Through coaching, an individual gets to take a look inside himself and come to terms with some (often harsh) realities about his personality that may be hindering him from becoming a more mature and better individual. Aside from transforming the quality of one’s working life, leadership coaching also involves the transformation of an individual’s personal life.
CHARACTERISTICS OR FEATURES OF LEADERSHIP COACHING
Ask around, and you will find that people have various misconceptions about leadership coaching. Let us try to clear things up by taking a closer look at its features or characteristics.
- A prerequisite of leadership coaching is a strong and honest desire by an individual to be coached and the willingness to be put to work. The leader must really want it in order to fully welcome whatever the coach will make him do.
- Coaching is present- and future-oriented. The coach is unlikely to look at the past and analyze history. Instead, he will look to the present and find patters, then use them to move forward into the future. This makes sense, really, because the goal of leadership coaching is to make better future leaders.
- Usually, it is conducted one-on-one, with the coach and the individual interacting with each other. There are instances, however, when leadership coaching can be performed involving group or panel interactions.
- This is based on mutual trust and respect between an individual and his coach. It involves a relationship between partners, meaning it is an equal partnership, with the coach and the leader working together to achieve a common goal, and not the coach working for the leader to bring out the best in him. Both parties know the goal, and they are in agreement on how to go about achieving it.
- Coaches, in general, are hired externally. This lends more than a small degree of objectivity to the relationship, since the coach will be free from dangers of self-interest getting in the way of working with the leader to help him to learn.
- Leadership coaching can be customized and tailored to fit the individual being coached. This is one of the things that distinguish it from training or mentoring, which are usually structured. The coach will take a look at the individual and come up with a coaching program specifically designed just for him
WHAT LEADERSHIP COACHING CAN DO FOR YOUR CAREER
Some of the most successful people – and great leaders in their own right – are in consensus about how leadership coaching can take you places. Examples of these great leaders that have tried coaching, and recommend it to others, are Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google.
Does this mean that leadership coaching is only for business founders and members of top management? Of course not. Receiving leadership coaching will also help those who are looking for ways to improve their chances of going up the ladder, and getting the best career opportunities out there.
This means that hiring the services of leadership coaches is not limited to organizations and corporations wanting their high performers to receive its benefits. Individuals with career aspirations and ambitions may also take the initiative to seek leadership coaching.
In the succeeding discussion, let us take a deeper look at what leadership coaching can do for your career and professional life.
Career advancement is often equated with tangible and hard results: faster promotions, higher pay, more incentives and benefits, increased recognition in higher and bigger circles, and more opportunities outside of the confines of your work.
Leadership Coaching helps employees to build a presence and influence in the organization.
Leaders-to-be – or employees who are not yet in an executive position – will be able to start establishing a presence in the organization with the help of a coach.
Getting executive coaching is a good idea if the employee is faced with a new challenge at work, such as a task or project that requires him to lead, or a job assignment that will require so much more from him than he is used to giving to his work. He could also turn to coaching when feedback from co-workers or evaluation from supervisors point to a shortcoming or limitation that he doesn’t know how to correct or rectify.
Together with the coach, he will learn how to deal with these challenges and, in the process, demonstrate professionalism, work ethic and effectiveness that will ping the radar of the powers-that-be of the company, and make them notice you and become aware of you as a member – and a potential executive and leader – of the organization.
For example, executive visibility may be increased when the individual demonstrates preparedness during meetings and company interactions. Through coaching, he will be learn how and when to speak, and what to say or even what to ask during these meetings. In the process, he will be able to draw all eyes on him, allowing him to better position himself for future employment and career opportunities.
Leadership Coaching increases self-awareness and, consequently, self-confidence.
One of the marks of being a leader is having confidence, not only in his people or staff, but especially on his skills and capabilities to lead other people, and lead them well.
Unfortunately, the realization that everyone has a unique set of skills within them has not occurred to everyone. Some of them have to be urged – or coached – into realizing this, and to recognize what these dormant leadership skills are, and refine and hone them to the point that they are, indeed, the tools that will propel them to a leadership role or position.
- Discovery of leadership skills and goals. Through leadership coaching, leaders will become aware of leadership skills they didn’t know they had, and realize leadership goals that they might not even be aware were brewing inside of them. This awareness will certainly make them more confident in performing their tasks, and this confidence will certainly draw the attention of top management.
- Awareness and acknowledgement of weaknesses. Self-confidence may also arise from knowing what your weaknesses are. Because of this, you will be more aware of your actions so that these weaknesses do not actually pull your down. Once you’ve also acknowledged where you are lacking, you can start finding ways to overcome them or, if not, at least to compensate for them.
- Awareness of others’ perception of you. The objectivity that leadership coaching gives is bound to rub off on you, allowing you to take a look at, and understand, how you are perceived by other people, especially those you are working with, and even those you are working for.
- Clarity on your personal and professional values. Coaching will make you understand what you value most in your personal and professional lives, and this will lead to greater conviction – another ingredient of self-confidence.
Leadership Coaching shapes an individual into a better strategist.
People will follow a leader with the ability to build effective strategies, and implement them in a way that gets results. If an individual is able to demonstrate this ability, he will be able to easily motivate other people to follow him and implement his strategies. They will trust in him, believing that he will lead them in the right direction.
A leadership coach will help the individual discover the strategist within him. Upon discovery, the natural response of the individual would be to seek ways to improve his strategy-building and strategy-implementation capabilities.
He will learn to become a better problem-solver, which is definitely a trait that every good leader must have. At a glance, he will be able to spot what the problem is – what is lacking, what is excessive, what is hindering the progress of a project – and immediately move on to determining how to address these problems.
What makes him better at building and implementing strategies, and how can a coach help?
- Increased and more in-depth knowledge. Working with a leadership coach will improve how the individual learns and acquires deeper learning or new knowledge. In fact, do not be surprised if the coaching sessions motivate him to seek more knowledge, even outside his job description or specification. This broadened interest means additional substantial knowledge that may open even more doors for him. Take, for example, a supervisor in the design team undergoing coaching for career advancement. His coaching resulted to an appetite or thirst for tasks other than design, so he starts taking interest in the technical aspect of production, where his designs are physically created. Thus, he will take the initiative to study specific parts of the manufacturing process so when a new project comes up combining design and production, he’d have a great shot at landing the plum job of leading it.
- Improvement of skill sets. Once the coach has awakened one’s desire for learning, the leader will be unstoppable in acquiring new knowledge and improving his skill sets. What skill sets he currently has will be improved and, in the process, he will also be able to gain new skills which, incidentally, will certainly push his attractiveness as a promotion prospect much higher.
- Determination of areas for improvement. It’s difficult to be objective and admit, on our own, that there are areas where we need to improve on, probably because we are lacking in some ways, or the standards are simply much too high and we are actually doing very well. Coaching brings a leader face to face with the reality that he has weaknesses, yes, but these can be easily improved on, so they can become assets instead of liabilities.
Leadership coaching may be a source of emotional support and encouragement.
Leadership coaching is not therapy or an interaction purposely conducted to make one party feel better. This does not mean, however, that it is completely devoid of emotion, because the coach may be seen as a source of emotional support. The coach is not prohibited from giving words of encouragement and strong signs of support to the leader he is coaching.
This emotional support and encouragement are strong motivators when it comes to career pathing and planning. Many employees refuse to take steps to seek higher positions in an organization mostly because they are afraid no one would support or encourage them. Any support, encouragement or positive words will work wonders for the leader’s self-confidence and push him to be one of the frontrunners for promotion.
We also must not discount the fact that emotional intelligence quotient or EQ is something that top management are looking for in the future leaders of the company. Any employee would want to be seen as someone that other people – especially those that they will lead – can easily connect to on an emotional level. Coaching brings the individual in touch with his inner self and tap into his emotions, improving his EQ and, consequently, his chances of getting that promotion.
A key factor at work when you want to advance your career is perception – of the executives who will make the decision on whether to promote you or not, and of the other employees who will decide whether to follow and respect you as their leader or not. All too often, it is all about the image that you are able to build for yourself in the eyes of others. The mere fact that you are voluntarily seeking leadership coaching will already give a lot of points in your favor and start shaping how others perceive or see you.
Certainly, there are a lot of tools and strategies that you can use to take your career to the next level, and leadership coaching is one of them. If you are truly determined to be up there sometime in the future, you have to be prepared to take that leadership position, and getting a coach is one of the first steps – and best investments – that you will ever make for your career.
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