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What is coaching leadership?

As a leadership development platform, we believe that all leaders can benefit from receiving coaching and also being coaches themselves. That’s why we’re excited to introduce this article in our leadership style series, which puts the spotlight on a newer but increasingly popular leadership style: coaching leadership.

Definition: what is coaching leadership?

Coaching leadership is one characterized by collaboration, support, and guidance. Coaching leaders are focused on bringing out the best in their teams by guiding them through goals and obstacles. This leadership style is very much opposite to autocratic leadership, which is focused on top-down decision making. 

The difference between coaching and managing

You may be wondering what the difference between a coaching leader and a manager is. To clarify: we believe all managers have the potential to become coaching leaders. But it’s a skill that needs to be learned since management has historically been about directing employees, delegating work, and driving a specific business outcome. 

But in the 21st century workplace, this strict management style of leadership doesn’t really align with the priorities of most organizations, which is why coaching leadership is becoming more widespread. This leadership style focuses on developing individuals, nurturing the learning process, and focusing on long-term improvements. Companies are recognizing the value of this approach and investing more into training leaders to be coaches. 

What are the pros and cons of coaching leadership?

While the coaching leadership style is generally viewed as a positive and effective form of leadership, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right fit for every leader or organization. To help you determine whether this style would work well for your needs, we break down the pros and cons below: 


  • Encourages two-way communication and collaboration
  • Involves lots of constructive feedback
  • Facilitates the personal and professional development of individuals
  • Focuses on being supportive, not judgmental 
  • Creates opportunities for growth and creative thinking 


  • Resource intensive since it requires a lot of time and energy
  • Doesn’t always lead to the fastest, most efficient results 
  • May not be the ideal choice for high-pressure or strictly results-driven companies

How to apply coaching leadership

Despite minor drawbacks, we believe that the benefits outweigh the downsides when it comes to coaching leadership. That’s why we encourage organizations to invest in developing the coaching capacity of their managers and leaders. Even if they’re not going to use this style of leadership all the time, having that skill in their back pocket will be incredibly valuable to your company. To effectively apply coaching leadership, there are a few key competencies that leaders must first develop: 

Give effective feedback

One of the most important aspects of the coaching leadership style is being able to effectively provide feedback. This means delivering feedback in a way that’s both clear and actionable – regardless of whether it’s positive or constructive. Giving feedback is a skill that takes practice, so don’t wait until your annual performance review to flex those muscles. Instead, create a culture of continuous feedback and get in as much practice as you can. 

Promote growth

Another aspect of coaching leaders is that they don’t reprimand individuals for short-term failures or mistakes. Instead, they’re focused on the long-term success and growth of the people they manage. This means that, as a coaching leader, it’s critical to adopt a growth mindset, which emphasizes that skills and intelligence can be cultivated and aren’t set in stone. This type of mindset will help individuals to think more creatively, not be afraid to make mistakes, and feel supported instead of judged. 

Ask good questions

Finally, the coaching leadership style is all about empowering individuals and teams to be their best selves. To achieve this, coaching leaders need to refine a few key skills. One of those skills is to be able to ask good questions. Coaching leaders don’t tell people what to do. Instead, they guide individuals to come to the right decisions or answers on their own. Asking discerning questions is a great way to do this. The best ways to develop these skills are to practice them everyday, receive training, or ask for feedback from your team on how you can improve. Also, as we mentioned above, coaching leadership is all about two-way communication so make sure to be equally receptive to answering questions as well. 

Coaching leadership is a great style to familiarize yourself with, as it’s one that you’ll likely encounter more and more in today’s workplaces. If this is a leadership style you want to adopt for yourself, simply follow the guidelines we shared above to get started. 

Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your own leadership style can help you better identify which approach is best for your current role. Check out our ebook, 10 Leadership Styles You Should Know, to learn more about different approaches to leadership and when and how to apply them.