The term Coaching Leadership was initially coined by Kenneth Blanchard and Paul Hersey which was later adopted by Daniel Goleman as his sixth Leadership style. 

Coaching Leadership involves a clear definition of the roles and responsibilities of the team, while also seeking their inputs regarding their competencies. The Leader acts as both the mentor and the decision maker, where priority is extended to more than completion as to also include a takeaway from the completed responsibility.

When and where is it used?

This style of leadership is most efficient in situations where the clock is not ticking against you, but the quality or pace of performance has a high potential for improvement. In this circumstance, using Coaching style leadership will help your team accrue more learning by instigating their learning curiosity along with positive guidance. When coaching style leadership is used, the Leader also takes the growth of employee skillset as a metric to be measured when evaluating their competency. The Leader then uses frequent communication to find potential opportunities for the growth of a team member and slowly nurture them to break their glass ceilings.

The Coaching Leader, not only points the way and direction to the teammate but also provides consistent encouragement and inspires the followers to perform better. This positive reinforcement cascades into a ripple effect throughout the team resulting in a positive work environment. The group tends to be more receptive to feedback and are focused on breaking their past milestones, as opposed to looking to their colleagues, thus eliminating the need for unfriendly competition, that may turn into workplace toxicity. 

Coaching Leadership is a potent method to transform the learning curve within the team members and help them break their own self imposed limitations. The Coaching leader uses the motto of "Learn to do it better", as the style primarily emphasizes on an exponential learning curve while also completing the task. 

These leaders are quick to gauge the potential for better performance within their team members and hence hold themselves accountable to help their employees reach it. The strength of Coaching Leadership is derived from the demand for personal growth set by the leader on the team. 

As company culture and values start scaling across the organizations, the advantage having coaching style managers becomes more evident they begin creating a work environment where their team has a clear idea of the big picture and also protection. These leaders turn into passionate advocates for their team in terms of resources, timeline, or even remuneration. Once these leaders have entirely grasped the performance trajectory of their reports and can visualize their progress, they will also start aligning their long term responsibilities into a novel, innovative, and fruitful ways. 

Who is more suitable to work with Coaching Leaders?

Coaching Leadership 1:1 conversations
Coaching Leadership 1:1 conversations

This leadership styles seem most favorable towards a responsible cohort of reports which tend to accept more than oppose and are more focused towards learning something out of every responsibility as opposed to mere execution.

With millennials becoming the most significant workforce segment, according to his Harvard Business Review article, they also tend to be very receptive to this style of Coaching Leadership. Frequent conversations with managers and discussions about their career trajectory are already a part of every career hungry 'millennial's bucket list. This leadership style adds on to it by providing them the learning and development that 'they're hungry for. Since millennials too come with the same expectations from a workplace, they tend to derive the maximum out of it. 

Though managing millennials do not include partaking in their mindset and their popular stereotypes, but learning and understanding their mindset could prove to be an excellent opening for a serious discussion, that they might be afraid to bring up. Once the younger generation of employees realize that their concerns are heeded and their actions noted, they tend to be more proactive and mindful about their requirements and needs which in turn fuels the coaching and performance cycle, Which in-turn becomes a win-win situation for both parties. 

Coaching style Leadership tends to be most effective when the reports acknowledge a lack of specific competency and are poised towards exponential career growth. Once they have admitted that they lack a particular skill set vital to their success, they tend to be serious about developing new skills. As the leader, one must be prepared to try out various methods to find out this aspect about their team. It could be a simple survey or a personal 1:1 conversation, but either way, the earlier the truth is out, the better insight the leader gains to align their team's responsibility with company goals accordingly. 

As a Coaching Leader, one must also be ready for the constant two-way communication between them and their employees to ensure useful guidance. It is imperative that they have the tools to acknowledge employee, concerns, give instant feedback, and be responsible for coaching a change without being invasive. 

Coaching leaders who can accomplish this feat tend to poise the team and organization for a consistent and exponential long term growth. If the employees are convinced, they are growing and learning they tend to stay longer, thereby reducing employee attrition. Fundamentally, the coaching style of leadership urges modern managers to let go of "managing" and turn towards fostering meaningful relationships to help their employees gain something out of their responsibilities.

Pros and cons of Coaching Leadership

Pros and Cons of Coaching Leadership
Pros and Cons of Coaching Leadership


The strength of Coaching Leadership stems from the 'Leader's ability to guide learning across the team. The apparent direction of a higher goal provides the team members with clarity regarding their competency and where they stand, while also the insights regarding how much do they need to grow to reach their peak potential. Since the Leader also emphasizes on two-way communication, while also inculcating learning, the focus becomes a commonality within the team. Team members are more focused on what they have to accomplish and start marking their milestones concerning their achievements. This mindset works wonders in groups where the members are cooperative but tend to learn slowly. Coaching leadership provides them with just enough time to recuperate, while also urging them to persist towards their long term goal slowly. 

When a coaching style leader is heading a team, everyone has something to learn, even in case of a multi-generational group. The leaders tend to mix and match these teams by giving the more senior workers a chance to work with millennials and vice-versa. Doing this helps neutralize the demographic stereotypes as they learn to produce results using their specific strength and weakness as a single unit. 

Coaching Leaders tend to: 

  • Develop incentive plans that reflect where your employees are in their lives
  • Conduct regular human resources survey to get a pulse on your 'employees' demographics and needs
  • Conduct frequent 1:1 employee conversations to help them understand their employee needs and goals better


  • Stereotyping - Coaching leadership tend to reinforce stereotypes, such as characteristics of millennials. This practice may become unfair since every one of us tend to bring our very unique selves in the workplace. 
  • Patronizing - In their quest for a better understand and opening up conversations, they may even "force" participation with different groups that may not necessarily be fruitful. Some can of worms are better left closed.
  • Assumptive - Some leaders think they know what's best for their team and tend to thrust initiatives while failing to foster real and straightforward communication.

Since Coaching Leadership is mostly used when the performance of the team has exponential growth potential, any employee who 'doesn't work to learn more from work may come across as uncooperative and insolent. The style of leadership heavily focuses upon improving the employee potential, and hence the non-cooperative employees who are execution oriented tend to face more backlash and may even be characterised as lackadaisical. 

Difference between Coaching Leadership and other Goleman leadership styles

Affiliative Leadership  and  Coaching Leadership

Affiliative Leadership

  • Cares about harmony
  • Bonding and connection-oriented
  • Helps form connections

Coaching Leadership

  • Cares about learning
  • Growth-oriented
  • Helps achieve potential

Visionary Leadership and Coaching Leadership

Visionary Leadership

  • Expects team to execute
  • Based on knowledge
  • Focus on execution

Coaching Leadership 

  • Aims to help the team grow
  • Based on communication
  • Focused on learning

Pace setting and Coaching Leadership

Pace-setting Leadership 

  • Cares about deadline
  • Prioritizes quality and execution
  • Impatient towards slow progress

Coaching Leadership 

  • Cares about learning outcome
  • Prioritizes long term knowledge
  • Patient and nurturing towards growth

Coercive Leadership and Coaching leadership

Coercive Leadership

  • Demands compliance
  • Looks untoward shortcomings
  • Emphasis on hierarchy

Coaching Leadership 

  • Sets goals
  • Help see mistakes
  • Emphasis on new skills

Democratic Leadership and Coaching Leadership

Democratic Leadership

  • Arrives at a consensus
  • Collaboration and decision-oriented 
  • Emphasis on common goals

Coaching Leadership 

  • Makes decisions alone
  • Gives weight to inputs
  • Emphasis on breaking limitation

Coaching Leadership characteristics
Coaching Leadership characteristics

6 characteristics of Coaching style Leaders

  1. Expert teachers  - coaching believes in nurturing the employee to grow oneself by identifying their weaknesses and help them leverage them as their strengths.
  2. Detailed Planners - They are good at articulating where the employee stands currently and how far they have to go to achieve the objective and communicate the same to their teams to ensure a clear understanding of expectations.
  3. Transformative - Coaching is especially fruitful when followed during times of organizational change or a liberal environment, as the leaders tend to leave their teams better than when they were. This persistence for personal growth is best aligned with the room to do so.
  4. Committed to learning - These leaders give so much liberty to learn new things and can significantly benefit those with a curious bent of mind and a zeal to learn. Doing this increases the overall skillset of every knowledge worker in the team and allows them to capitalize on it to grow further.
  5. Persistent - Coaching hardly gives results in the short term, and these leaders are blessed with the tremendous motivation it requires, their inspiration is often derived from the successful change they have impacted and the long term competitive advantage they have seen coming with the said change.
  6. Positive - Though this is a common characteristic between all positive leadership styles, coaching leaders are exceptionally positive towards employee concerns and are often the first to put themselves in their shoes. Unlike democratic and affiliative leaders, they tend to see how they can leverage every shortcoming into a winning hand.

A simple example of how Coaching Leadership plays out

Communicate with clarity

  • Help them understand how their current skill set has the potential to grow
  • Re-emphasis how further learning  will lead them towards achieving better results
  • Hi, Rob, I just spoke with Kristy, and she believes your designs can get much better concerning more inclusion of modern illustrations (communicate with clarity) 

I am entirely aware of how you only want the best designs for our site, but when compared with industry trends, ours looks a little bland. (Help them understand how their current skill set has the potential to grow) 

I have come across a few tools that I have e-mailed to you, though they have a significant learning curve, I believe using them will help you create quick illustrations while also saving much time in the long run. Let's make our website one of the best across our industry! (Re-emphasis how further learning will lead them towards achieving better results) 

How do I use the Coaching Leadership style? 

Those who choose to follow the coaching leadership tend to have one differentiating factor that other styles don't accommodate. These leaders are incredibly liberal concerning time and resources that they offer for their team. The realize real and sustainable growth takes time, and the only way to see results is to nurture the environment and not the people. If you are planning to use this style of leadership, it is best when your evaluation deems the situation to not be a constraint, in terms of time, resources, or opportunities. It is also best if your team is receptive but lacks understanding of the bigger picture, as that's where Coaching Leadership shines brightest. By inculcating big picture thinking along with a personal interest, you can poise your organization towards an exponential growth curve both as professionally and personally. 

This style of leadership also leans heavily on continuous feedback, including positive and negative. The Coaching leaders are also their teams best cheerleaders and engage in frequent recognition of employee achievements. If you believe you are an empathetic leader, you should start by understanding your employee sentiments and use Coaching Leadership to encourage your team to develop their strengths while also ensuring peak performance potential.

A Coaching leader is not a mere manager, but someone responsible for the growth of their team. If you find your team has plenty of room to grow with just the right kind of nudge, the Coaching Leadership style will be the right toolset for you to make the peak potential of your team a reality of everyday performance!