JKWhitehead & Associates

The Leader as Coach

The Leader as Coach

different-personThis week, as was the case last week, my post is triggered by a comment from one of the students in the class I teach at UBCO. The topic was Flow (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) and its impact on us. Which of our activities give us energy, and which drain us of energy? What dreams and goals do we have for ourselves that give us that feeling of “being in the zone?” To help the students reflect on this and talk about it, I had them divide into triads and do a coaching exercise. As this may have been their first foray into a coach/coachee experience, I spent some time upfront explaining what coaching was in the context of leadership. The exercise called for one of the triad to be the coach, another to be the coachee and the third student to be an observer. They had 10 minutes to coach the coachee around the questions presented and their reflections on a video and readings. The observer was to do nothing but observe. After the 10 minute “coaching session” the observer had 5 minutes to reflect on what they noticed.  This was repeated until each person in the triad had experienced all three roles.

The object of the class time was to have the students reflect on what “Flow” and being in the “Zone” might mean to them. It also presented the opportunity to introduce the concept of coaching as a leadership tool. This is where the comment from the student came in, and it concerned the idea of coaching in the business world and in organizations. How did coaching fit there, and how a leader can be a coach at the same time?

This illuminated for me, yet again, the way in which the concept of leader is tied to manager, even in these relatively young lives. For the majority of these students the concept of leader is the “boss”, one who tells them what to do and when to do it. It further convinces me about how important it is that we provide leadership programs or courses to young people — and not only young adults like these university students — providing opportunities for learning through experiences and teaching that reinforce the concept that anyone and everyone can be a leader. Research by Kouzes & Posner (The Leadership Challenge, Jossey Bass, 2012) has demonstrated that leadership abilities are learned and although some people are born with traits that assist them in leadership roles it does not in any way preclude others from taking on leadership roles.

All of which brings me back to the question posed by the student, and which got me thinking about this. First, not all managers are leaders and leaders need not be managers; and second, leaders also need in some to be way coaches: that the really good leaders bring to the role a coach approach that can bring out the best in their followers. The movement and growth of coaching cultures within organizations, although a relatively new phenomenon, is already providing some interesting outcomes. Higher retention rates, higher productivity and organizational effectiveness (A Study on the Effects of Coaching – ICF).  The leader as coach will be highly sought after as time goes on and data reflects the positive impact it can have.


Over the past two-plus years I have written and published over 70 posts on Leadership and Leadership development.   Click here to access my Leadership series directory:


John Whitehead, coaches’ individuals and organizations in becoming more effective by helping them improve their interpersonal communications, emotional intelligence and resiliency.


*******Are you wondering if having a Leadership/Personal Development Coach is right for you? Contact John for a complimentary, exploratory coaching session at [email protected]********


If you would like to get notifications for when I post, please go to my blog site and register. I promise I will not spam or use your email address for anything else. You can visit and register for my blog at https://johnkwhitehead.ca/blog-2/

Please follow and like us: