Leader Coach or Manager Coach?

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Many people ask me why I call our training program Leader Coach while other coaching schools refer to Manager Coach instead. I think the choice of the term depends on what your view of leadership is.

The first reason that I prefer the term “leader coach” rather than “manager coach” is that management is associated with ensuring that processes work properly, bringing order, organizing and controlling. Whereas leadership is associated with dealing with people, creating a vision, establishing trusting relations, motivating, empowering others.  John Kotter wrote a ground-breaking paper in 1990 called “What leaders really do” on the difference between the roles of leader and manager, how both are necessary in the working world and how everyone can become proficient in both.

When you look at what coaches do, talking with people, developing talent, empowering others and helping them be accountable, it is much closer to leadership than management. The competencies required for coaching overlap with those of effective leadership, for example, self-management and emotional intelligence, or advanced communications skills such as listening, reflecting, questioning.

Of course, most professionals do both, a bit of leading and a bit of managing, but when they coach it’s a distinct aspect of the way they express their leadership. In a certain sense, you can see coaching as being a leadership style.

Many people are still attached to an early concept of leadership. The studies at the beginning of the 20th century portrayed leaders as being greater-than-life figures, with specific innate traits that enabled them to have a strong influence on a loyal following. Although this model is generally considered outdated in the world of leadership studies, the myth of the super-human leader remains in the back of people’s minds. It has a certain fascination about it. There’s a widely-held assumption that you need special characteristics, or you must have a high-level position to be a leader.

This means that most employees are reluctant to identify with the word “leader”, they might feel it is pretentious or at least a bit inflated, or simply that they don’t have the “level” or “power” to be a leader. If this is your view of leadership, then the term “manager coach” probably feels less threatening, more comfortable!

I like to push back against this because I want to encourage everyone to recognize their leadership capabilities, irrespective of their professional position. I think everyone, individuals, and companies would benefit from this recognition of talent.

In line with many contemporary leadership theories, I believe that leadership does not belong only to some people at the top of a hierarchy. Everyone expresses leadership at different moments at work or in life in general. So, while it’s true that some people have ongoing leadership responsibilities as part of their job, others may be called upon to express their leadership at given moments, for example, if they have to lead a project, or if they suddenly have to mobilize a number of colleagues to solve an urgent problem. All of us can cite an example of someone we know who suddenly rose up to the occasion, or who is highly influential without being a classical “boss”.

I remember in a company where I was working on culture change, I asked who the most influential person was, other than the CEO. It turned out to be the head of the client-care desk. This line-manager was so positive, client-oriented and dynamic, that she had built a reputation for being a problem-solver. Senior executives from client companies would contact her directly to ask for a tip or a connection, and she would always find a solution or get other colleagues to find one.

The notion of leader has expanded from someone in an appointed position, like a chief of a department, to someone who has the ability to positively influence others to take action, maybe just for a given time, irrespective of their hierarchical position.

Most importantly we now know that leadership, including the ability to coach – which is a key leadership skill – can be learned and constantly improved upon!  

Many studies show that professionals who already have leadership responsibilities find that learning how to coach helps them enormously to improve the quality of their relations at work, to boost their own confidence as individuals who can live in accordance with their values and contribute meaningfully to their work environment.

Here’s what Paul A. Stodden, Group President of Siemens, cited in Making Coaching Work by Clutterbuck & Meggison, 2005, says about the impact of professionals having learned to coach in their company.

“We have experienced that continuous pressure on hard factors produces limited long-term results, while coaching helps break down barriers to trust and to manage increased complexity as well as encouraging a mutually supportive culture. In this way, it directly supports our business success.

Wherever you are on your journey, I hope you feel confident that you are already connected with your innate leadership capabilities, and that you can develop them further by learning how to coach at work!

Saba Imru-Mathieu(180x180)

Are you ready to step up your leadership presence and transform stressful workplace situations? Here’s your opportunity to learn a unique combination of state-of-the-art, breakthrough strategies at our upcoming workshop.

“Leader Coach – Foundations of coaching at work”, in Geneva 14-15 September, 2018
Learn more and get your ticket  www.leaderstoday.news/LeaderCoachSept2018

© 2018 Saba Imru-Mathieu, Co-Founder Leaders Today



Categories: Leader coach

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