What is coaching leadership style: Benefits, examples, and steps to implement it in the workplace

Kailash Ganesh
12 min read
What is coaching leadership style?
What is coaching leadership style?

Have you ever wondered what it takes to lead a team like a pro? As the legendary basketball coach, John Wooden, once said, "A good coach can change a game; a great coach can change a life."

Now, I know what you're thinking – you might not be coaching the Lakers anytime soon (unless your side hustle is particularly lucrative), but trust me when I say that coaching leadership isn't just for the sports arena.

It's a game-changer for businesses of all shapes and sizes, and it could be the secret sauce you've been missing when it comes to skyrocketing employee engagement.

Picture this: a workplace where your team members are not just employees but partners in your quest for success. They're motivated, inspired, and genuinely excited to contribute their best. Sounds like a dream, right? Well, that's precisely what coaching leadership can do for you.

In this blog, we're going to break down what coaching leadership style focuses on, its pros and cons, the key skills required, and the challenges that a leader might face.

What is the coaching leadership style?

A leader coaching employees
What is the coaching leadership style?

Coaching leadership is about empowering your team members to be the best versions of themselves. It's not about barking orders or micromanaging every move. Nope, it's about asking questions, actively listening, and fostering an environment where growth and learning are the name of the game.

Here's the kicker: coaching leaders don't just focus on the what (the tasks at hand) but also the why and the how. They encourage their team to think critically, set their goals, and figure out the best way to achieve them. It's like giving them the keys to the castle and letting them navigate the kingdom.

Now, don't get me wrong; coaching leadership doesn't mean you're hands-off. Quite the contrary – you're deeply involved, but in a different way. You're there to provide guidance, offer feedback, and provide support when needed. It's a bit like being a GPS for your team – helping them stay on track while letting them take the scenic route if they want.

Coaching leadership style benefits

Leader coaching an employee
Coaching leadership style benefits

Incorporating coaching leadership into your management approach is significantly beneficial, ultimately creating a workplace that's productive and fulfilling for your entire team of members. Let’s take a look at the top benefits of this leadership style.

Enhanced employee engagement

Coaching leaders create an environment where employees feel valued and heard. By actively involving team members in decision-making and problem-solving, this leadership style boosts their engagement. Engaged employees are more committed, productive, and likely to stick around, reducing turnover costs.

Improved performance

Coaching leadership encourages individuals who lead teams to set and pursue their own goals. This approach fosters a culture of continuous improvement, where team members are motivated to achieve their personal best. As a result, you can expect enhanced overall performance and increased efficiency within your team.

Increased creativity and innovation

When employees are encouraged to think critically and come up with their own solutions, creativity flourishes. Coaching leaders empower their teams to explore new ideas and experiment with innovative approaches, which can lead to breakthrough solutions and a competitive edge in the market.

Strengthened relationships

Coaching leadership relies heavily on open communication and active listening. This helps build strong, trust-based relationships between leaders and team members. As a result, conflicts are minimized, and collaboration flourishes, leading to a harmonious work environment.

Leadership pipeline development

Coaching leaders are not just focused on immediate results; they invest in the long-term growth of their team members. By providing guidance, mentorship, and opportunities for skill development, they groom future leaders within the organization. This ensures a robust leadership pipeline and succession planning, which is crucial for sustained success.

How to be a coaching leader?

Employees are attending a coaching session from their leader
How to be a coaching leader?

Transitioning into a coaching leader is an exciting journey that can transform your leadership style and supercharge your team's performance. Here's a roadmap to help you make the shift:

1) Cultivate empathy and active listening: Start by developing your empathy muscle. Truly understanding your team's perspectives and challenges is crucial. Practice active listening—don't just hear; listen with the intent to comprehend.

2) Ask powerful questions: Coaching leaders don't have all the answers; they ask thought-provoking questions that guide team members towards finding solutions themselves. Encourage critical thinking by posing queries like, "What do you think the best approach is?"

3) Provide constructive feedback: Feedback is your coaching superpower. Offer specific, constructive feedback that focuses on behaviors and outcomes, not personal traits. Make sure it's actionable and aimed at improvement.

4) Set clear expectations: Establish clear goals and expectations collaboratively. Ensure that everyone understands their role and responsibilities. This clarity prevents misunderstandings and fosters accountability.

5) Encourage self-reflection: Encourage team members to reflect on their performance and growth. Ask questions like, "What did you learn from this experience?" This self-reflection fosters continuous improvement.

6) Foster a growth mindset: Embrace the idea that mistakes are opportunities for learning. Celebrate failures as stepping stones to achieve success again. A growth mindset creates a safe space for experimentation and innovation.

7) Offer support and resources: Be there to provide support and offer resources when needed. Coaching leaders are mentors who help their team members overcome obstacles and reach their potential.

8) Celebrate achievements: Recognize and celebrate successes, no matter how small. Acknowledging accomplishments boosts morale and motivation.

9) Lead by example: Model the behaviors and attitudes you want to see in your team. Your actions speak louder than words.

10) Invest in learning: Keep honing your coaching leadership skills yourself. Attend workshops, read books, and seek mentorship from experienced coaching leaders.

What are the pros and cons of coaching leadership style?

Employees are holding a thumbs down and thumbs up sign
What are the pros and cons of coaching leadership style?

Understanding the following pros and cons can help leaders tailor their coaching style to the unique needs and dynamics of their team and organization.


1) Increased employee engagement: Coaching leaders empower and involve team members in decision-making, which leads to higher levels of engagement, commitment, and job satisfaction.

2) Enhanced performance: Coaching leadership fosters a culture of continuous improvement, resulting in higher productivity and improved individual and team performance.

3) Develop future leaders: This style grooms employees for leadership roles by providing mentorship and skill development, ensuring a robust leadership pipeline.

4) Improved communication: Coaching leaders prioritize open, two-way communication, reducing misunderstandings and conflicts while strengthening team relationships.


1) Time-consuming: Coaching leadership requires significant time and effort, which may not be feasible in high-pressure or fast-paced environments.

2) Resistance to change: Some team members may resist a coaching approach, preferring traditional, directive leadership, which can create friction.

3) Potential for overload: Leaders may find themselves overwhelmed with the responsibility of guiding and mentoring team members, impacting their own workload.

4) Not always appropriate: Coaching leadership may not be suitable for every situation; there are times when a more directive approach is necessary, such as in emergencies or when specific expertise is required.

Coaching leadership style examples

A leader helping employees grow by watering them
Coaching leadership style examples

Here are two examples of coaching leadership styles:

1) Career development coaching

In this example, a coaching leader focuses on helping team members advance in their careers and achieve their professional goals. They engage in regular one-on-one conversations with team members to understand their aspirations, strengths, and areas for improvement.

The leader provides guidance, suggests relevant training or courses, and assigns projects that align with the individual's career objectives. The coaching leader also encourages self-assessment and reflection, asking questions like, "Where do you see yourself in the next five years?" This coaching style nurtures talent within the organization, boosts employee retention, and ensures a skilled and motivated workforce.

2) Problem-solving coaching

Here, a coaching leader guides the team through complex challenges or projects by promoting problem-solving skills. Instead of providing solutions, the leader encourages team members to brainstorm ideas, analyze options, and make decisions collectively.

The leader may use questions like, "What are the possible solutions to this problem?" or "How can we approach this project differently?"

This coaching style empowers team members to take ownership of their work, enhances critical thinking abilities, and fosters a sense of autonomy and responsibility. It's particularly valuable when innovative solutions are required or teams need to adapt to changing circumstances quickly.

Is a coaching approach linked to emotional intelligence?

A leader coaching employee with emotional intelligence
Is a coaching approach linked to emotional intelligence?

A coaching approach is inherently linked to emotional intelligence (EQ) because it relies on many of the key components that make up emotional intelligence. EQ encompasses the ability to recognize and understand one's own emotions, manage them effectively, and navigate the emotions of others with empathy and sensitivity.

In a coaching context, empathy is a critical aspect of emotional intelligence. Effective coaches must be able to perceive and comprehend the emotions and perspectives of the individuals they are coaching. This empathetic connection fosters trust and establishes a safe space for open and honest conversations, which are essential for effective coaching relationships.

Active listening is another core element of emotional intelligence that aligns with coaching. Coaches with high EQ excel in truly listening to what their team members are saying, not just in terms of words but also in understanding the underlying emotions and concerns.

This skill allows them to ask relevant and insightful questions that promote self-awareness and personal growth in those they are coaching.

Moreover, effective communication, which is central to coaching, requires emotional intelligence. Coaches with high EQ can convey feedback, guidance, and support in a manner that resonates with their team members.

They can adapt their communication style to suit individual team members' needs and emotional states, making the coaching process more productive and emotionally supportive.

In essence, a coaching approach and emotional intelligence go hand in hand, as they both emphasize the importance of understanding and managing emotions, building strong relationships, and facilitating personal and professional growth.

What are the challenges of coaching leadership?

Employees changing challenges to opportunities
What are the challenges of coaching leadership?

Navigating the following challenges requires dedication, adaptability, and a commitment to fostering a coaching culture within the organization. Overcoming these obstacles can lead to significant benefits in terms of employee development and team success.

Resistance to change

One of the primary challenges of coaching leadership is encountering resistance from team members who may be more accustomed to traditional, directive leadership styles. Some employees may find it challenging to adapt to a coaching approach, as it requires them to take more ownership of their development and decision-making.

Time and resource constraints

Effective coaching takes time and effort. Coaching leaders may struggle to allocate sufficient time for one-on-one coaching sessions, especially in fast-paced work environments. Additionally, providing ongoing support and resources for team members' growth can be resource-intensive.

Skill development

Not all leaders are naturally skilled coaches. Developing the necessary coaching skills, such as active listening, asking powerful questions, and providing constructive feedback, can be a significant challenge. It may require training and practice to become an effective coaching leader.

Balancing coaching with management

Coaching leaders often wear multiple hats, including managerial responsibilities. Balancing the need to manage day-to-day operations while also providing coaching and mentorship to team members can be demanding and require careful time management.

Measuring impact

Assessing the effectiveness of coaching leadership can be challenging. Unlike some leadership styles with more tangible metrics, such as sales numbers, the impact of coaching may not be immediately quantifiable. Evaluating whether coaching is leading to improved employee engagement, performance, and overall organizational success can be complex.

What are the three 3 basic coaching and leadership styles?

Each of the following leadership styles has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the most effective style often depends on the specific context and the needs of the individual team member, and organization.

1) Autocratic leadership: In this style of leadership, leaders make decisions unilaterally and exercise strict control over their team. They provide clear direction and expect compliance without much input from team members. While it can be effective in certain situations, it may stifle creativity and teamwork.

2) Democratic leadership: Democratic leaders involve team members in decision-making processes, seeking their input and feedback. This style fosters collaboration and creativity but can be time-consuming, especially when consensus is necessary.

3) Laissez-faire leadership: These leaders take a hands-off approach, granting significant autonomy to their team members. While this style encourages independence and innovation, it can lead to a lack of direction and accountability if not managed effectively.

Coaching leadership style KPIs

Employee is building block that spells out "KPI"
Coaching leadership style KPIs

Here are the top 5 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for measuring coaching leadership effectiveness:

1) Employee engagement: Monitor employee engagement levels through surveys or feedback mechanisms to gauge how well coaching leadership is fostering commitment, motivation, and satisfaction among team members.

2) Individual performance improvement: Track individual team member's performance metrics, such as productivity, quality of work, or goal attainment, to assess whether coaching is leading to tangible improvements.

3) Team productivity: Measure overall team productivity, efficiency, and collaboration to determine if coaching leadership is contributing to enhanced group performance.

4) Retention rates: Monitor employee turnover rates to see if coaching leadership is helping retain talent within the organization, as engaged and well-coached employees are more likely to stay.

5) Feedback and professional development: Assess the frequency and quality of coaching sessions and the extent to which employees are implementing feedback and developmental plans to enhance their skills and knowledge.

How is coaching leadership different from other leadership styles?

Leaders are working on the coaching leadership styles
How is coaching leadership different from other leadership styles?

Coaching leadership distinguishes itself from other leadership styles through its unique emphasis on fostering personal and professional growth in team members. Unlike autocratic leadership, which relies on top-down decision-making and strict control, coaching leadership encourages autonomy and empowers team members to make decisions, valuing their input and emphasizing collaboration.

In contrast to democratic leadership, coaching leadership does not necessarily seek consensus in decision-making. While it values team member input, it also provides direct guidance and mentorship to help individuals reach their potential. This active involvement also sets it apart from laissez-faire leadership, which can be overly hands-off.

Coaching leadership strikes a balance between guidance and autonomy, offering support while allowing team members to take ownership of their work. Moreover, it is distinct from transformational leadership. While the latter inspires and motivates, coaching leadership focuses more on skill development and personal growth.

In summary, coaching leadership's unique approach prioritizes individual development, continuous learning, and the cultivation of a growth-oriented environment, making it a powerful and distinct leadership style for fostering long-term success and engagement within teams and organizations.

When to use coaching leadership style?

A leader perfectly using puzzles to reach better ROI
When to use coaching leadership style?

Coaching leadership is most effective in specific situations where individual growth, skill development, and a collaborative approach are essential. Here are some scenarios when to use effective coaching leadership:

Employee development

Use coaching leadership when you want to focus on the development goals and enhancing the skills, knowledge, and capabilities of team members. It's particularly valuable for grooming high-potential employees for future leadership roles.

Complex problem-solving

When facing intricate challenges that require innovative solutions, coaching leadership encourages team members to think critically, contribute their ideas, and collaborate to find the best solutions.

Improving employee engagement

Implement coaching leadership to boost employee engagement by giving team members a sense of ownership, autonomy, and recognition. It can also help address issues affecting morale and job satisfaction.

Skill enhancement

If you're aiming to develop specific skills within your team, coaching leadership provides personalized guidance and feedback to facilitate skill acquisition and improvement.

During times of organizational change or uncertainty, coaching leadership can help team members adapt by providing support, facilitating communication, and encouraging resilience.

Innovation and creativity

When you want to foster a culture of innovation and creativity, coaching leadership empowers team members to explore new ideas and approaches, driving continuous improvement.

Building strong relationships

Use coaching leadership to establish strong, trust-based relationships with team members. It's particularly beneficial when you want to reduce conflicts and enhance collaboration within the team.

Why should leaders consider shifting to a coaching leadership style now more than ever?

In today's dynamic business landscape, leaders are faced with new challenges and opportunities that demand innovative approaches to leadership. Shifting to a coaching leadership style is not just a choice; it's a necessity now more than ever.

Firstly, the pace of change and the complexity of problems in the modern workplace require leaders to tap into the collective intelligence of their teams. A coaching leadership style promotes collaboration, critical thinking, and problem-solving, enabling organizations to navigate uncertainty and find creative solutions.

Secondly, coaching leadership is a powerful tool in an era where employee engagement and talent retention are paramount. It fosters a sense of purpose and autonomy among team members, making them feel valued and heard. This, in turn, leads to higher job satisfaction, reduced turnover, and a more committed workforce.

Furthermore, the ongoing need for skill development and adaptability calls for a coaching approach. Leaders who coach empower their teams to continuously learn and grow, ensuring that their organizations remain competitive and agile in an ever-changing landscape.

In conclusion, embracing coaching leadership is not just a trend; it's a strategic imperative in the contemporary business world. Leaders who make this shift empower their teams, drive innovation, and create resilient organizations that can thrive in the face of uncertainty.

Kailash Ganesh

Kailash Ganesh

Kailash is a Product Marketer with 5+ years of experience. He loves story-telling in the simplest way possible and he is an avid reader, movie buff, and likes to travel new places to meet new people.