Coaching as a Leadership Style to Create an Adaptive Culture

Our fast-paced, VUCA world demands exceptional adaptability from organizations. With the requirement to continually adapt products, services, and systems, the one thing organizations can develop that is lasting, is culture. Assuming of course, that the culture supports continual learning and adaptability. 

Coaching as a leadership style is a core element for a highly adaptive culture.  The intent of coaching is to maximize the potential of every employee by empowering them with the tools, resources, and authority to get the job done. By utilizing the full skills and knowledge of all employees, coaching based organizations learn faster and implement changes faster than those relying on a few expert leaders telling others what to do. 

Coaching is being embraced by a growing number of companies. Satya Nadella of Microsoft brought coaching as a leadership style into Microsoft to support a learning and risk-taking culture that was required to turn Microsoft back into a technology leading organization.  Nadella wanted Microsoft’s leaders to switch from being “know-it-alls to learn-it-alls”. Tony Hsieh used coaching to help  Zappos create a sustainable culture that delivered exceptional customer service.  

In addition to improving individual and organization adaptability and creativity, coaching as a leadership style positively impacts retention and engagement. Through the act of coaching, leaders show a genuine curiosity in employee’s ideas, skills and personal goals. This curiosity builds trust and shows that leaders care about their employees.

Coaching as a leadership style can be challenging. The listening and enabling of coaching requires managers to shift from “tell and sell, to ask and listen” (The Leader as a Coach – HBR).  This requires a leap of faith for managers who are more comfortable telling people what and how to do things, than listening to and supporting their employee’s ideas. However, coaching, like delegating, communication and conflict management, is a learned leadership skill, so everyone is capable. 

Practice is critical to learning coaching, so hands on training in a safe environment is highly recommended. Reach out to us for more information.  Training leaders, and training leaders as coaches is what we do. Sage & Summit Coaching for Leaders 


The Leader as a Coach – HBR

Forbes – 5 Leadership Lessons from Zappos CEO Tone Hsieh