Are leaders born or made? An enduring debate.
But if the question is: “can you coach leadership?”, born vs. made doesn’t matter. Because whether it’s drawing-out what we were given; or honing what we’ve developed: coaching is singularly the best form of learning and development to get us there.
We might say it depends on our definition of leadership. But does it?
Take a moment now to define your model of leadership. We’ll no doubt all come-up with a unique blend of elements. But we’re unlikely to find any qualities on that list that come quickly or cheaply. Coaching accompanies us on that journey. And we’re unlikely to find any that don’t get better when we increase awareness and responsibility: two currencies coaching deals in, extensively.
(If you’re wondering how you might coach yourself to finesse your own leadership abilities, developing your personal definition of leadership is not a bad place to start.)
A model of leadership for the future
Not only is the world of work changing. The demands of the world from its leaders is changing. And in my opinion, its neither romantic nor exaggeration to say that coaching must play a part in the development of those leaders the world needs.
So what would a model of leadership – for today and the future – look like? Here are some thoughts.
We need leaders who are values-driven. And not just personal values, but the collective values of the organisation. Values drive every major decision: so we’d better be tuned-in to our values; and aligned with our organisation’s. Values-centric development is at the heart of coaching.
It’s obvious to say leaders must have vision. But we need leaders who move beyond the narrow, short-term, financially-focused vision. We need those who are engaged in whole-system, long-term thinking. Coaching inspires connection with the vision – and in a well-formed, ecologically-sound system.
An overplayed idea in recent times. But yes, we need leaders who are not afraid to be who they are in front of others. Authenticity is an endless journey of challenge and discovery. And coaching always includes that journey of who we become, as well as what we achieve.
Today’s leaders must be flexible, embracing of change, able to create and innovate, and willing to abandon old programmes of thinking. This requires fresh perspective, self-mastery – and overcoming our fears. Coaching connects us with our best thinking, inducing and capturing insights that unlock new ideas and overcome previous obstacles.
Outer alignment is the norm when we talk about “alignment” in the context of leadership. But without an inner alignment within ourselves, that outer alignment is hard to achieve. And that inner conflict will lead to issues. Minimising interference in the competition with ourselves is at the root of coaching for performance improvement.
A higher purpose is a vital question for the leaders of today. What are we aligned to? For what purpose? And for whose benefit? In short: what’s your sentence? There are few as empowering questions unlocked by coaching as: “what’s your true purpose?”: to ground our leadership in who we are and who we want to be.
Drawing-out the powerful leader within
Whatever ingredients you see as making-up the perfect leader of today and the future, the stand-out elements are going to be the home-grown, hard-earned qualities. The qualities that are already there, within us; and ready to be harvested.
Coaching is the conversation to unlock powerful and differentiated leadership.