Coaching Leadership Style Explained – Examples and Use Cases

coach running through GROW model questions

In this article, we tell the full story behind utilising a coaching leadership style, with in-depth examples and use cases. This guide gives you the blueprint for successfully implementing a coaching leadership style within your organisation. 

Key Facts

  • A coaching leadership style focuses on bettering workers as individuals, which improves the entire team.

  • Following the coaching leadership style can help build trust between team members and leaders.

  • Coaching leadership focuses on long-term success over time, rather than immediate returns. 

What is Coaching Leadership Style?

A coaching leadership style is when a leader focuses on developing team members as individuals. Additionally, this style elevates a team’s entire performance by showing each member the importance of their position within the group. 

The key elements of the coaching leadership style include:

  • A Focus on Goals. Leaders help their teams define and pursue their career goals.

  • Continual Feedback. Leaders provide constructive feedback to their team members to help them grow their skills.

  • Mentorship. Leaders often take on a mentoring role because of the one-on-one focus they utilise.

  • An Eye Towards the Future. Leaders know that success doesn’t happen overnight and make long-term goals and strategies to get results that pay off down the road. 

The Difference Between Coaching vs. Managing

The difference between coaching and management is that management focuses more on the work, while coaching focuses more on the employee. 

More specifically, a management leadership style is formed around the idea that the leader knows best. They oversee their team directly and push them towards specific outcomes, with little thought to the individual behind the work.

Coaching is the opposite, where the leader creates strong collaboration between themselves and their teams, with the goal of elevating their work. It’s inspired by a more positive view of life and takes cues from psychological practices meant to help people flourish. 

The Advantages of a Coaching Leadership Style

Some of the benefits a coaching leadership style can provide to your company includes:

  • Establishing Stronger Communication. A coaching leadership style focuses on developing a monitor-like relationship between leader and employee. Those bolstered relationships often lead to more effective communication, improving work outputs for all. 

  • Encouraging Constructive Feedback. The feedback inspired by the coaching leadership style helps employees improve their skills and deliver higher-quality results.

  • Driving Personal and Professional Development Forward. A coaching style is formed around leaders creating in-depth development plans for their teams, so they can build skills long-term. 

  • Promoting Support (and Not Judgement). Using this style, a leader builds stronger bonds between team members by telling each one how important their roles are for accomplishing broader business goals. 

Coaching Leadership: Disadvantages

Some coaching leadership drawbacks include:

  1. Requires a Lot of Time and Energy. Because the leadership focuses on the growth of each team member individually, it requires much more effort than other leadership styles. Depending on how much help a team member needs to develop, a team lead might not have time for much else.

  2. Changes Don’t Happen Overnight. Even with the constant work put in by the leader and the rest of the team, growth won’t happen instantly. A coaching leadership style is best suited for long-term results that pay off down the line.

  3. May Not Fit the Goals of Faster-paced Companies. Because of the time and energy needed for the coaching leadership style to show results, there might be better choices for a high-pressure work environment. 

Streamline Your Employee Development

Performance Cycle

Define performance cycles, set goals, give effective feedback and evaluate performance fairly. Put structure on how you grow and retain staff with powerful performance management.

Examples of a Coaching Leadership Style

Below are several examples of the coaching leadership style to give you a better idea of how it might affect a workplace. 

With this, you’ll be able to make a more informed decision on whether to encourage this leadership style within your unique organisation.

1. Facebook

The COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, has high standards for her team, expecting a certain level of quality and productivity from them. She demonstrates a coaching leadership style by giving high praise whenever a team member reaches or exceeds those expectations while providing feedback to help them do better next time. Sandberg also uses the strong connection between her and her team to find any obstacles holding them back and to figure out what they need to overcome them.  

2. Microsoft

The CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, uses a coaching leadership style to focus on the employees responsible for creating and maintaining Microsoft products and projects. Rather than direct those constituents according to his own vision, he focuses on building a culture of growth within the workplace. Nadella provides support and feedback as needed while his employees are driven to improve their skills and bring new ideas to the brainstorming process. 

3. Allen & Overy

David Morley is the Global Managing Partner of the Allen & Overy law firm and has made the coaching leadership style one of the foundational aspects of the business. He focuses on the value of meaningful conversations in the workplace to build stronger connections between the team to promote higher quality work. Morley’s change to how Allen and Overy operates has led to a 175% increase in annual profits. 

When Is Coaching Leadership a Good Fit?

Coaching leadership can provide long-term benefits in many circumstances, but there are some situations where the style is especially effective. Some of the situations include:

  • A leader must build trust between team members and a stronger working relationship between them and the team.

  • A team is working toward a long-term goal. 

  • A leader wants to help their team develop personally and professionally. 

  • The team or an individual member faces a setback in their career progression

  • Leaders need to align their team’s goals with the company’s goals as a whole. 

Measure Performance Objectively & Transparently

Performance Goals

Keep an eye on employee development with definable and trackable goals. Goals can also become linked to bonus payouts to help boost retention.


5 Steps To Become a Coaching Leader

If you’re interested in implementing a coaching leadership style, there are key behaviours you should cultivate to help ensure its success. The priority of each can vary from team to team, but all help build a work environment influenced by the leadership style. 

1. Arrange Team Meetings

One of the main aspects of the coaching leadership style is building a relationship with your team. Regular meetings are an effective way to do so. Scheduling time to talk one-on-one with each team member helps ensure that they receive your undivided attention and that you can focus on steering them towards their preferred career goals. 

Ask where they’d like to advance within your company, help them identify their strengths and weaknesses and assess whether they’re comfortable in their current position.

Having that information on the entire team means you can work on getting whatever it is they need to excel past their current skill level. Additionally, these team meetings build familiarity between you and your team, forming a more positive and productive relationship.

2. Set Goals for Each Member

Knowing more about your team and how they’d like to develop, you can start setting development goals for them. These goals are the catalyst for long-term growth because they help determine the skills each team member should learn and the development opportunities where they can take advantage.

A goals system can help ensure that each developmental objective is accurate and achievable. SMART objectives, for example, is a guideline that wants every goal to be:

  • Specific. Goals should be crystal clear to avoid confusion. 

  • Measurable. You should be able to measure an employee’s progress.

  • Achievable. The goal should align with an employee’s current performance to ensure it is realistic.

  • Relevant. Your team’s goals should align with company-wide objectives to ensure the skills they learn benefit the organisation.

  • Time-bound. Each goal should have a reasonable time frame for completion, so your team remains motivated to work towards it without feeling overwhelmed. 

3. Be There for Them

A lack of support can negatively impact each employee’s ability to grow due to a lack of motivation. 

Consistently demonstrating that you’re invested in your team’s future helps ensure they continue to learn new skills and develop innovative ideas to accomplish their responsibilities.

You can show support with constructive feedback and offer strategies to help them surmount any roadblocks they encounter. But one of the most effective ways of being there for your team is always making yourself available to listen to them when they’re experiencing challenges.

4. Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

Celebrate whenever someone in your team meets an important milestone in their development goals. Recognising their achievements, big or small, helps them stay motivated to accomplish more. 

How you celebrate doesn’t matter as much as long as the employee feels appreciated. In most cases, a simple congratulation will suffice. When big milestones are met, you can throw a party where you recognise the entire team for the work they’ve put in. 

5. Review Your Approach and Adapt

The coaching leadership style is about long-term results; the best chance of success comes from a willingness to change your approach. 

Monitor your team’s progress, watch for unexpected obstacles or signs that their development strategy isn’t working and adjust it as needed. A willingness to trial and error your way to the optimal plan can ensure that your team can reach its full potential. 

Frequently Asked Questions About the Coaching Leadership Style

What Is the Coaching Leadership Style?

The coaching leadership style is when a leader focuses on developing their team as individuals through one-on-one communication. This style helps employees grow and creates stronger bonds with their team members and leaders. 

How Can You Employ Coaching Leadership?

Work with each team member one-on-one to discover what they need to grow within the company. Develop a strategy to help them develop these skills. Additionally, support them throughout the process to ensure they stay motivated to continue.

What Are the Advantages of a Coaching Leadership Style?

The benefits provided by a coaching leadership style include:

  • Establishes a stronger two-way communication

  • Encourages constructive feedback

  • Drives professional and personal development

  • Promotes support, not judgement within a team

Discover What Your Employees Need With Personio

Coaching your team is often an intensive process that takes time and dedication to bear fruit, but there are tools out there that can ease the process. 

For example, Personio is an HR system with a training feature that can accurately track your team’s progress on their goals while keeping them up-to-date on new development opportunities. 

Book your free demo to learn more about how Personio can help you effectively optimise and manage your entire workforce.


Help Performance Cycles Run Smoothly

Performance Goals