Today’s leader faces challenges that would have been unthinkable a generation ago. He/she has to deal with:
- the flattening of hierarchical structures. The shift from reliance on hierarchical structures to more open structures driven by teamwork, networking and shared leadership means that today’s leader needs to learn behaviors not typical of traditional top down styles of management. He/she needs to shift behaviors from supervising to coaching, autocratic to shared leadership, limiting access to allowing open access to information, and focusing on individual results to team results.
- …increased complexity. Because of the information revolution and the globalization of business, all workers – leaders and otherwise – experience expanding complexity. We all operate in myriad multiple interactive systems that are complex, interdependent and require imagination and creative innovation to be maintained. Today’s leader needs to be a master at co-managing his/her involvement in all these systems. He/she needs to be comfortable with being a lifelong learner and confront the fact that old learned skills have limited relevance with dealing with the demands of the modern world.
- …the Information Revolution. To put it simply, there’s more information around and the ability to process it, store it and retrieve it is more critical than ever before. By the mid 1980s, information scientists were estimated that the total knowledge base of humanity was doubling every seven years. Today’s leader needs to be adept at absorbing, processing and filtering information and using it as a tool to make informed decisions.
- …Globalization and Diversity. Global communications, transnational economic linkages, and the emergence of multinational corporations have created a business environment that increasingly rewards cross-cultural competence. Today’s leader needs to be an international citizen, comfortable and adept at dealing with multiple diversities. H/she also needs to thrive in an increasingly multicultural workplace, which embodies the fact that immigration is redefining what it means to be American. H/she needs to be a flexible communicator, able to thrive in ever shifting cross-cultural, intergenerational and dual gender teams.
All of these factors mean that most of us are racing to keep up with the demands of the pace of change. In the face of change, we continually face gaps between what we know and what’s demanded by situations. Receiving coaching is a means of having that gap filled in real time and thus creating a dialog to support the achievement of higher levels of excellence.
How Coaching Helps Leaders Lead
Although each situation is different, there are a number of ways that coaching helps leaders lead. A good coach helps leaders lead by helping them
- Establish and hold a personal vision of what success looks like in every area of life, both within work and beyond it. The coach encourages the leader to create a compelling vision that has the power to attract the results he or she truly wants.
- Establish and hold the vision for the team. The coach helps the leader to lead from the macro to the micro, always keeping the vision that the team or individual is out to achieve clearly in sight.
- Walk the talk. Lead himself/herself and fulfill an agenda of personal mastery. The coach aids the leaders’ quest for personal productivity that is balanced by the requirement of a balanced life.
- Strive for balance and therefore make better, smarter decisions. The coach is a sounding board who balances caring with a sense of tough-minded objectivity. He or she helps the leader make decisions that have long and short-term impact and are aligned with his or her values.
- Set direction and appropriate goals using skills of systems thinking, planning and problem solving. Setting direction includes both influencing ourselves and others to take actions that ensure the best and most appropriate results. It includes the art of outlining clear expectations and establishing S. M. A. R. T. goals: specific, measurable, agreed up, realistic and time-bound.
- Continuously Learn. The coach helps the leader reflect on the results of actions. As a result, the leader develops a feedback loop that results in even better, smarter actions.
The discipline of coaching is an essential aspect of the new face of leadership. In an age of rapid change, coaching is the leader’s ally in his or her quest to build capacity, expand possibilities, and achieve fulfillment and success.