What is coaching leadership?

What is coaching leadership?

Results. Processes. Innovation. Different leaders prioritise different things.

But a coaching leader prioritises people, believing that the rest will follow. And of course, it often does!

Because what drives results? What adheres to processes (or not)? And where does innovation come from? You guessed it: people.

Your greatest asset.

Some leaders, teams and businesses are better suited to a coaching style of leader than others, but we’ll get to that. Let’s find out more.

What is coaching leadership?

Coaching leaders devote a great deal of their time and energy to elevate and empower their team. Others focus on creating the right vision or watertight processes, or on making the right decisions. A coaching leader will focus on communication. Their leadership framework will often feature the following:

Regular meetings

One-to-ones are just the tip of the iceberg. There are also likely to be lots of goal-setting and retrospective workshops. Coaching leaders keep their fingers on the pulse when it comes to their team members’ aspirations (and opportunities to help them achieve them).

Psychological safety

As a base requirement for any effective team, coaching leaders will understand how to incorporate psychological safety into the very fabric of the workplace. Psychological safety is the belief that you can make mistakes without being punished. It is both powerful and necessary when you want people to really put themselves out there and take on big challenges.


Not just their own, but their team members’ as well. Lack of accountability rapidly leads to a toxic working environment. And by being accountable themselves, coaching leaders support open and honest communication (and, in turn, psychological safety).

A coaching leader is dedicated to developing and supporting their team to achieve their best. So they’ll also know the business’s learning and development approaches inside out, and look out for opportunities to help people practise newly acquired skills.

When is coaching leadership effective?

This framework works well with small teams where the leader is not bogged down in a lot of operational work. It’s particularly effective if your team are all enthusiastic about their work and personal development - although if that’s not the case, it’s worthwhile to find out why (regardless of the leadership style you wish to use).

Pros and cons of coaching leadership

  • Pros: great for morale, engagement, motivation and job satisfaction. Likely to mean that there is high psychological safety and great communication.
  • Cons: requires a great deal of individual input into each person on the team, and reciprocal levels of effort on their part.

Is coaching leadership right for me?

If you have the time to dedicate to the people that work for you and believe that’s the best way to achieve your team’s goals, then yes!

In fact, almost all leaders should take the role of coach to the people they lead in some situations. Even if this isn’t the key framework for you, things like strong communication via regular one-to-ones and psychological safety are important to maintain morale and productivity.

How does coaching leadership compare to other leadership styles?

This framework is one of the most nurturing approaches you can apply to your leadership practice, and it's very similar to servant leadership. Take a look at How to lead: 11 leadership styles and frameworks to see how coaching leadership compares to servant leadership and nine other approaches.

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