The coach as a leader

The coach as a leader

The leader is a coach and supports the team, building its competence and capability over time and demonstrating an interest in the team's success.

Richard Bach said: “We teach best what we most need to learn,” and it is within the spirit of “what I most need to learn” that I write this column.

If you have spent any time with me you will know that I am a big fan of the work of Stephen Covey.

One of Covey’s teachings is that the private victory (victory over self) must precede the public victory.

It is within this context that I believe that before you can effectively lead others you must first competently lead yourself. I do consider myself to be a capable and sometimes even an inspiring leader.

However, I am often amazed at how incompetent I can be at leading myself. I am not going to publicly beat myself up too much, however, this column is somewhat self indulgent as it is — as much for me as it is for you.

Before I can begin the discussion on how to lead yourself, I need to have a working definition of leadership. I am going to use Kenneth Thomas’ model as set out in “Intrinsic Motivation at Work”. Intrinsic Motivation at Work describes how to create engagement in the workplace and what the leader’s role in engagement is.

There are four key roles for the leader:

• To inspire by providing a link between the work that needs to be done and a greater purpose or vision. This provides the team with a sense that their work is worthwhile which in turn provides meaning.

• To define the work that needs to be done, what success looks like and to hand off this work to their team. The leaders should not define for the team how the work is to be accomplished. The how should be defined by the team. In choosing how to do the work, the team gets a sense of choice and control.

• The third role of the leader is to be the scorekeeper and cheerleader. The leader measures outcomes, recognises and celebrates achievements with the team. Measurement and recognition provide the team with evidence of progress towards their goals and a sense that they are valued.

• Finally, the leader is a coach and supports the team, building its competence and capability over time and demonstrating an interest in the team’s success.

A great model, but what does it have to do with personal leadership? These four roles can be equally applied by an individual for an individual, for example:

• Have you defined a vision or purpose for your life that inspires you and which provides meaning for you?

Do you connect to this purpose regularly, ideally daily, and understand how what you do on a daily basis supports and links to the purpose?

• Are you clear about what success looks like, so you know if you are progressing towards fulfilling your vision and purpose? Is this definition of personal success measurable?

Have you defined what “work” needs to be done to achieve your measures of success?

• Do you keep score, review your progress regularly and celebrate progress and your successes?

• Finally do you ensure that you get the coaching you need to continue to make progress?

This coaching can be a combination of personal reviews and learning cycles and external coaching from people we trust and respect.

If you do this and you do it effectively, you will create a life that you are personally engaged in and energised by.

From a leadership perspective you will set the foundations for becoming a great leader, one who walks the talk and perhaps more importantly, you will become a person that you can be proud to be.

Owen McCall is director of Viewfield Consulting, a specialist consulting firm focusing on supporting CIOs to be successful. He can be reached through and through his blog at

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