Coaching Well – The Missing Competence in Leaders Today!


Coaching Well – The Missing Competence in Leaders Today!

Every leader needs a coach. Every leader needs to be a coach.

Coaching is the missing piece in leadership today. Coaching is a core competence of leaders.  Why do we need leaders who need coaching and leaders who can coach?


First, effective leaders never stop learning.

Great leaders always believe that they need continual improvement. They realize that there is always something new or different to learn, unlearn or relearn.


As leaders, we have to recognize that we need help. There is always room for improvement. As my high school Anglo Chinese School’s (ACS) motto rightly puts it, “The best is yet to be.” Learning must be part of a leader’s lifestyle.


Second, leaders need to be held accountable and make others accountable.

Effective leaders recognize our own fallibility. More than ever before, we need leaders who are willing to be held accountable. In my own coaching assignments with chief executives, the higher you go in your position, the less people are willing to give them feedback. Often, our egos become larger than our positions. Our subordinates are most afraid to give us feedback for fear of backlash. Unless we give them permission to do so.


When we refuse to be made accountable, our blind spots will grow and unchecked failures will dominate our lives. That’s the beginning of self-deception.


Good coaches are relentless in their observations, always probing for new ways to help leaders improve, become more competent, and correct their blind spots.


We need a coach to tell us where we might have faltered. Of course, it is hard for subordinates to tell leaders that they are wrong. Even if they did, would their leaders listen? An impartial third party is often needed to sound the alert.


As Walter Wright[i] rightly proposes, “Leaders need wisdom. They need perspective. They need accountability.” Usually, board members discover leaders’ weaknesses too late to do anything about it. A coach can help prevent leaders from falling into the precipice of self-deception.


Ronald Heifetz[ii], in writing about leadership, suggests, “Because we get so swept up in our professional roles, it’s hard to distinguish our role from ourselves on our own. That’s why we need partners who can help us stay analytical. And we need two different kinds of partners. We need allies inside the organization – people who share our agenda. And we need confidants inside or outside the organization – people who can keep us from getting lost in our role.”Find a coach/mentor if you don’t have one yet. When you do, keep the relationship honest.


Third, leaders need to be sharpened.

Even when leaders are doing well, coaching can help broaden their perspectives, affirm their directions, sharpen their skills and improve their strategies. Humility is one of the qualities of a great leader. Jim Collins call these humble leaders Level Five Leaders – those who build enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.”[iii]They always seek to be better leaders.


Fourth, leaders are loners.

One banker CEO shared, “Leaders have very few close friends. Clients are seen as targets to be exploited. Competitors are seen as enemies to be destroyed. It’s really lonely at the top!”Hence, leaders need confidante whom they can share their struggles with and confide in. The coach can then become a safe haven for these leaders.


Leaders with effective coaching can make a difference in their lives and that of those they lead!


Watch out for other topics that we will explore in the coming weeks!


How to make Coaching work for You?


Am I coachable?


[i]Wright Jnr, W.C.The Gift of Mentors. De Pree Leadership Center. 2001.

[ii]Taylor, W.C. The Leader of the Future. Fast Company. 2001.

[iii]Collins, Jim. Good To Great. Harper Collins Publishers. New York. 2002.

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