Nov 20, 2023
3 min read

Coaching Leadership Style: Everything You Should Know

In this article:

“Greatness comes not from a position but from helping build the future. We have an obligation to pull others up.”, says Indra Nooyi, one of the most famous female coaches in business.

Yet, research shows that 56% of employees work in a toxic environment created by managers. It causes reduced productivity, increased absenteeism, and decreased satisfaction, commitment, and overall performance.

One way to avoid such results is implementing a coaching leadership style in organizations. Keep reading and see why you should become a coaching leader – and how to do it.

What is a coaching leadership style?

As you can imagine, coaching leadership differs from other leadership styles primarily by incorporating coaching mindsets and behaviors into the workplace. It focuses on collaboration, empowerment, and fulfillment.

Harvard Business Review's Bill George and Zach Clayton developed an acronym to illustrate how leaders should use coaching skills to build their people up:

  • Care for your teammates
  • Organize them into their “sweet spot”
  • Align them around the organization’s purpose and values
  • Challenge them to reach their full potential
  • Help them achieve their goals

Coaching leadership style vs. traditional management style

A traditional management style works on the premise that the leader knows best and has all the answers. In contrast, a coaching leadership style stems from collaboration between managers and employees. This shift of control unlocks and uses the potential of individual team members.

Coaching leadership style: Pros and cons

Benefits Weaknesses
Reduction of stress among employees, who feel more empowered, and executives, who feel like they can lead effectively without having all the answers Increased self-responsibility and self-belief through a healthy balance of support and challenges Time-consumption – this approach may not work in fast-paced environments where immediate results are crucial A need for specific leadership skills and experience that not every manager has or can learn easily
Improved employee engagement and motivation due to a work environment where people feel valued and supported Only effective in the right teams, where employees are willing to engage in the process and have enough competence and confidence for increased autonomy

How to embrace the coaching style of leadership

Create a culture of feedback

If you're struggling to make feedback a permanent part of your company culture, we suggest implementing performance review software that will help you streamline the process. Effy AI is an AI-powered 360 feedback tool that makes employee reviews easier, faster, and more pleasant than you thought was possible.

It helps save time on 360-degree feedback, performance reviews, and celebrating milestones. There are also AI-generated summaries and valuable reports, all just a few clicks away. This self-service feedback tool for executive coaches and teams provides an always-free option and several usage-based plans for startups and companies of all sizes.

Sign up to get:

  • Customizable review templates you can use in your performance coaching
  • Automated reminders to motivate your team 
  • Anonymization that will make each team member comfortable sharing their opinions
  • Access level management
  • Possibility to fill in reviews comfortably from Slack without the need for paperwork or meetings
  • AI-generated direct reports to help you improve performance with each consecutive review period

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Meet with your team members regularly

While tools like Effy AI can empower your executive leadership coaching, they can't replace face-to-face meetings where you get to know your subordinates. Schedule monthly or quarterly one-on-ones with each team member and ask about their career goals and personal development plans.

Some valuable, open-ended questions include:

  • What are your prominent strengths?
  • What are you currently struggling with?
  • Are you happy with your position and the responsibilities that come with it? If not, what would you like to change?
  • Where do you see your career going?
  • How do you think the whole team is functioning?

Set goals and develop personal development plans

If you understand your team members’ unique strengths and aspirations, it's time to set development plans. Create separate goals for employees and the entire organization. We recommend following the SMART structure, meaning that each plan should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

Schedule a check-in meeting to discuss the goals you've created and adjust as necessary so you're not leading people in the direction they don't want to go.

Offer support and resources

The role of the executive coach is to offer the right resources to help everyone achieve success – and facilitate positive organizational transformation in the process. Here's how you can do that:

  • Regularly ask about how everyone is progressing and if there's anything you can do to help
  • Offer helpful feedback, i.e., start by acknowledging the positives and move on to constructive criticism (with examples)
  • Make yourself available for anything from addressing questions and challenges or simply needing to vent
  • Help others reframe their approach whenever they're stuck in a dead-end
  • Make sure everyone has all the tools necessary to perform their job without frustration

Recognize hard work

Celebrating wins in the coaching approach can be anything from a simple, genuine “congratulations” on solving a problem to a weekly recognition meeting highlighting the biggest wins of each employee. Why not host a party or order donuts when the team successfully meets a milestone?

Work on your self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and coaching skills

To empower others, work on yourself first. You can attend a coaching course to practice your executive coaching, like one of those listed here. Great leaders aren't afraid to ask for help and spend time learning new skills that make them better role models.

coaching leadership style

Image source: Acesence

Coaching leadership style: Examples

Here are some famous coaching leaders worth looking up to:

  • Bill Campbell: Known as the Coach of Silicon Valley or Trillion Dollar Coach, he's perhaps the most famous example of a coaching leadership style. This former college football player and coach helped build Google, Apple, and Intuit and mentored dozens of visionaries on both US coasts.
  • Sheryl Sandberg: The former COO of Facebook (now Meta) famously said, “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.”, which is the essence of a coaching leader.
  • Indra Nooyi: The former CEO of PepsiCo and one of the world's 100 most powerful women, she exhibited a coaching leadership style by emphasizing the “7 C's” of leaders – competence, creativity, courage, communication, coaching, compass, and citizenship.


A coaching leadership style can bring you and your team closer with strong, trusting relationships. It's a great way to drive long-term and long-lasting results, increasing motivation, engagement, performance, and retention.

You can do many things to improve your coaching skills – like invest in a 360 feedback and performance management tool like Effy AI. This tool will help you create a culture of constantly improving performance by putting everyone on the same page and aligning them with the organization's strategy.

Sign up for free to start building your high-performance culture.


What is coaching leadership style with example?

It involves guiding and empowering team members by providing support and regular feedback. An example is a manager helping employees set and achieve career development goals through regular one-on-one discussions.

What is an executive leadership coaching style?

A coaching style refers to a leadership approach focused on developing individuals by providing guidance, feedback, and opportunities for growth.

What are the four types of executive coaching styles?

The four coaching styles are:

  1. Directive coaching (providing specific instructions)
  2. Supportive coaching (offering encouragement and assistance)
  3. Collaborative coaching (working together on problem-solving)
  4. Non-directive coaching (encouraging self-discovery and independent decision-making)

What makes a good coach leader?

A great coach leader has communication skills, empathy, adaptability, and a commitment to the development of their team. They also foster a positive and collaborative work environment.

What’s Effy software?
Performance review
Easily launch review cycles in your way, track progress.
360 degree feedback
Collect feedback from peers and managers. Identify strength and improvements areas.
Choose templates that are right for you. Start review process in 15 min.
Collaborate effectively with team meeting agenda, action items and meeting notes
Personal development plan
Develop your people by providing them an explicit plan to the next level. Track goals progression.
AI generated insights & Analytics
AI will generate an extended summary for every employee, including top strength, areas to improve and action plan.
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