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The Leader Coach: A Model of Multi-Style Leadership

Author(s): Shanta Harper  
Issue: 1  
Volume: 4  
Year: 2012

Organization decision makers are now choosing to add value to their companies by enhancing the quality of their leaders with the adoption of leadership coaching as a strategy for human capital development and organizational enhancement. Theoretical examinations of successful leadership practices that have influenced the world have revealed leadership style as an indicator of organizational success as it relates to follower influence. The most influential approach will include the use of multiple leadership styles. This article identifies leadership coaching for executives as the ultimate model for the usage of multiple leadership styles. Charismatic, Laissez-faire, transformational, transactional, and servant leadership are the leadership style characteristics identified in an examination of several articles and other publications that define or describe the process of leadership coaching. The author defines each leadership theory and how it is associated with the function of the leadership coaching progress.


Leader Coaching: A Model for Multi-Style Leadership

Unsurpassed quality and service delivery are no longer the only assets that distinguish a company  from  its  competition.  Companies  become  historically  recognized  by  the influential reach or climatic demise of their leaders.  As such, organization decision makers are now choosing to add value to their companies by enhancing the quality of their leaders with the adoption of executive coaching as a strategy for human capital development.

(Hawkins, 2008).

Leadership is by far the most influential component to organizational resilience, longevity, and brand recognition. Theoretical examinations of successful world-renowned leaders have revealed leadership style as an indicator of organizational success (Adeyemi-Bello, 2001) as it relates to follower influence. Leadership has been conceptualized through a multitude of theories that identify its characteristics and behaviors (Northouse, 2006). The most influential approach will include the use of multiple leadership styles. The leader coach is the most effective model of the multi-styled leader, as he or she exercises a myriad of theoretically proven techniques by the practice and craft of his or her profession.

The leader coach is defined by the author as an individual consultant, hired by a client organization to work with one or more individuals, who have supervisory authority over a group

of subordinates, to transform and enhance the individual(s) leadership skills and professional behavior as it relates to the perpetual career of the individual and the stake he or she holds within the organization, for the successful implementation of the organization’s mission.

Why Organizations Choose Coaching

Organization stakeholders have found that the emerging practice of leadership coaching can increase the success of executives while enhancing the quality of the workforce and organizational culture overall (Gladis, 2007, pp. 58-61). Leadership coaching is “a lucrative opportunity for organizations to provide support for leaders and leverage their interests for the profit of all” stakeholders (Gladis, 2007, p.61) at all levels of the organization, including consumers. Leadership coaching is a method of facilitating affirmative change that impacts an organizational leader’s “performance, development of particular skills, or a broader sense of personal growth” (Stober, 2008).

This a form of personal training that creates value by providing leaders with a “developmental process for focusing on growing the emotional and relational aspects of their leadership capacity, by addressing specific relationship challenges and how the leader might handle them differently” (Hawkins, 2008, p. 30) . Leadership coaching allows an executive to grow professionally and developmentally in the power of influence and performance (O’Shaughnessey, 2001). Coaching “increases goal attainment, enhances resilience and increases workplace well being.” Companies choose coaching as a worthy “tool in helping individuals deal with the uncertainty and challenges inherent in organizational change” (Grant, Curtayne, & Burton, 2009).

Coaching utilizes a “systematic methodology of inquiry” (Gladis, 2007, p.10) that encourages a client-coach relationship that is marked with candor, trust, and admiration. The one-on-one nature of coaching allows the client to form a unique relationship with the coach that is characterized by a combination of cognitive and behavioral training encounters (Killburg, 1996).The coach records information and behaviors observed through the coaching process and formulates a plan of action “through a rigorous process of self-discovery and awareness, goal setting and accountability, action learning and execution, and evaluations and revision” (Gladis, 2007, p. 10) with the client. This article will highlight a process formulated by Steven Gladis, a leader coach and consultant in the executive coaching industry, and identify the various leadership styles captured within the coaching process.

Theories Associated with Leadership Coaching

The following theories of leadership are identified by the author through the examination of leadership coaching models and practices. Each leadership style will be defined and followed by a section that describes how the style is implemented within the leader coaching profession (also identified as executive coaching).

Charismatic Leadership

Charismatic leadership is a process that leads value transformation. The leader emphasizes changing the needs, values, self-concepts, and goals of his or her team (Huang, Chen, & Chou, 2005). A charismatic leader will demonstrate behavior that exemplifies the tasks and values needed to fulfill the organization’s vision (Huang et al., 2005, p. 36). This behavior is inspirational to team members, as the leader exhibits a strong sense of self-confidence,

assertiveness and passionate communication toward the achievement of the organization’s purpose (Avolio & Bass, 2004). A major premise of charismatic leadership is a value based influence that encourages team members to strive harder for the achievement of organizational goals and objectives (Dvir, Eden, Avolio, & Shamir, 2002).

The charismatic leader is a visionary who inspires team members by self-sacrifice to strongly held core values that strengthen the team as a whole – this style of leadership is very motivating and performance-driven (Northouse, 2006). Team members can expect the charismatic leader to acknowledge their efforts as meaningful and link their successes as valuable to the organization’s mission (Huang et al., 2005). Charisma can enhance person-organization values fit among team members by helping everyone to acknowledge and link their personal values to the values of the organization. The leader will emphasize goals and values on behalf of the follower that are meaningful to the organization and empower the follower to aim higher and take greater initiative. This leader exercises extraordinary personality traits that motivate his or her teammates to envision leaders as powerful stakeholders that contribute greatly to the success of their organization (Huang et al., 2005).

Charismatic leaders provide direct support for their followers and thoughtfully build team confidence (Huang et al., 2005). The promotion of team innovation, when paired with a sense of team identity, creates an atmosphere which allows subordinates to feel comfortable enough to express their ideas and participate in decision making (Paulsen, Maldonado, Callan, & Ayoko, 2009).

The Charismatic Leader Coach

The leader coach is responsible for modeling the professional and behavioral characteristics the client is seeking to develop (Riddle & Ting, 2006). He or she is the ultimate team leader and makes instilling a motivational work ethic a number one priority (Mannie, 2005). This involves expressing energy and passion for the mission of the organization similar to that of a sports coach (O’Shaughnessy, 2001). The leader coach influences client behavior by convincing client(s) that they are a stakeholder in the organization’s mission and they may take ownership of the organization’s mission by working with a purpose (Mannie, 2005) that is unique and personal to their own interests and values.

The most influential and valuable characteristics of a charismatic leader coach are his or her ability to form a strong connection with the client, professionalism, and the use of a value-based and clearly-communicated methodology (Wasylyshyn, 2003). An example of this leadership style is exhibited by the coach’s use of conversational-style dialogue during client meetings to identify instances where the client is using leadership and personal development tools adapted during one-on-one training sessions—serving the client with immediate feedback and identifying instant value added (Stober, 2008). “Coaching is about organizational and individual change and transformation, it offers the ability to grow and alter maladaptive behaviors to generate new, adaptive and successful actions” (Zeus & Skiffington, 2001).

Transactional Leadership

Transactional leadership is driven by the ability of the leader to appeal to his or her follower’s self-interest by the establishment of a relationship based on exchange (Avolio, 1999). The leader

focuses on goal achievement founded by the establishment of incentives that appeal to the inherent needs, preferences and values of the follower (Huang et al., 2005). The follower is awarded according to the leader’s desired performance– if the follower fails to achieve the desired outcome, he or she is not rewarded and faces reprimanding responses from the leader that motivate and redirect the follower toward the required behavior (Hartog, Van Muijen, & Koopman, 1997). This cost benefits exchange process involves managing and directing the follower’s required tasks with a prodding reward or reprimand (Burns, 1978).

Efforts by the follower are exchanged by stated and mutually agreeable rewards or consequences (Northouse, 2006). Examples may be as abstract as prestige or as concrete as increased wages or promotion (Northouse, 2006). The leader provides corrective criticism, negative feedback and negative reinforcement if applicable, as the transactional leader is result focused and “does not individualize the needs of followers nor is he or she attentive to personal development” (Northouse, 2006).

The Transactional Leader Coach

The transactional leader coach is objective- and task-driven, typically due to a primarily short-term intervention contract that is aimed at performance improvement or developing a particular competence (Clutterbuck, 2006). Facilitation is the primary function of the coach under this condition, as he or she is consistently engaged in driving the desired actions and behavior required by the client (Downey, 2003). This method is systematic and time regulated by consistent coaching support that proactively strives to prevent setbacks and stalls in productivity (Baumeister, Gailliot, DeWall, & Oaten, 2006).

Laissez-Faire Leadership

Laissez-faire leadership is a style that implies the “lack of leadership” or a “hands off” approach to influence (Northouse, 2006). The leader avoids active participation in the responsibility of setting goals, clarifying expectations, organizing priorities or becoming involved when leadership direction is needed (van Eeden, Cilliers, & van Deventer, 2008). The self- efficacy (a belief of a person as being capable of accomplishing a given task) (Bandura, 1997) of the follower is heavily relied upon—as the follower must believe in his self-governing ability, sans the direction of the leader.

The laissez-faire leader is extremely passive and inactive, resulting in the expectant self-empowerment of the follower (Hartog et al., 1997). Frequent absence and the lack of involvement of critical decision-making are utilized as a method of driving the follower to self-management (Eagly, Johannesen-Schmidt, & van Engen, 2003).

The Laissez-faire Leader Coach

The leader coach is typically hired as an external consultant or trainer for the client or client organization. Because the client is responsible for driving the process or directing his or her own behavior, the coach will also utilize a laissez-faire style of leadership that respects the client as the primary process owner. Prior to the commencement of the coaching agreement, the client will decide which goals to work towards and the boundaries that regulate how involved the coach may be in the actual process (Riddle & Ting, 2006). The coach’s “role is to influence the agenda, not set it” (Riddle & Ting, 2006, p.16).

The coach has the responsibility of suggesting options, but the ultimate decisions and actions taken are determined by the client and regulated by the client organization (Riddle & Ting, 2006). Coaching is a progressive method that drives changes which enhance the client’s leadership and behavior, based on the client and/or the client organization’s ideal future (Good, Yeganeh, & Yeganeh, 2010), communicated to the coach at the commencement of the coaching agreement.

Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership involves the establishment of the leader as a role model by gaining the trust and confidence of followers, based on their ability to inspire followers and nurture the follower’s ability to contribute to the foundational success of the organization (Bass, 1997). The leader is considered visionary and he or she sets goals for the organization and develops plans to achieve them (Northouse, 2006). This includes mentoring and empowering the follower as a means of developing followers to their full potential, therefore allowing them to contribute more capably to the organization (Eagly et al., 2003). Followers are inspired to achieve more than baseline expectations, as the transformational leader defines the apparent need for change and drives the follower’s passion for organizational success by creating enhanced visions and mobilizing commitment to this vision, resulting in a transformation of the organization (Hartog et al., 1997).

The Transformational Leader Coach

The coaching relationship is grounded in a contractual collaborative working alliance between the coach and the client, in which a set of mutually-defined goals and action steps are derived as a result of the agreement and specific action steps are formulated, leading to goal attainment (Kemp, 2008). Together, the coach and the client form reasonable objectives that are motivating, measureable, and directly related to the contractually obligated and desired results (Gladis, 2007, p. 61). The client-coach alliance is the formation of a partnership founded in the coach’s fundamental desire to take ownership in the successful implementation of the client’s transformation. The coach works with the client to aid in the achievement of the client’s goals, problem-solving, and the behavioral and cognitive development required for achievement (Caplan, 2003). Transformation is accomplished by the actions taken by the client, under the direction and mentorship of the coach, who influences desired behavior by offering guidance and developmental assignments (Gladis, 2007, p. 61).

Transformational coaching primes personal development by the establishment of transparency and trust among the coach and client relationship. Coaches provide candid feedback not typically provided to the client by his or her superiors in regard to professional performance, career and/or organizational issues (Hall, Otazo, & Hollenbeck, 1999). One-on-one coaching is focused on the learning and the personal development of the client based on organizational and client needs. The coach strives to engage the client in developmental assignments that challenge the client, but also provides authentic support and encouragement throughout the process (Hawkins & Smith, 2006).

Servant Leadership

Servant Leadership gives emphasis to the needs of the follower over the self-interests of the leader (Laub, 1999) and characterizes the leader’s behavior as servant first (Greenleaf, 1977). The servant leader seeks to meet the needs of the follower through actions that empower the follower by the sharing of power and a practice of authenticity in leadership that favors the follower (Laub, 1999). Grounded in teamwork and egalitarianism, the servant leader involves followers in decision making, is one of strong ethical behavior, and sacrificially provides quality and careful direction to those under his or her direction (Spears, 1996). In turn, the follower and the total organization are the benefactors of the sacrificial behavior of the leader. Servant leadership is a primary style identified in biblical leadership and is best identified as exhibited by historical leaders like Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul, who exhibited sacrificial commitment to followers for the sake of the Gospel. The teachings of Jesus and the letters written by Paul are observed and applied today, centuries later, as a result of the successful implementation of their commitment to servant first leadership (Winston, 2002).

The Servant Leader Coach

The coaching experience is fundamentally about realizing and meeting the needs of the client (Riddle & Ting, 2007). The coach, as servant leader, works with his or her client to aid in the discovery of the foundational values of what truly motivates them. The coach analyzes this information to develop a framework that will help him or her work effectively with the client to achieve the desired results (Gladis, 2007, p. 61). The coach understands that the key to maximizing the performance of the client is to unlock and strengthen the client’s potential (Whitmore, 1996).

Coaching serves as a training assignment to help develop the client for future success. The coach has achieved the desire of the client if the client is able to successfully proceed beyond the coaching agreement, continually benefiting himself or herself as well as the organization. Therefore, the coach’s strategy is a process by which the follower engages in setting self-concordant and personally-valued goals that enhance the well-being and self-efficacy of the follower (Sheldon & Houser-Marko, 2001). The servant coach provides help and support for his or her client that is systemic and desirably perpetual throughout the duration of the client’s career that is personalized, beneficial, and maximizes the client’s potential (CIPD, 2007).

The Multi-Style Coaching Process

The leader coach must engage in a systematic process to find success for the client individual and the organization (Gladis, 2007, p. 59). Steve Gladis Communications, an executive developmental firm, encourages a five-step coaching strategy that exhibits the underlined practice of a multi-styled approach to leader coaching. The process is provided below in Figure One, and includes the identification of the leadership styles involved in each step.

Figure One. Leader Coaching Strategy and Associated Leadership Styles.
ProcessDescriptionAssociated Leader Style(s)
Step One:
A formal meeting with the client where the A formal meeting with the client where the
individual(s) to be coached and organization’s goals are identified. Interviewing of both the client of the coach takes place to determine the values, processes, and expectation of both parties.
Servant Leadership Transformational
Step Two:
Self-Discovery & Awareness
The coach works with the coachee(s) to discover what motivates them, their needs, how to achieve the desired results.Servant Leadership
Step Three:
Goal Setting and
The coach works with the client and the coachee(s) to determine specific goals and objectives for which each party will be accountable. Transformational
Step Four:
Action Learning
and Execution
The coach teaches the coachee(s) new ways of approaching challenges through developmental assignments, feedback, and discussion.Transformational
Step Five:
Evaluation and
The coachee continues to execute based on the coach’s training, facilitation, and feedback. The coach, no longer fully engaged, evaluates the overall progress of the organization and the coachee(s). Based on the coach’s feedback, the coachee(s) will
redirect accordingly.

Source: Gladis, S. (2007). Executive coaching building steam in organizations. T&D. December, 58-6.

Leader coaching is the process of unleashing the full potential of not only careers, but the full potential of an organization (O’Shaughnessy, 2001). It is about leveraging the potential of top leaders within the organization by guiding their values for the transformation of the organization as a whole. Leader coaches and their clients understand that the future of an organization is influenced by the readiness of coachable leaders who are passionate about the successful transformation of their organization. This transformation includes an ever-emerging global presence that introduces a gamut of diversity in both the workforce and consumers.

Coaches “work with a variety of clients from an assortment of industries and the many cultural differences that exist between them” (Donnison, 2008). Coaches who understand the sensitivity of cultural orientations, and the effect that culture has on client relationships, take the opportunity to examine the cultural norms that exist within the client organization (Gilbert & Rosinski, 2008). After careful consideration, the coach will engage in a process that is tailored to suit both the needs and cultural complexities of the client. A detailed and systemic coaching strategy that encompasses the inherent usages of multiple leadership styles and the consideration for globalization and cultural sensitivity will create the perfect formula for an effective leader coach, resulting in a satisfied client organization that is perpetually transformational.

About the Author

Shanta Harper is a student at the Regent University School of Business & Leadership pursuing a Doctor of Strategic Leadership (DSL) degree with a concentration in Global Consulting. Questions regarding this article should be directed to the author. Email:


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