All too often leaders give people the answers, rather than challenge and empower their team members to effect change. Somehow they just can’t help themselves – despite the knowledge that a coaching-style of leadership is more people-centric and leads to more engaged team members.

Organizations, especially those devoted to continuous improvement, are focused on developing leaders that coach more than command.  Yet many of these same leaders sincerely want to strengthen their leadership approaches in a way that empowers their teams – but can’t figure out how to establish coaching as their ‘go to’ approach.

Being a Coach (more of the time)

How can we best support leaders to embrace change and adopt a coaching style of leadership? 

Change is never easy, especially when it comes to leadership styles. To be clear, I would count myself among these leaders and have found making changes in my own behavior to be a daunting task. 

One of the first steps in making change is understanding that, in order to be sustainable over time, behavior changes (and changes in leadership style) must become habits. 

“If you believe you can change – if you make it a habit – the change becomes real.” (Duhigg, 2012

Building Habits for Success

Consider times you’ve developed a positive habit. What has worked in the past for you? For example: What did you do to lose weight, get in shape, or spend more quality time at home? Some of the ways to ensure success include:

  • Support from others
  • Daily practice for a number of weeks
  • Books or podcasts that keep your motivation going
  • Visual reminders or cues to practice the new behavior
  • Reward yourself for small successes

Good News: Leadership Habits Are Similar 

The path to failure is paved with good intentions. It is true that we need more than good intentions to be a better listener, ask more/better questions, or champion our teams in solving their own problems. While there is usually a sincere desire for change, there also tends to be a failure to consider what that change requires, such as: how to implement the change, continue with those changes, or measure their success. 

In my experience most groups share that they try starting small – we have all heard the phrase “take baby steps” to get started. A wonderful resource for learning how to start small is the book Creating Tiny Habits, by B.J. Fogg. The basic premise of the book is that making a new habit so incrementally small, you can’t help but succeed. Small steps are the best way to achieve greater levels of success. 

As an example, if your leadership goal is to ask more questions, you could put a reminder in your calendar to ask at least three good questions during every meeting. You might even mention your goal to the team, so that they become a source of support, by including them they can help hold you accountable for reaching your goal and provide helpful feedback.

Leadership is a Team Sport

Leaders working together as a source of support for each other is a key factor that makes a tremendous difference in leadership development, particularly a coaching-style of leadership. Perhaps it shouldn’t be so surprising since we know that social support can make a big difference in overcoming life’s challenges. 

Unfortunately a typical work environment isn’t designed for leaders to show vulnerability and share their struggles toward becoming better leaders. Creating more ways for leaders to join together in this quest could make all the difference. I often tell groups – “Leadership is a team sport, so don’t expect to be great at leading in new ways by yourself”.  

Where to Go From Here

Bad habits are hard to break, and good habits are hard to create. By starting with a few small changes, and embracing a coaching-style of leadership you will see big results. Your team members will feel empowered, engaged, and excited to grow, resulting in limitless organizational value and potential. 

Organizations sharing their experiences, good and bad, will help the broader community advance their coaching abilities.  Has your organization been successful in developing coaching skills? Please let me know if you would be willing to share your story with others. Only by sharing our successes and our knowledge can we create the coaches of tomorrow.

Would you like a free assessment of your leadership development program? Recommendations on how to strengthen your existing program? Click here and let’s chat!


Duhigg, C. (2012). The power of habit: Why we do what we do in life and business. Random House.

Fogg, B. (2020). Tiny habits: The small changes that change everything. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

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