Stephen Covey says "Leadership is essentially a CHOICE, not a position". This makes so much sense to me. This is what we mean when we say Leaders 'emerge'. They don't ask for permission, they see what needs to be done and either do it or see it gets done.
Coaching becomes the vehicle that CLARIFIES what needs to be done and how it should be done. Once this is in place, Leadership then happens as a result of such clarity. So the inference is if people were clearer about things in their own minds they would Lead more often. Seems sensible but why is this not the case? My own belief is this is linked to the following reasons;
- Not enough high quality role models for people to study, work with or learn from.
- Limiting beliefs; too many capable people discount their own abilities or lack confidence.
- Deferring to hierarchy. We still live in a society where permission is sought far too often.
Coaching has a saying, we help people "get out of their own way". When this happens, people are energised and move positively and rapidly towards their goals, with a new spring in their step and no small amount of creativity. For a resourceful Country like Ireland we're not very tolerant of people making mistakes! This seems like a contradiction. Making mistakes is seen as a sign of weakness. Often times capable people don't act just to avoid looking foolish. The sad reality is making mistakes is an essential part of learning. True Leaders allow this to happen in a safe and smart way.
There's an old Chinese proverb that reminds us "the fish always rots from the head". This is because capable people can be shackled by a false perception of their role. They become slaves to conformity and all too often lack the moral courage to speak out, even on issues they're expert in. Leadership is also about having the confidence to speak your mind. If you don't do this why be in the room at all? We mainly regret things we don't do, rather than the things we actually do.
Much of the work of a Coach is simply helping people re-frame what's in front of them so they begin to evaluate options that hitherto were suppressed or just plain new! These 'aha' moments are truly powerful. This is why people don't need to be told what to do! It's so much more powerful when they discover things for themselves. They stand taller, take on a new air of confidence and a new purpose. They OWN that which they've just detected. The really smart ones then learn how to do this with their own people. Whenever you spend time with another person and help them figure out something for themselves, you build a deep bond with that person. This builds up tremendous loyalty. That up-front time is repaid to you many times over. That person is also likely to repeat this process with their own people and credit you with their learning. You get a reputation internally as 'a great Coach'. The ultimate accolade!
Future leaders and High Potential individuals do however need more than just a Mentor. They also need a Coach to help them decipher their own behaviour and accurately interpret what's going on around them. This helps them unpack and unpick complex issues. This allows the Coachee access "the simplicity on the far side of complexity" as Oliver Wendell Holmes famously said. This is simple but rarely easy! A good coach will relish being in this space with you.
In a nutshell, Coaching is the enabler, People Development is the output and Leadership over time will leave a fine legacy.
Your comments as ever are very welcome.