Inner leaders are teachers of their followers as much as anything else. To be effective, these leaders develop the techniques of effective teaching. Their role is to communicate with, inform, and ultimately persuade followers to cooperative joint action. This role involves leaders in teaching stakeholder colleagues (employees, clients, constituents, citizen-customers, others) the principles, values, and techniques of excellent performance. The teaching method most often used is coaching. Coaching is based on observing workers, exciting them, teaching them individually, encouraging them, and creating situations that give each worker the opportunity to take independent action in accomplishing work-community goals. Coaching lets inner leaders give followers continuing support so they can act for the work community. Coaching includes providing valuable feedback crucial to personal motivation and performance improvement.
Inner leadership is essentially coaching—the ability to associate with others in ways that enable them to act. Coaching is based on exciting workers, dealing with them individually, encouraging them, and creating situations within which, after preparation, they can take independent action in accomplishing joint goals. Coaches do not coordinate the work of their players (workers); they train, inspire, and perfect their full capacity to play their part (do their segment of the work). A result of good coaching is that recipients are enabled to act for the common good.
Coaching is one-on-one interaction with followers to teach, train, and aid in the development of their personal skills, values, and capacities. Coaches encourage teamwork, inspire cooperation, mentor, and otherwise shape member behavior, often one member at a time.
Simple observation confirms more formal evidence (see Chapter 7 and the rest of this resource) that the essence of leading is the development of those with whom leaders work. This can best be done face to face (Kulwiec, 2001).
Coaching is personalized leadership that pulls together people with diverse backgrounds, talents, experiences, and interests and treats them as full partners. It is a process of building on their strengths. At its heart, coaching involves caring enough about followers to take the time to build personal relationships with them. It is finding a reason every day to meet with them to underscore that both leader and follower are really linked in the common endeavor. It is the power of personal attention that communicates only one way: physical presence (Fairholm, 1993).
Coaching is value-shaping. Coaches change behavior (skills), but their most important task is to change the attitudes and values of members to conform to those of the work community. It involves the principle of supportive relationships Rensis Likert (1961) described. Supportive relationships are those that ensure a maximum chance that in all relationships members—given their values, desires, background, and expectations—will view the relationship as positive. The coaching relationship is one that supports, builds, and maintains the individual’s sense of personal worth and importance. Much coaching comes from example. As leader-coaches reflect work community values in their actions, individual members come to understand them, accept them, and behave accordingly. Coach-leaders also voice work-community values, consistently communicate them, and reflect them in both oral and written contacts with stakeholders.
Coaching is a new conception of the role of the leader. Few writers suggest what is the observable fact about many executives: that leaders are primarily teachers of their followers. Few writers relate leadership with teaching. Henry Leavenson (1968) is an exception. Inner leaders often act in a coaching relationship with their followers. There is a significant implication in this activity.
Leader coaches are good role models. They are supportive—not overpowering. Leadership is about really paying attention to the people—believing in them, caring about them, involving them. Some of the most vital aspects of coaching are the same as the definitional aspects of the values model of leadership. Thus, coaches and excellent leaders listen to understand. They are visible, set limits, shape values, stretch their followers, accept difference, and capitalize on them. And they let their followers’ specialties be seen, perfected, and recognized.
Coaching is the essence of leading, that is, developing all those with whom the leader works. Coaching pulls together people with diverse backgrounds, talents, experiences, and interests and treats them as full partners (Lombardi, 2000). Coaches spend time—sometimes lavish time—on followers. Coaching is a real-time effort, taking place in the instant of interactivity. It is not a cerebral but an action technique. Coaching takes place where the action is, at the time of the action. You have to be out of your office to coach. It is relating the individual to the rest of the work community in productive ways. The best coaches spend as much time strengthening the work community’s capacity to operationalize shared values as they do developing individual member ability to do needed work. The best coaching result is getting people personally involved with how the leader does his or her own job. It is showing followers that what they do moves the work community a little further toward their goals and at the same time moves the work community closer to its goals.