So You’re a Leader. Are You Coachable?
- by Peter Dean
One of the biggest challenges in our global workplace is ensuring that our key executives remain “coachable” about their leadership impact.
As executives move up the ladder in organizations, they hear less and less feedback about their leadership impact. But by seeking, receiving and using feedback from another executive, a human resource professional or leadership development coach, executives can maintain the potential to be more reflective, effective, visionary and successful as leaders.
What’s the alternative?
Without coaching, executives can suffer career derailment. These are the symptoms: inflated self-importance; ego gone awry; inability to work with different types of people; overuse of position power; poor use of communication and influence skills; inability to form functioning teams; inability to change. Simply put, executives must short-circuit the causes of derailment with personal resiliency and interpersonal awareness.
At a time when the world faces economic confusion, with much of the blame being put on a lack of good executive leadership, we must comprehensively re-examine our notions about leadership. The traditional, fear-based, boss-centered, command-and-control type of ‘management’ is still used too frequently, is seriously flawed and has failed to prevent executives from following their own selfish agenda. Also, workers’ productivity is confined by this type of ‘management.’ Workers must not be held captive by a few managers who selfishly hold ‘leadership’ hostage from others under the cover-story of ‘management.’ Executives should be able to move on to a more integrated understanding of ‘leadership’ involving all stakeholders, with an integrative focus on completing the mission to achieve the organization’s strategic vision. We need to allow ‘leadership’ practices to flow to all areas of the company.
If the influence upon an executive’s practice of ‘leadership’ was derived from the traditional, linear models of ‘management’ of the past, then he or she may not be prepared for the non-linear world of a global economy. To lead and inspire others, an executive must know the story of ‘leadership’ and how it is different from the story of ‘management.’ Furthermore, some practices of ‘management’ may even be harmful to the practice of ‘leadership.’ There are executives who are not coachable and their career and their people suffer in silence.
Executives who remain ‘coachable’ will avoid this situation and prevent professional derailment. Remaining coachable is driven by and succeeds because of the executive’s ability to remain open to personal feedback. If one truly wants to learn ‘leadership,’ it is important to make an honest and earnest attempt to learn, grow and develop specific collaborative skills.
Coaching helps executives apply positive ‘leadership’ behaviors and avoid actions that cause derailment.
Finally, coaching provides an excellent start for an executive to build a ‘leadership library’ and a foundation of knowledge in the field of leadership studies. Leader development is not about obtaining a “corner office” or a “lofty position title” in an organization.
It is about mastering the fundamentals of leader development as listed below:
• Understanding the short-term focus of “management” but using the long-term view of “leadership”
• Monitoring and managing a healthy ego, emotional intelligence and professional ethics
• Using the sources of power (Intrapersonal Power, Knowledge Power, Interpersonal Sensitivity, Position Power and Political Power) appropriately and effectively
• Learning to use and expand a “coachable leader’s” sphere of influence beyond the sole use of position power
• Communicating comprehensively (Dialoguing, Listening, Empathizing, Attending, Presenting Yourself, Speaking and Networking)
• Learning the dynamics of work groups as they develop into effective and efficient teams
• Aligning work systems using the interplay between individual performance, team performance and work systems
If coachable, an executive can seize opportunities for leadership that exist in everyday interactions with colleagues, bosses, customers, analysts, bankers, vendors, etc. How to recognize a coachable executive? He or she exhibits a healthy ego, integrity, fair play, participation, productivity, responsibility, emotional intelligence, knowledge of how to use power and influence, comprehensive communication and know-how in developing teams collaboratively and in envisioning strategic change.
It’s a long list of attributes–but a coachable executive will want to master each one.