Develop leadership skills through coaching

It’s funny how some leaders think it is a good thing to have one very clear, inflexible style. You get people, walking round the office declaring “I am a very hands-off manager” or “I don’t like to micro-manage, I’m an inspirational leader.”However, the reality is that in today’s diverse workplace, leaders need to be able to take their people along with them. The most capable and successful leaders are likely to be those who can vary their style depending on:  The task that needs to be completed and the needs of the person who will be carrying out the task.

Hersey and Blanchard ( described this as “Situational Leadership” and described how leaders can use different leadership behaviours, depending on the employee’s competence and commitment.

Wherever there is a performance gap, it is usually an issue of competence or commitment or a mixture of the two. The type of conversations you have with employees about performance at work will be guided by looking at these factors.

They have a number of fiendishly complex graphs (at least I find them complicated) to illustrate this. On the off-chance that you are like me and have not yet fully realised the usefulness of this model as a result, the main points are set out below:


In situational leadership terms, competence means the employees knowledge and skills, gained through experience, training or formal education. Competence is not the same as innate ability or potential. Competence can be developed over time with the right direction and support.


This is a combination of confidence and motivation. Confidence is a measure of someone’s self-assuredness and security – the extent to which they feel able to perform a task with little or no guidance. Motivation is a measure of their keenness to perform a task, their desire to achieve and their enthusiasm – in other words how much they want to do the task

People will be at different development levels depending on their confidence and competence in relation to a specific task. With the right direction and support, people typically move through a development cycle starting out as an enthusiastic beginner and moving through to be a peak performer.

Think about what the person needs to accomplish the task successfully. Depending on where your employee is, you can choose your style of leadership i.e. the way you behave when managing their performance. Heresy and Blanchard identify two important behaviours:

Directive Behaviour

This involves telling people clearly what they should do, how, where and when to do it and then closely monitoring their performance. Typically, it is a one-way communication style

Supportive Behaviour

This involves listening to people, supporting and encouraging their efforts and facilitating their involvement in problem solving and decision making. Typically, this is a two-way communication style.

These behaviours are combined in different ways, as appropriate to the person being managed.  There are four leadership styles:


This means the leader provides specific instructions about roles and goals and then closely supervises performance. With a directive leadership style, the leader is in charge.


This is a step up from directing. The leader explains his/her directions, solicits suggestions, praises approximately right behaviour but continues to direct task accomplishment. With a guiding leadership style, the employee is more involved in decision making but when push comes to shove the leader decides.


This is almost an independent level. The leader and employee make decisions together. The role of the leader is to facilitate, listen, draw the follower out encourage and support. With a supporting leadership style, the employee decides how the task is to be accomplished and the leader provides support, encouragement and ideas if required.


Delegating is the stage at which you can leave employees to get on with things more independently. In Hersey and Blanchard’s terms, it is a combination of low directive and low supportive behaviours. The leader turns over responsibility for task accomplishment to the employee: the employee provides his/her own direction and support. When a delegating leadership style is used the employee decides when how and with whom the task will be accomplished.

This model recognises that leaders and mangers must be flexible and adaptable to their employee’s needs. Good leaders know their people well enough to be aware of and responsive to their situations.  Good leaders also know how to treat their employees as a group and how to treat each individual employee. Both ideas together can lead to gradual behavioural change that will make employees feel more empowered in their jobs and will benefit the organisation too.

Here at Margaret Martin we have Executive Coaches who can coach your managers to look at their leadership style. Call us to discuss how we can help.

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