Although there is no such thing as bad or good leadership styles, some styles create a better workplace climate than others. A proficient manager knows how to adopt different leadership styles to succeed and embrace the coaching approach. Of all leadership styles, coaching is the best at stimulating people’s potential and productivity over the long term while motivating them and enabling them to develop and transform themselves. It encourages people to find their own answers, solutions and resources so that they can give the best of themselves, both in terms of presence and performance. So let’s zoom in and find out more about this leadership style. 

I interviewed Sara Leclerc, Global Marketing Director GSK, Founding and Executive Member WLP who has developed her leader-coach approach and created a coaching culture across the company while working as General Manager of ViiV Healthcare. The development of her coaching skills over the years is quite inspiring. She is highly motivated to empower her team to coach each other at all levels of the organization. 


Understanding what a leader-coach is

Leader-coaches support and accompany. They initiate dialogue, highlight opportunities for growth and providing feedback every day. They help others find answers to their own questions and find their own path toward improving their performance. They ask questions (vs giving the answers) and are active listeners. They have a positive impact on the workplace climate, encourage people to experiment and take on new challenges and to improve their self-awareness, influence, and empathy. Leader-coaches create high accountability with team members that are competent and trustworthy. 


Advantages of the Coaching Style

The goal is for leaders and managers to develop and enhance their toolbox. The coaching approach is nor natural or intuitive. To be able to use it, you have to develop new skills with a clear intent and, practice.

In a Harvard Business Review article, researchers tried to demonstrate why some managers apply coaching techniques and what distinguishes these managers from others. According to the article, such managers believe in the value of coaching and its presence in the toolbox. They see four main advantages: 

  • Achieving business objectives in an evolving context 
  • Helping people reach their full potential 
  • Nurturing the curiosity of the manager-coach (since they ask a lot of questions) 
  • Building relationships, with empathy in order to adapt the approach as necessary. 

Sara talks about the advantages of the coaching approach when she says ‘’it’s allowing the team to learn and grow from each other, it is a great opportunity to foster feedback and learning. We create high level of trust and it supports a culture of engagement’’.


Develop key leadership skills

 As I said, coaching is the least common and most difficult leadership style to master because it requires honing interpersonal skills such as :

  • high self-awareness
  • effective communication 
  • attentive listening 
  • prompt and systematic feedback 
  • an ability to ask questions 
  • good management of emotions—our own and those of others. 

You can start developing these interpersonal skills by asking others for their opinions and feedback, delegating, giving feedback yourself, and offering ongoing support.

Beyond relational skills, coaching involves, first and foremost, establishing a bond of trust with people and investing time in their development. It means moving away from the traditional hierarchical-pacesetter-coercive leadership styles toward a more collaborative and, as we have seen, a more balanced (I’m ok, you’re ok) approach. Coaching also requires relinquishing short-term outcomes and tolerating that things are not done your way, accepting mistakes, which are not necessarily easy for managers. To develop your coaching approach, take time to discuss employee growth and development and accept that your team makes, and will continue to make, mistakes. 

You also need to move from the power of the right ‘’answer’’ to the power of the right ‘’question’’, the question that will allow your employee to open-up to new perspectives and solutions. I believe this is the most challenging shift of mindset you have to make to become a leader-coach.

Sara talks about the journey she had to go through to become a leader coach. ‘’You are not born a leader coach. I always cared about people, wanting them to succeed and to reach their whole potential. Being a coach is a permission for me to able to live this and give myself the space, to step back, not having all the answers. I’m helping a person even more if I step back and don’t giving all the answers’’. She grew her career over the years, learning with her growth mindset. ‘’I am always a learner and I am always ‘’becoming’’, I continue to think I am just getting started’’.

 For her, the hardest part of being a leader-coach is when someone does not want to be coached. ‘’Some people do not want to get in that discomfort to grow. They want solutions. Choosing the right moment and the right task to coach is the challenge. Did I use my coaching hat at the right time? Coaching is a tool, not the only tool I use all the time. Sometimes, just giving clear direction is what is needed from the situation’’.


Do you associate with people who often use the coaching approach? 

Are you able to observe them and figure out how they influence their team? 

Under what circumstances could you act more like as a leader-coach? 


To coach, you must be present for others and weave a bond of trust. To do that, you must first learn to listen in new ways that creates connections. And use questioning tools and a coaching model to maximize your interventions. Listening, questioning, and using a coaching model will be other topics in next podcasts.


As always, I invite you to be inspired and inspire! 

Cloé Caron
President-founder of o2coaching, Author, Speaker and Coach