THOUGHT LEADERS : From commander to coach – the evolution of the modern business leader

Think back to when the world was more constant place and business leadership seemed more structured.
Leaders developed strategy, managers worked out how to implement the strategy and workers did what they were told. They didn’t have to adapt to constantly changing circumstances – they simply had to do their job.
Command and control was the dominant form of leadership and, until quite recently, remained unchallenged.
But with the emergence of rapid technological and social change, business had to adapt to an always fluid, and frequently chaotic, environment. command issued one month might be rendered obsolete the next – but rather than being empowered to find solutions, workers often had to refer upwards and await new set of instructions.
At the same time new breed of employee was emerging. Raised to believe they were unique individuals with worthwhile contributions to make, Gen Y and younger members of Gen X weren’t about to blindly follow orders. If they disagreed with command, they could happily scour the internet for supporting evidence and then challenge the boss. Or email and text their friends and colleagues and tell them why the boss was wrong.
Savvy businesses soon realised that, except in situations such as crises demanding immediate action, command and control was no longer effective leadership. It might get things done, but it didn’t allow adaptation to constantly changing environment.
And in world of entrenched skills shortages, it no longer served as strategy for motivating and retaining employees. Employees disempowered by controlling organisational culture would, sooner rather than later, be registering with online job sites and decamping to an employer that appreciated their individual strengths.
As result, consultants are increasingly being called in to guide business leaders in becoming coaches, not commanders.
While business leaders must still be able to provide solutions when necessary, just as many solutions are now provided by the teams that they lead. But those solutions will come only from teams that have permission to use their initiative, feel empowered to act and have the right mindset to seek solutions in the first place.
Enter the coach. coach is not someone who instructs employees in the technical skills of their job. Rather, coach is someone who can motivate employees to want to give their best, to want to be more than just technically competent, to really want to help this organisation succeed.
Think of an elite sports team – say, the All Blacks. Is it the role of the coach to teach them how to pass ball and kick conversion? Or is it the role of the coach to create the game plan and develop their mindset, so they want to win, so they combine as team that is much more than the sum of its parts, and so they want to be the best they possibly can?
So it is with the business leader as coach. Along the way the leader may transfer skills but importantly it is his or her job to find out what will motivate employees to go that extra mile, to contribute all they can, and to voluntarily go above and beyond their technical job description.
The precise motivation will differ for every employee, but almost universally, they want two things from their leaders. First, they want to be empowered to learn, grow and ultimately succeed. Of course, this has to be done within the organisational guidelines and it is the coach’s role to make that happen. But the more empowered employees are, the more satisfied they are and the greater is their choice of what to give to your business.
Secondly, most people work best when they have sense of clarity – when they know where the organisation is going and how they can help it get there. It is the leader’s role to provide that clarity.
This then enables employees to decide what they have to give and whether they want to give it.
If they don’t want to give it, it’s coach’s role to help them realise they might fit better in another team. The biggest mistake you can make is trying to be all things to all people – your organisation has goals, and your role is to help it reach those goals.
Great leaders take the vast majority of people with them, but it’s not popularity contest. You have to be able to make some hard decisions and people’s lives are going to change because of that. But then again, so is your organisation.

Gerald Tapper is director of business performance specialists RogenSi. He consults on leadership practice and has global responsibility for all people matters, including recruitment, performance management and professional development.

Visited 9 times, 1 visit(s) today
Close Search Window