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Want To Be A Great Leader? Be A Great Coach

Source | | Andrew Blum

It’s no secret that the Bay Area is one of the highest-priced labor markets in the country, if not the world. That’s the bad news. The good news is that it is also a place where some of the most talented people in the world choose to work. I was recently chatting with a client — the CEO of a company that’s fully equipped with expensive, but also highly skilled people — about how best to leverage and inspire his team. We discussed all the things he was doing to motivate them. It looked like the KPIs were already set and the goals were very clear, and that many of his people were already highly skilled at collaborating.

So, we asked, “What’s next?” I asked if his leaders were effective coaches. He looked at me and said, “I don’t even know what that means.” I told him, “That’s what people of the caliber of talent you have want — not to be directed, but rather to be inspired to discover their own strengths, and then be trusted to collaborate.” I went on to explain that we are now in a coaching era of leadership and outlined how we got here and how it is different from the past.

Until about 20 years ago, most leaders grew up in a Post-World War II leadership model that was most focused on “command and control.” Leadership was largely about getting people to follow direction, and the primary orientation of the leader was ensuring that execution was consistent and orderly. Everything from strategies to processes were set up to control for outcomes and employees were evaluated on compliance and noncompliance.

As information became more ubiquitous and people became more educated, there was a subtle shift toward an era of collaboration, where the primary leadership orientation placed less emphasis on hierarchy and direction and more on bringing shared skills to the table. During this era, the most successful organizations built their capabilities by leveraging the collective strength and wisdom of the leaders. Working with others became critical and cross-functional collaboration became an imperative.

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