Henley professor Jonathan Passmore on the different types of business leaders
Jonathan says coaching should be the default style that underpins every leader's approach.
There are six archetypes of business leaders: the visionary, the affiliative, the coach, the democrat, the pace setter and the commander. Examples of these would be Barack Obama, who was elected as the first black president of the US on the back of his vision of an new more equal, just and kinder country; actress Joanna Lumley, for her leveraging of her connections to fight for equal rights for Gurkha soldiers in the British Army; Rassie Erasmus, for his welding of a team ranked sixth in world rugby to become global champions; Nelson Mandela, as the consensus building democrat who pulled together parties hell bent on killing destroying each other to form a country; Richard Branson, the pace-setting entrepreneur; and, finally Winston Churchill, the commander.
Each one was perfect for the task at hand. But a single leadership style can’t work for every situation, in fact it could actually be counter-productive. Visionary leadership is required when you need change in a company, a new direction.
Affiliative leadership is needed to heal a team, democratic leadership builds consensus, and coaching is needed to improve the performance of individuals and build long term capacity. Pace-setting leadership is needed when you want to see top results from a competent team, while commanding leadership is when you need to manage during a crisis, such as a pandemic.
The best leaders should be adept at all six, but coaching should be the default style that underpins the rest. If the organisation wants to develop the talent it has, encourage its staff to take greater personal responsibility and become more creative.
Leaders who are coaches need to be both conversational and developmental, focussing on change, encouraging self-awareness and responsibility and, critically, be prepared to ask the right questions rather than needing to provide the right answers. These questions can be summarised under the acronym GROW: Goal, Reality, Options and Will; What do you want? Where are you now? What could you do? What will you do?
In a post Covid-19 era where the only certainty is change, the most important skill is continual reinvention; staff, processes, engaging with customers and this is why the leader as coach is more important than ever before.
This is why it is important to spend more time listening to staff. Thereafter, recognise that change takes time, get your staff to develop a personal plan, and then write it down and put it up where they can see it every day. For me, that place is inside the door of my wardrobe. Every morning, I look at it and remind myself of what I want to achieve. Every night, when I prepare himself for bed, I conduct a mental audit of what I have achieved that day against my personal plan.
Lastly, if you wish to develop coaching ability, you have to practice and couple this with the fundamental understanding that it is okay not to be perfect, but instead to seek incremental improvement of 1 percent at a time. Get feedback from a group of people who you can trust to be honest with you and help you become a better version of yourself.
The key thing when you’re running a business is that you don’t want one or two stars in your business to shine, you want to build a team who together becomes the Southern Cross, shining bright for all to see.
That also means not just developing who you have, but knowing who you have. And how do you help people play to their strengths in their best positions? Think of it like managing a soccer team - you don’t pick David Beckham to play in goal.