The essence of leadership
Professor John Kotter of Harvard Business School captures the essence of leadership by viewing leadership through the
lens of what outstanding leaders do. This is how I interpret Kotter in action:
Leaders set direction, communicate a compelling vision, align the organisation’s stakeholders with this direction, and
motivate and inspire people; the outcomes of which enable the organisation to adapt and change in complex and dynamic
environments, much like the spinnaker sail on a yacht.
In contrast, managers plan and budget, organise and allocate resources, effect control and solve operational problems,
the outcomes of which create order for the organisation, just as a yacht’s keel does.
Like a finely tuned and well-skippered yacht that wins the race, a successful organisation needs both leadership and
management in the appropriate proportions. It’s not a case of one or other. And of course, executives within organisations
must be able to both lead and manage – again in different proportions accordingly to their role and its context within the
Levels of leadership
My approach to transformation coaching aims to enhance leadership skills on three levels by delivering both personal and professional growth.
As the saying goes, if you can’t lead yourself, you can’t lead others. Leading yourself is about mastering yourself. This is the core and foundation of all leadership. Without it, the other levels are compromised. Accomplishing self-mastery involves knowing and accepting yourself, being true to your values and beliefs, and being open to feedback so you can learn. It includes adapting to changing situations, being resilient so you can bounce back from challenges, and more. Transformation coaching develops these and other self-leadership skills.
The consummate leader gets business results by empowering others to execute. Leading others is how leaders get most
of their work done. They leverage the energy, creativity and skills of their team and direct reports. They create a sense of shared destiny, fostering collaboration, strengthening team members by sharing information and power, developing their skills, and smoothing the path by removing barriers. Transformation coaching enhances a leader’s ability to deliver through others.
In its broadest sense, leadership represents the ability to guide an organisation towards better business outcomes. To do this effectively, leaders must be able to identify and focus on performance drivers that are critical to success, scan and anticipate relevant trends in the external environment, shape internal culture to enable individuals to perform, while aligning and designing the organisation to capitalise on opportunities. Transformation coaching helps leaders grow and take responsibility for leading an organisation.
How transformation coaching enhances leadership
Leaders grow not by relying on current strengths, but by developing new ones. This demands that they first let go of the past. By this, I mean that in order to find new ways of thinking and doing, they must first surface and challenge some of their deepest assumptions and beliefs, and reorder aspects of their values.
A skilled executive coach can assist in this process, as the individual works to transform him or herself from who he/she is now to who he/she wants to be. More
Transformation coaching helps leaders to become more effective in several ways:
- It encourages them to become self-aware and to embrace new ways of thinking and behaving.
- It provides them with the tools and ‘mental space’ to develop a clear sense
of who they are and who they want to become – and to do this in a way that aligns their purpose with their professional role and the direction of their organisation.
- It teaches them how to master the internal and external context, people and situations, and to adapt their style to changing circumstances.
- It helps them to develop resilience, enabling them to recover from setbacks, to let go and move on.
- It allows them to clarify of their core values to exercise judgment, and make courageous decisions for which they are accountable.
- It assits them in becoming self-directed learners, who continually seek feedback and take responsibility for their own development.
These core attributes equip the individual to lead people and teams, and to foster strong relationships with key stakeholders across multiple boundaries. They grow to become the architects of organisational strategy and change in an increasingly complex, demanding and resource-constrained environment.
You can read more about my thinking on transformation coaching in these posts: