How to use the four modes of Coaching in Leadership

Posted on September 28, 2021
By rita cincotta

How to use the four modes of Coaching in Leadership

Even though leadership is seen as an esteemed path, it is not necessarily an easy one.  There are plenty of challenges that accompany leadership.  Some more easily overcome than others.  Then let’s throw a pandemic in the mix, just to increase the challenge level, shall we?

The leaders I work with tell me they are feeling overwhelmed.  There is so much coming at them.  The constant changes, new information and changed directions are becoming exhausting. They are fatigued.  Finding the energy to deal with the leadership challenges they face is becoming more difficult. They are depleted.  Between work and personal challenges, there isn’t much left in the tank.  There isn’t a playbook for these leadership challenges.  It’s all quite new.

Many leaders are facing a confidence crisis.  They are finding it challenging to rely on the same style of leadership they have in the past.  They have a strong desire to be genuine while being authentic too.  They know that this will help them to maintain trust in the teams they lead. There is a need to be more in tune with what team members need.  It requires more deliberate checking in and focusing on what really motivates employees while our ways of working have changed.

Developing a deeper understanding of your team

If we use one primary mode to lead, chances are we may not be catering to the individual needs of those in our team.  In leadership, one size doesn’t fit all.  Our team members have different needs, depending on their capabilities and what’s happening for them in and out of work. 

Now more than ever there is an opportunity for coaching in leadership to shine. 

The role of the Leader as a Coach

When a leader takes on a coaching style, leadership does look different.  Firstly, leadership in this mode is more collaborative.  The leader will ask more than tell.  In asking they will seek to explore rather than direct. The leader demonstrates a genuine curiosity when seeking to understand, rather than seeking to prove a point. There is a focus on collaboration, guidance and support.  The leader seeks to bring out the best in the team at a team and individual level. Development is based on individual, and team needs and is explored and enabled regularly.   

Here are the four modes in the Leader as Coach model. 

Leader as Coach model, Rita Cincotta 2021


Leaders can be really good at telling but asking is different.  Through asking, leaders pose more questions than they answer. It takes more vulnerability to ask questions than answer them when you are the leader.  However, in coaching, asking questions is critical.  You can’t rely on assumptions and judgements.  Asking questions, helps to clarify, and it helps the leader to be in a position of genuinely seeking to understand.


A coach will calibrate what they are hearing, seeing and observing through the interaction with the person they are coaching.  For Leaders, the skill of calibrating is an important one.  Leaders are required to synthesise information, make sense of the information they have, and identify the gaps in the information that require.   When leaders can do this through the coaching mode, they are more carefully tuning in to create a fuller picture that will help them best guide their team member.


Empathy is about care, support, and understanding another person’s perspective in a more profound way.   This frame is useful when coaching.  Before one can feel and demonstrate empathy for another person, it is useful to be curious, as this will generate questions and keep the mind open to learning more.   Empathy limits initial and quick judgements and helps us to view the situation from one or more alternative perspectives. 


Support in a leadership setting, isn’t about necessarily solving the problem.  It is however about assessing the best next step.  Some people will need more hands-on support, which may involve providing direction, instructions, and for the leader to remove barriers and blockages.  For others, support may be about being a sounding board, so your team can bounce an idea, but continue to navigate through the issue they are facing.  The type of support a leader can provide in the coaching mode of leadership is completely contextual and subjective.

The opportunities in using the Coaching mode in Leadership

Using the coaching mode in leadership provides you with the best direction on how to support your team.  The model focuses on increasing trust, authenticity and connection and decreasing defensiveness, hierarchy and judgement.  The model also equalises the dynamics in the leader and employee relationship.  This is evident in the use of questions rather than answers, empowering the team member to resolve their issue, with support from you as the leader.   

Through ask, calibrate, empathise and support relationships are strengthened, trust, connection and engagement increase and you have a method to help you to lead differently through these times.   

Rita Cincotta is an author, coach, speaker, and facilitator focused on team and individual performance, leadership development and ways of working. She works with organisations to help them develop a culture that delivers an optimal experience for their teams and customers.

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