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How to coach different leadership styles

May 21, 2020

As a business coach, it’s your responsibility to guide a business through its ups and downs. It’s a rewarding gig, and in the process, you’ll get to meet tons of different, interesting business-owners — all of them with a unique leadership style that requires personalized coaching.

Obviously, this can pose a bit of a challenge. What kinds of people can you expect to meet, and how do you effectively coach so many types of people? Well, worry not, friend — the Bloom Growth team has put together a list of the 5 most common leadership styles that you might encounter with your clients, complete with tips and tricks on coaching each one.

Jump to:

  1. The coach
  2. The forward-thinker
  3. The helper
  4. The autocrat
  5. The laissez-faire

Type one: “the coach”

The coach isn’t afraid to invest time in their employees, because they know it’s worth it. They’re great at setting expectations, providing feedback and motivating their team members — so much so that sometimes, the coaches forgets that they need help, too.

How to coach a coach

Remind them to take time for themselves. If necessary, recommend that they go so far as to block out a period of time (maybe an hour a day) to focus on their own development and goals. These leaders probably need an excuse to step away from the big picture, reset and realign with themselves — and you can help them find the opportunity.

Type two: “the forward-thinker”

Forward-thinkers can see the big picture and use it to inspire their employees, creating an awesome bond between team members while encouraging growth. Because of their focus on the future, these leaders can sometimes get stuck in the clouds, especially when their ideas run away with them.

How to coach a forward-thinker

Work with your forward-thinking client on mindfulness. Encourage them to leave their phone and laptop out of meetings (if they can), and ask them to create a list of issues they anticipate facing within the next few months. The goal here isn’t to drag your forward-thinker away from their vision, but to help them find a foothold in what can be done now.

Type three: “the helper”

Helpers are people-focused. They prioritize employee satisfaction, and stand by their belief that a happy employee is a good employee. They’ll do anything they can to help a team member out, meaning they sometimes get lost in the day-to-day grind, losing sight of the bigger picture.

How to coach a helper

Like a coach, helpers need to be gently reminded to take time for themselves. However, they’re probably more hands-on with their employees, meaning taking time for themselves could mean taking time away from someone else. Encourage helpers to make a list of goals for themselves spanning the next year, and work out specific strategies to meet those goals. These goals act as a life-raft so that, when they’re struggling to stay above water, they can always fall back on what they know will help the business.

Type four: “the autocrat”

These managers are often consumed with results and efficiency, sometimes at the expense of employee satisfaction. While autocratic leaders are a whiz at business, these leaders expect employees to meet their expectations to the T, which can lead to issues down the road, like high turnover rate or negative company reviews.

How to coach an autocrat

Autocrats are great for improving numbers and productivity, and are usually pretty data-minded. So, to help them understand the importance of employee satisfaction, dig up some case studies on the subject. Show them the causational relationship between morale and productivity, and work with them on strategies to improve employee satisfaction and turnover rate. Their company’s performance (and employees) will thank you.

Type five: “the laissez-faire”

The laissez-faire management style is the functional opposite of the autocrat. These leaders are as hands-off as possible, trusting their team members to get the work done with little supervision. This model might sound great to employees, but it can cause a serious dent in productivity if unmitigated.

How to coach a laissez-faire leader

Work with them to improve employee accountability. This might be a weekly touch base with each of their direct reports, or a larger, monthly meeting where employees go over both what’s been done and what’s still on the to-do list. Your laissez-faire client might be surprised to see a spike in productivity after the fact, or their trust in their employees will be reaffirmed. Either way, it’s a win!

What about blended leadership styles?

Good question! Glad you asked. More often than not, you’ll be dealing with multiple members of a leadership team, which means managing multiple leadership styles. In this, you need to be light on your feet. Be willing to pivot, and come to sessions prepared to handle the expectations of an autocrat, the altruism of a helper, the big ideas of a forward-thinker, and…the list goes on. Remember, each of these leaders were involved in you getting hired. This means that, more often than not, each of them believes in you just as much as we do. And, if one of them doesn’t, understanding their leadership style is the first step to changing that!

Most importantly, trust your gut

In business coaching, there’s rarely a “right” or “wrong” answer — just opportunities, and your ability to call them out. Every client will present a unique challenge, and when push comes to shove, remember to trust your instincts. Your experience and expertise are what they hired you for, and it’s why we know that you’ve got this!


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