Teaching Leadership LO7055

William J. Hobler, Jr. (bhobler@cpcug.org)
Mon, 29 Apr 1996 19:55:36 -0400

Replying to LO7023 --

Martin Charles Raff wrote

>I actually doubt whether it is possible for leaders to be effective
>coaches to their people - for two reasons.
>Firstly unless the leader has just left the job the person he is
>responsible for is doing he will know much less about it than the
>person doing it.
>Secondly, it is, I believe, virtually impossible for the follower in
>a hierarchy to be regularly 'coached' by the leader without feeling
>a sense of helpless subordinateness, and inferiority, however
>kindly and tactful the leader's coaching approach is.

I would like to place an assumption or two on the table before I begin.

First. I assume that the leader and followers involved are dealing adult
to adult with each other.

Second: I assume that the people involved are 'professionals.' Not the
definition of professionals as white collar workers. Rather, that the
people take their discipline or craft seriously. Everyone wishes to be
known as a very competitent person in their chosen life employement.

Third: I assume that the people involved are intent on achieving success
in some business goal or objective.

Under these assumptions I don't believe that the leader has to know more
about the work. In mentoring or coaching the leader must be aware of the
risks of failure of the effort and the early indicators of failure. Then
the leader can stand back from the issues and take action only when the
project is going wrong. Why, failure is distructive to the organization
and the people involved.

As for coaching, the leader need only ask and answer questions. The best
answer to questions, is a question. The goal is to get the coached person
to clarify their thinking. When the question is, which of these options
should I take - the answer is 'the best one in your opinion.'

The issue in this is not demeaning the coached, the issue is to provide
the atmosphere and opportunity for questions. This atmosphere is not
developed in a day, or month.

The leader must be able to know when his or her people are really sure of
their position. I guess the question is, have they done their homework?
Two illustrations, I had a leader ask me why we should take some drastic
action, my answer was that I had a gut feeling that we were being taken
for fools. He agreed, signed a letter that was both controversial and
correct. We avioded a monitary disaster. This same leader would approve
new projects if you could justify it on a 5.5 by 8.5 inch sheet of paper
(that had a letterhead). We had to do our homework.

Good leadership does not try to encapsulate all expertise in the leaders.
They must make it possible for their people to use their creativity while
avoiding disasters.

Can this leadership be taught - You bet. The large companies do it every


Reflection without action is sloth, Action without reflection is busyness Both are useless - think - do it

Bill Hobler "William J. Hobler, Jr." <bhobler@cpcug.org>

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>