Moving Toward Becoming A Coaching Leader

15 years or so ago I had a chat over a meal with Mike Breen when he said, ‘You’ve reached a point now where you’ve done your 10,000 hours and in many ways have an ‘unconscious competence’ and proficiency in leadership. I think now you need to shift your leadership toward coaching others.’

I thought about it a moment (not long enough as it turned out) then answered, ‘Well nobody really helped me out! I had to go to all the conferences and read all the books and listened to the teachings myself. If people want to grow, they can too.’ 

Mike just looked at me with a raised eye brow and said, ‘Nobody helped you? Really?’ 

Then in a ‘life flashing before your eyes’ moment I thought of all the very man people, at every stage, whom God brought into my life to help, encourage, instruct, challenge and grow me. People I’d worked for or with and many (like Mike) who said yes to a meal or a coffee so I could pick their brains. 

So I said, ‘Yeah – sorry, so many people really.’ 

That conversation started a shift I’m still making and growing in, from ‘how will I lead’ to ‘how will I coach others to lead’

I’d served by growing my own gifts and exercising them through many being kinds of leader in various churches, charities, boards and teams, as well as my prior experience through the many ways I had led in the police, but now my move was toward being more of a coaching style of leader, I wasn’t sure how best to begin.

As someone who as that conversation revealed thought of himself as a ‘self made’ leader – so everyone is responsible for themselves- this was a dramatic shift in mindset that would then lead to changes in leadership style for me and it started with a need for humility rather than pride. I also realised a kind of false humility had kept me from coaching others too much before this.

For years, decades, I said to myself ‘I’m too young, nobody will want to learn from me.’ Now it won’t be long before the lie becomes ‘I’m too old, nobody wants to listen to me!’

Another conversation five or so years on from that with Dave Ferguson challenged me again when he said “Over here in the USA everyone coaches everyone.” It’s not saying I am better than you to lead like a coach, it’s just being there to serve and help you and we both get better when we do that.

Now as I’m on sabbatical, praying and pondering the future, the more I realise I need to lean into a coaching approach, though if the sporting sense helps understand that phrase, I still want to stay fit enough to be a player too, not just shouting advice from the byelines as a ‘consultant.’

Coaching is not management consulting, it’s not psychological or relational counselling. It’s not personal training. It’s not being a teacher or a mentor but it can contain elements of all of those and more – depending on the coach, and the coached, but I realise over the time I have been doing this with individuals or groups (whether they knew it or not, whether it was formal or informal) coaching leadership is a different way of thinking about leading with others, to make a greater difference. 

I’ve already admitted there was something of a resistance to put myself up as being some kind of ‘expert.’ The more I learn the more I have yet to learn. Perhaps on reflection that’s actually a good qualification to help someone else.

Andy Stanley said “I’m not here to fill your cup, but to empty mine”

Something began to shift in my focus as I realised a coach is not someone who has to be better than you at something.

Can Kipchoge’s coach run as fast as him? No. But if you check out this insightful short video you’ll see how he helps others break records, and it’s interesting that Patrick Sang describes the height of his achievement being when the one he’s coaching does so, rather than mentioning his own achievements though as an Olympic silver medallist he’s certainly no slouch!

This is not to say a coach is not a leader. You have to be a continual student of leadership to be a good coach, and the Bible is (among many other superlatives) the great manual and playbook for Christian leadership.

It takes one to make one (and many more)

In the video Sang talks about having a stopwatch and a whistle, and you have to be a leader to know what tools you have at your disposal and when and how to use them to help others know when to work, rest and play. One has to believe in yourself a little (God says some pretty good stuff about you last time I checked) and from that sense of security in Him start to invest in others. You encourage, liberally, then do so even more as you see potential that they themselves may not even see yet to identify, call out, develop, train and equip leaders.

It takes one to make one! (I don’t know if it takes one to know one, but I firmly believe it takes a leader to train a leader, something many in theological education in particular haven’t grasped in my experience).  

Coaching means communicating with people so they develop and perform at an uncommon level. To get passionate about that you have to care about people and start to see their ‘success’ as more important but intrinsically linked to your own joy, again we see this in the video.

For me now there are few things in life more fantastic to witness than sowing seed into someone else and watching it grow – watching them grow and succeed as result of your influence really can be better than doing it yourself because this really is leadership that leaves a legacy, a legacy that will far outlast you and the hours you put in. We need father and mothers maybe more than ever right now and as the apostle John wrote late on in life as a father in the church, when that’s your position for you there’s no greater joy than that your children are themselves walking in the truth.

This is a way to have a lasting impact in and through others, to serve and lead in a more effective way multiplying and taking others along with you on a journey to experience and accomplish more than you could have thought possible because you don’t care who gets the credit. It’s leading like Jesus who above everyone who ever lived could have said ‘If you want a job doing do it yourself’ but instead said his joy was complete when his disciples did not only what he said, but what he did!

As he walked with his followers the Lord not only demonstrated but apprenticed and helped them believe what he said was possible not only for him as the divine Son of God, but that inspired and infilled with his Spirit they would do what he did – and even greater!

Pray for me please I continue to want to grow as a Coaching Leader. Why not subscribe to my blog so we can go on the journey together?

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