What Is The Number One Skill For Future Leaders?

coaching, coaching skills

What do you think is the primary responsibility of a manager or a leader? Had you asked Frederick Taylor this question, he would have said planning workers’ activities and making sure the workers do exactly what they were told to do in the exact way they were trained to do it.

That philosophy emerged over 100 years ago and has dominated the traditional command-and-control practices of most organizations ever since. The problem is this model no longer works, not in the current fast-changing environment. Over the past decade, the role of the manager has undergone a dramatic and fundamental shift. Leaders have become coaches.

Coaches shape a better future. They motivate, engage, and inspire others. Executives with effective coaching skills help others achieve personal and professional goals. Organizations that employ leaders who are great coaches experience improved performance, increased retention, team cohesion, increased motivation, and improved conflict resolution.

Unfortunately, coaching can be a hard skill to master for some people. It is not something they have been trained to do throughout their career. Most leaders are still accustomed to tackling problems by telling their people what to do instead of asking and listening. They are uncomfortable with coaching because it deprives them of what they are familiar with the most: asserting authority. Even when leaders ask for their employees’ input, deep down, they have already made up their minds about what they want to do. While they are attempting to coach, all they are doing is trying to get an agreement from everyone else on what they have already decided.

Regardless of the challenges, in order for organizations to continue to succeed in the future, coaching has to become a critical skill for their leaders. Both Harvard University and The Wharton School of Business recognize that.

Harvard has established an affiliation with the Institute of Coaching, which has a mission to disseminate the best coaching science and empower positive change in individuals, communities, and the world. Harvard University also teaches leadership coaching strategies as a part of its professional development program. The program offers coaching frameworks to develop a coaching mindset, help employees reach their potential, and adapt management style to the needs of different individuals.

Wharton has a different approach to teaching coaching. As a part of their Executive Coaching and Feedback Program, the University offers its second-year MBA students an opportunity to get personalized one-on-one executive coaching based on detailed feedback from peers and former co-workers. As participants go through the program, they build self-awareness, identify and address leadership strengths and areas for development, and practice transforming experiences. That’s because, at its core, coaching is about transformation. The most critical aspect of what coaches do is help individuals go from the present to the future.

Once we move away from Taylor’s model of command-and-control to a place where a manager says, “Where are you and where do you want to go in the future? Let me help you get there,” is when we reach an environment where meaningful work becomes possible.

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