Reaching Across the Pond
Leadership, Culture and Coaching
In the US today, the workplace has become an emerging breeding ground for cultural evolution.
The bureaucratic manager is no longer revered as the organizational hero, but rather labeled as an archaic controlling type – and a pretty unattractive one, at that. The replacement is the empathetic leader with a compassionate perspective and approach. This growing trend brings with it the realization that it is not the person at the top that brings the company to success, but those that look up to him or her as an example.
You may well have heard that people don’t leave organizations, but that they do leave their managers. This is something I can identify with and, perhaps, it has been your experience too. Like yourself, or your team members, I have relied heavily on my boss to provide an example of what the business’ culture looks like in practice.
This reliance has, however, often left me feeling powerless to influence any sort of positivity in the workplace. My own resulting attitude has impacted directly on my abilities and my job security, along with the attitude of those around me.
Eventually, I discovered that my best efforts, and the most productive environment for me, were with a manager that mentored. Having a supervisor that took an interest in me and in my development along with my work, versus just the work, helped me to become a positive asset to the organization. This should be a priority for any employer and employee.
In the UK today, I see similar trends to those you have described in the US. Autocratic styles of leadership are less common than before and collaborative styles are more prevalent. There are, I think, a number of reasons for this.
Firstly, the issues that leaders and organisations face, like the environments in which they operate, are often dynamically complex and, therefore, lay well beyond the ability of one individual to grasp or solve. Secondly, the wider postmodern cultural environment in the UK means that people are now less likely than before to trust or respond to traditional hierarchical authority.
These, along with other similar factors, mean that coaching and mentoring styles of leadership are increasingly common here. It’s not simply that coaching skills or techniques are being deployed by managers more frequently. It’s more that leaders are learning and adopting a holistic way of being, valuing, thinking and relating. In this sense, we could think of this as a movement towards coaching culture.
In practice, this involves leaders thinking about their own role in terms of what will best enable others to succeed. It’s also about releasing potential in people and teams to achieve something amazing – together.
Leadership style moves away from ‘I want you to do this’ to, ‘What are we here to do?’ and from, ‘Do it this way’ to, ‘How shall we do this?’ It draws on and develops talent in people and teams, enabling all to contribute as resourceful human beings.
Tara Parker is an organizational leadership, change management and project management consultant in the United States (email@example.com). Nick Wright is a psychological coach and organisation development (OO) consultant in the United Kingdom (firstname.lastname@example.org).