If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.

John Quincy Adams, American President

Over the years I’ve had numerous conversations with other coaches about our roles and responsibilities. Sometimes those are well-defined and clearly communicated with our faculty. In other cases, our role can be defined more generally that leaves room for adaption and interpretation.

When facilitating discussions about coaching roles, I often refer to Coaching Matters and the work of Joellen Killion and Cindy Harrison. They have developed a list of 10 possible roles and responsibilities of coaches. When I share this list with other coaches both new to the role and those with experience, many of them identify with roles such as resource provider, classroom supporter, instructional or curriculum specialist and learning facilitator. However, in regards to the roles school leader and catalyst for change, many of the coaches are surprised to find these on the list and do not particularly connect those with their coaching role.

One thing I realized is that the terms “leadership” and “school administration” are often used interchangeably, and the word “leadership” can be strongly associated with the roles or team in a school structure. Some coaches struggle to overcome a perception of being part of administration as this perception can inhibit the trust coaches need from teachers to develop positive working relationships.

My own perception of what “leadership” and being a leader meant developed beyond an administrative or managerial context after one of my mentors told me that I was a leader (a reluctant leader but a leader just the same). I then started to research and learn more about leadership skills and characteristics and began to see the connections with the work of a coach. I realized more and more about the opportunities and responsibilities I had as a coach that incorporated aspects of leadership in, for example, how I interacted with people, how I approached change, how to clarify vision, inspiring and supporting individual, team and school wide goals. 

Defining our roles as coaches can be complex but think about how coaches are also leaders.

How do you define leadership? 

What are the qualities or characteristics of an effective leader? 

What connections do you see between leading and coaching? 

Do you see yourself as a leader? 

How might others see you as a leader? 

If we dig deeper into the qualities and actions of effective leadership…What connections can we make between coaching and leadership? In her book, The Art of Coaching Teams, Elena Aguilar addresses leadership from a coaching perspective and points to Transformational Leadership as a model for creating ‘fundamental, long-lasting change” and is an example of where we can find those connections to our coaching role.

There are four components of transformational leadership that Aguilar refers to: 

Intellectual stimulation:

“Transformational leaders challenge the status quo and encourage creativity among others” which involves listening and asking questions to facilitate thinking and ideas with individual teachers, teams and maybe even at the whole-school level. As coaches we  encourage creativity and innovation to address issues and promote continual improvement.

Individualized consideration:

“To foster supportive relationships, transformational leaders develop open lines of communication so that others feel free to share ideas. This allows leaders to recognize the unique contributions of others.”

A key part of our job as coaches is to build relationships and provide individualized support to our colleagues by moving away from the one size fits all style of professional development and towards more differentiation and coaches are instrumental in getting to know the staff and students, their needs and facilitating personalized professional learning. 

Inspirational motivation:

Transformational leaders have a clear vision that they are able to articulate. They generate passion and motivation in others to fulfill these goals.”

It’s imperative for coaches not only to understand the school’s vision, but also to help clarify and promote that vision through their work with teachers. 

Idealized influence:

“Transformational leaders serve as role models. Others emulate these leaders and internalize their ideas because they trust and respect their leaders.”

To gain trust and build the relationships that are vital to successful coaching experiences, coaches need to lead by example and to support the vision of the school and provide guidance in addressing individual and team goals.

Transformational leadership is only one model that can provide us an opportunity to reflect on the connections between coaching and leadership.

What are other examples of effective leadership characteristics?

What do you value in people you see as leaders? 

What are the characteristics and actions of a leader you respect? 

Now reflect on how some of those characteristics and actions might be aspects in your role as a coach? 

How do they align with your core values and vision of your work as a coach?

I encourage you to dig a bit deeper into aspects of leadership and find those connections with coaching that can inspire you to see yourself as a leader and pursue those opportunities to lead.

by Diana Beabout

Academy Mentor: The Coach Microcredential

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