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Coaching: the new leadership

SUMMARY: If coaching is today’s new leadership format and structure, then the coaching skills for holding the intense and personal conversation and facilitating change enables a leader to effectively lead today.

Today there is a call for a new kind and quality of leader. There are numerous causes and contributing factors making this call—the uncertainty and turbulent times economically in the world, the speed of technological changes, the globalization that’s making the world like a village in terms of how one part of the world affects the rest of the world, the increasing demands and expectations of people of their leaders, etc.

Given all of the change sources and the demands for better leaders going on around us— the old leadership doesn’t work any longer. Today to lead the minds and hearts of people — young and old alike —requires enabling and empowering people to tap into their human capital. Today we have to lead people to learn and to learn to learn, to take personal responsibility, and to step up to develop their own potentials as we prepare those of the next generation.

The changes all around us requires that we lead for continuous improvement in our methodology, strategy, and tactics, and even that we lead for continuous improvement in our theoretical foundations about people, human nature, learning, cognitive development, and our assumptions in leading.

If you want to lead in the 21st century and exercise the highest level of leadership, self-actualizing or humanistic leadership — rather than dictatorship, or military command-and-control leadership —then you lead best by coaching people. You lead best by coaching people to tap into and unleash their highest and best potentials. You lead best by empowering and enabling people to develop and express their intellectual, emotional, and creative capital.

To step up to these demands we have to understand the leadership that the 21st century is requiring and how to step up to the new leadership. Actually this has already been well mapped out so that today — Coaching is the new Leadership.

Coaching Competencies are the new Leadership Competencies

What are the core competency skills required for effective self-actualizing leaders? I began looking for the answer to that question in 2003 when I began exploring and detailing the content of Self-Actualization Psychology.

One core competency skill that a truly effective self-actualizing leader needs is an appreciation of the self-actualizing drive in him or herself and in all people. That was Abraham Maslow’s and Douglas McGregor’s primary contribution to this question. They both argued extensively and worked to enable leaders to make the paradigm shift from Theory X of human nature to Theory Y and Z. A leader who does not think that way, does not perceive, communicate, and believe according to Theory Y cannot be a self-actualizing leader, let alone an effective leader.

So that’s one core competency. What else? A leader has to be self-actualizing him or herself. This is one area where incongruency and hypocrisy will completely sabotage the leadership process. The talk of self-actualizing has to be backed up by the walk. You can be the greatest orator in the world, but without actions to back it up, you will lack the personal power and authority to be credible. And that’s why we choose congruency, authenticity, and being real as central to our leadership criteria for Neuro-Semantic Leadership.

Anything else? Yes! As a self-actualizing leader who can and does effectively lead, he or she facilitates the development of a future vision. Visioning is especially the one thing that an effective self-actualizing leader does. He or she will constantly be awakening people to their own self-actualizing drive and to self-actualizing with their lovers, families, companies, communities, and nations. To not do that is to not be fully in the process of self-actualizing. Self-actualization, as I wrote earlier, is not about you— not about your ego, your individualism to the exclusive of that of others, it is through you for the greater good. As a social creature, human self-actualization is entirely and inescapably social.

So is that it or is there anything else? Yes, there is more, a lot more. And here is a surprise that I’ve experienced in the past years when presenting Coaching Mastery around the world. If you want seven very powerful core competency skills of self-actualizing leadership, you can do no better than to start with the seven core skills of Meta-Coaching. These seven core skills, which we behaviorally benchmark, are at the same time the very skills of leadership:

Two competencies for creating connection with people for rapport, trust, and effective collaboration in a win-win spirit and which creates a crucible space. Leaders who don’t have a heart for people will not be able to lead people; perhaps they can manage things, systems, or processes. To lead people requires heart— care, compassion, even love. It’s been said that people won’t care to hear what you have to say until they know you care about them: 1) Supporting and 2) Listening.

Two competencies for being able to effectively explore the thinking, valuing, and understandings of people so that the communication is as accurate and precise as it is indepth and probing to the beyond-conscious mind. Leaders often face, and sometimes fall into the mistake of secrecy and turf protecting. But a self-actualizing person and a self-actualizing organization lives from an openness and abundance that knows that we empower ourselves and others through open sharing of information (rather than hoarding). People won’t share information who live in an environment of fear and positioning: 3) Questioning and 4) Meta-Questioning.

Two competencies for entering into an in-the-moment calibration that mirrors and shapes for the unleashing of potentials. True enough, leaders live in the future but not all the time. They have to come back to the now, to this moment; they have to be present to people and to the events of this very moment. And when they do, and if they have a deep heart-felt connection, they can speak the truth of this moment. This is the fierce conversation that can free us from delusions, lies, and deceptions: 5) Receiving feedback and 6) Giving feedback.

One competency for facilitating and enabling a person to fully experience what we talk about. Leaders get results and they do that by focusing on implementation that executes the plans and strategies that we co-create. To get results, leaders have to have an action orientation. Results only come from actually translating from mind to body, from mind to muscle: 7) Inducing state.

If a leader shows a high level of competencies in these skills, he or she can effectively lead others and an organization which unleashes people’s potentials as it taps their potentials for intelligence, creativity, and innovation. And conversely, a leader who does not demonstrate high level competency and elegance in these skills has to rely on the old authoritarian command-and-control methods of manipulation, making him or her a boss, a general, a policeman, not a leader.

A leader with these competencies will inspire people to not only “buy in” to the vision of the organization or community, but become so engaged in their commitment that people will do whatever it takes to fulfill the vision. And when you have that level of engagement, any and all problems with motivation and retention disappear. And with a self-actualizing company, you will have a company on the cutting-edge of creativity and innovation— the only way companies can survive in these days of accelerating change. And that means continued growth, return-on-investment, and branding of the quality value that you add.

What does this mean? It identifies coaching as the new leadership and coaching development as leadership development. It means that when you develop these skills for coaching, you are developing your leadership skills for guiding and facilitating self-actualizing people. It also highlights that Self-Actualization Psychology is the psychology which gives you the most cutting-edge psychology for the 21st century. And because you are moving beyond the authoritarian psychology/philosophy of the previous centuries, you will have the ability to flexibly adapt to the trends and changes that are now inevitable in the marketplace. Further, given that “capital” is changing from things (buildings, real estate, money, etc.) to people’s brains and hearts, you will be capitalizing on the only true capital that counts—and creating growth and value through people.

Coaching as the New Leadership

What then are the core competency skills required for effective self-actualizing leaders? We begin with the seven core coaching competencies and then we add the ten core competencies with regard to change. After all, a coach/leader is a change-agent who works with psychologically healthy people.1

A leader first and foremost lives in the future. He or she then returns to facilitate the envisioning of that more compelling human future in the now. But to get there, change is required. People need to change their behaviors, communications, beliefs, values, understandings, frames, meanings, identities, and so on. And that requires that leaders be change-agents and know how to facilitate change and transformation processes.

The Leadership Axes grew out of The Axes of Change Model.2 Unlike therapy models of change (which assume people will inevitably resist change, relapse, lack the ego-strength to face change, are not wired for continual change with their self-actualizing drive, and “are” problems, rather than their frames are the problems), this Meta-Coaching model of change operates from very different premises: people are not inherently afraid of change, people choose change when they see it as improving the quality of their lives. The primary mechanisms that facilitate change are: motivation, decision, creation, and integration. And when a leader is facilitating organizational change, then we have another one: solutions.

The two leadership competencies for leading inspiration which energizes the motivation of followers for a more compelling future is based on away-from and toward motivation. Leaders first facilitate seeing what is clearly as well as awakening a new vision of what’s possible and then use the creative tension between them (Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline) for energy to forge a pathway to an exciting future. Here the leader will challenge and will awaken.

The two leadership competencies for leading the creation of meaning which informs and invigorates followers with a robust sense of meaningfulness is based on the internal and external reference meta-program. This facilitates the creation of meaning in two dimensions, first in mind as the inner game and then in body as the outer game. Leaders identify and transform the frames that govern the game and that open up new possibilities for an entirely new way to function and to be. A leader is here framer and then activist.

The two leadership competencies for leading the engagement for a full commitment to the vision and for signing-on mind and heart of the followers is based on response style between reflective to active. Leaders first engage in town-meeting dialogues that begin the self-actualizing conversation and conclude by enrolling people for a decision and commitment. This takes the group or community to a collaborative engagement where we can achieve so much more together than alone or apart. Here the leader is first collaborator and then enroller.

The two leadership competencies for leading a clear understanding of the problems and the solutions that together the organization will create and innovate is based on the pessimism and optimism distinction. Here a leader first clearly defines the actual problem (and not a symptom, peripheral issue, or semantic riddle) and then focuses on the solutions that resolve the problem. Leaders facilitate conversations that generate well-formed outcomes, problems, solutions, and innovations. Here the leader is a problem definer and then a problem solver.

The two leadership competencies for leading the organization’s kaizen or continual learning and improvement in quality and service is based on the matching and mismatching distinction as we sort between sameness or difference. Leaders cheerlead by honoring, supporting, and celebrating every small success along the way so that they can then challenge and refine what isn’t working as well as it could possibly work. This generates the experience of kaizen in an organization. Here the leader is first cheerleader and then refiner or tester. Together all of these give us the ten core competencies for effectively leading change.

Author: L. Michael Hall, Ph.D. originally studied cognitive-behavioral psychology as his area of expertise, but since 2002 has shifted to become one of the leading experts in Self-Actualization Psychology that was pioneered by Abraham Maslow, which lead to the first Human Potential Movement, and to the field of NLP. Michael is the co-founder of the International Society of Neuro-Semantics and the Meta-Coaching System.

End Notes:
1. In Neuro-Semantics, we have a model The Leadership Axes which has five axes and therefore ten leadership roles that describes the change process for a leader leading transformation within a group, organization, or even a nation.

2. You can give the Axes of Change model in the first book in the Meta-Coaching series, Changing Change (2004).