Coaching Makes Effective Leaders
By Ooi Tze XiongSeptember 2023 FEATURE
IN THE CORPORATE world, the traditional authoritarian leadership model has given way to more collaborative and people-centric approaches, and requires that leaders constantly upskill and reskill themselves. Now, an ideal leader is one who wields charismatic influence, and is able to persuade people to work together, see the bigger picture and troubleshoot problems without losing sight of the overarching goal.
As employees climb the ranks, they often find their way into management without necessarily learning the skills and techniques required to steer an entity to greater heights.
As Peter Chee says: “Whether in the political arena or the boardroom, a good leader strives to reach out, to articulate their vision, build connections and rapport with others, and establish consensus on issues that matter. Building teamwork also requires integrity and ethics for all to align with the shared values and principles.” Chee is President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ITD World, an organisation that provides coaching as well as leadership and talent development for leaders.
Effective leaders go for coaching for several compelling reasons, the most important of which is to foster self-awareness. By engaging in reflective conversations with a coach, leaders gain insights into their leadership styles, behaviours, strengths and weaknesses as well as their impact on their teams.
Leadership: A Journey of Continuous Learning
At the other extreme, bad leadership is typically marked by a lack of ethics, failure to own up to mistakes, not listening to concerns, creating an intimidating work environment and overriding self-interests. “Without the will for constant improvement, any organisation will be negatively impacted. Issues with rapport, ethics or accountability may lead to reduced morale and competitiveness, and damage trust among stakeholders.”
Twitter’s spectacular downfall in recent months shows the damage bad leadership can do to an organisation. Mere weeks after acquiring Twitter, Elon Musk had fired half the company’s employees, while pushing the remaining employees to quickly build and launch new products. Among these were many who had criticised or disagreed with his approaches. Musk also laid off the app’s trust and safety team, allowing harassment and abuse to explode across the platform unchecked, and banned prominent journalists and liberal activists.  Technical issues that abound (presumably from the dearth of engineers that followed the cull) as well as the speedy spread of hate speech on the platform drove more than 1 million users away from Twitter on the first week of his takeover. The Guardian predicts this number will grow to 32 million in the next two years.
Chee stresses the need for continuous learning, even for those holding positions of authority, to effect transformations. “After all, the only constant in the world is change. If leaders stop learning and transforming, they may find themselves left behind.”
On the corporate front, C-suite executives and managers face the challenges of navigating a rapidly changing business world. Chee suggests that these adopt the 5F approach—Focus, Fast, Flexible, Fearless and Fun.
“Focus refers to prioritising the impactful; Fast refers to leaders adapting rapidly to evolving situations; Flexible is to bring conscious agility into play; Fearless is about the necessary actions to mitigate incoming hazards; and Fun is about being grateful for accomplishments. By adopting the 5Fs, corporate leaders will be able to inculcate sustainable growth within their organisations,” says Chee.
Transform, Multiply, Conquer
Chee adds that while changes are inevitable, internal transformation, if managed effectively, can lead to positive outcomes, particularly in corporate leadership. For this, Chee turns to the concept of “Transform, Multiply and Conquer”, where leaders drive positive transformation through creativity and innovation, and proactively identifying opportunities.
People development has also become increasingly important in the corporate world. Organisations spend millions on employees to provide opportunities for upskilling through coaching, mentoring and training.
Unlocking employees’ strengths, growing the organisation from within and navigating challenges are critical elements in building a more resilient organisation. “Especially from the standpoint of corporate leadership, leaders need to be accountable for their every decision. Thus, shrewdly adapting to setbacks and learning from mistakes will be crucial stepping stones towards improved leadership.”
In the words of Vince Lombardi, the award-winning American football coach, “Leaders are made, not born.” This oft-repeated mantra serves as a reminder that leadership skills often do not come by chance. By embracing coaching, leaders enhance their self-awareness, interpersonal skills, conflict resolution abilities and capacity for continuous growth. In this era of collaborative and people-centric leadership, coaching is not just an option; it is the foundation upon which exceptional organisations are built.
Ooi Tze Xiong
currently delves into content creation and enjoys piloting drones as a hobby. After years of sojourning in cities across Malaysia and Singapore, he eventually decided to call Penang home.