Lead with Curiosity, Coach for Impact

Corporate culture is evolving every day, and today’s changemakers need more tools in their leadership toolkit than ever before. It’s become increasingly clear that it’s possible to be an impactful leader without wielding old-fashioned authority. In fact, the most powerful leaders today lead with influence.

Influential leaders don’t need to lean on titles or traditional hierarchical structures to make an impact. Instead of taking a “because I said so” approach to leadership, you can show up with authenticity, cultivate co-creative relationships, and guide decision-making by taking on a coaching mindset. That doesn’t mean sacrificing professional boundaries or lowering expectations — on the contrary, the coaching role requires even more enforcement of both. 

A coach is not a therapist, a friend, or a consultant. It’s imperative to understand the differences when impact is your goal.

A therapist:

  • Is a licensed mental health professional that evaluates, diagnoses and treats people with emotional and mental-health challenges
  • Typically, the focus of therapy is to help people cope with current life challenges through helping them make connections with their past  

 A friend or colleague:

  • Is interested in an individual’s outcome, but may have their own agenda and unconscious biases; their view of any issue is subjective

A consultant:

  • Is a subject matter expert in their chosen niche who develops and helps implement solutions to specific problems within a limited timeframe

These roles each fulfill specific and legitimate needs, but none present a sustainable leadership model for long-term impact.

A coach:

  • Is focused on helping others define and reach their goals 
  • Leads with curiosity by asking thought-provoking, objective questions that may reveal potential blind spots
  • Guides team members in transforming ideas and goals into real outcomes 
  • Empowers individuals to continue improving long after coaching is done
  • Fosters co-creative relationships and encourages accountability

The collaborative, curious mindset of a coach can open up worlds of possibility. By engaging with your colleagues from a coaching mindset, you create robust systems of accountability, an atmosphere of trust and support, and insight into new and diverse perspectives for both you and your team. You also empower sustainable growth for your team: instead of being an authority who must constantly have the answers, you ask powerful questions that enable others to take ownership and initiative to find innovative solutions.

And the power of a coaching mindset goes both ways. When you open yourself up to receiving coaching from others, you expand your perspective and enable ongoing growth. Coaching can come from all kinds of sources — your peers, mentors, and even those who report to you. As a matter of fact, a core component of our work as leadership coaches is helping leaders embody a coaching role themselves for more impactful and influential leadership.

Authority does not make a leader — impact does. Time and again, we’ve seen how a coaching mindset can make every interaction more effective, engaging, and productive. Curiosity and collaboration build lasting relationships, and at the end of the day, that’s where meaningful impact happens. 

Turn insight into action

Powerful question: In the next week, when will you take an opportunity to engage in a coaching conversation instead of telling someone what to do?

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