By Captain (Rtd) Dr Shan Moorthi, CMC-IAC
In the twenty over years of delivering training programmes and presenting talks at home and abroad, I have observed that leadership as a topic, has always generated huge interests. As organisations have been particularly interested in exploring the coaching culture, there is now a growing need to adopt a coaching style of leadership at the workplace and within communities. Given the current Covid-19 situation, this seems to be much needed and appreciated as a powerful capacity-building and motivational tool. Who doesn’t need a great leader in times of crisis?
Recognising the complexities that leaders face in today’s uncertain world, it has to be acknowledged that developing leaders as coaches requires time and commitment. And willingness! The fact remains that nurturing a coaching leadership involves changing mindsets and this needs to be gradually woven into the fabric of an organisation.
But how do we create synergies between coaching and leadership? And how do we turn this relationship into a culture that nourishes the workplace and its people? These questions are particularly crucial during these turbulent times when leaders find themselves under the spotlight. Everywhere, inspiring figures are being sought to lead and propel the drive towards creating viable and innovative solutions to new and emerging problems.
I have always believed in the importance of developing exemplary servant-leaders who can move people and organisations forward through coaching. Often, I am asked how coaching helps and people want to know how leaders, as coaches, can add value to organisations and individuals. Can they help boost performance, create better working cultures and environment and facilitate solutioning under difficult circumstances?
Once, I was asked a thought-provoking question regarding the anticipated post-pandemic ‘Golden Age of Abundance’ and the role coaches might play in this new era. I leapt at the word abundance, sharing my enthusiasm about what it brings to one’s life and its application in coaching. This of course is not to be taken in the context of wealth or opulence. Rather it is the idea of ‘having’ as opposed to ‘not having’ or ‘having less’, i.e., abundance versus lack.
For me, abundance signifies presence and availability, of being blessed, not just in a material sense, but from an emotional, spiritual and mental perspective. I have always believed that we need to have a mindset of abundance and not that of lack. This means not focussing on what we do not have but on what we already have. This could not be more relevant now, when all too often, the Covid-19 crisis has forced us to cast our critical eye on the inadequacies of our systems and focus on the loss of such things we take for granted as freedom and employment. True, loss is source of great worry and an unacceptable change to say the least, but what about what’s available and how can we make the most of it and move forward? What’s lost is lost, but what can we create in its place?
Today, it is not uncommon to hear talk of loss, despair and lack during the pandemic, and whilst I am not dismissing the validity of these concerns, I am stressing the need for acceptance, of being mindful of what has happened and being able to step away from talk of doom and gloom.
This means moving towards the awareness level where you accept what has happened and then move on to discovery, where you explore options and finally experience growth. It is not a magic bullet but in the face of a crisis, we need to remain hopeful. Awareness, Discovery and Growth are the three key words in the definition of coaching by the International Association of Coaching. They are the fundamentals of coaching.
Leaders who are coaches, must know how to stir their followers towards this mindset, no matter what the circumstances are. They must not be directive in their approaches but inclusive and facilitate conversations among the teams or communities to address the issues.
This is important more so now, where we are facing a new crisis and where even leaders may not know how best to deal with the unprecedented situation. Here, as coaches, leaders can be inspiring in harnessing the collective wisdom of the group. Everyone has something to contribute and leaders as coaches should be able to unleash this potential.
Indeed, this is the power of coaching and good leaders will use this as a tool to help bring solutions collaboratively at a time when even more than ever, unity in diversity is strength.