Dr Fran Finn, 27 April, 2021

In our increasingly volatile, complex, uncertain and ambiguous (VUCA) organisational environments, demand for leadership coaching is rapidly increasing. Managers and leaders are using coaching skills to improve an organisation's culture, and to support wellbeing in their teams more so than ever before. Learning how to move forward embracing a leadership coaching mindset is particularly powerful for individuals and organisations as we navigate the new path forward, namely, the hybrid workplace.

Employee engagement: A COVID-19 response

In April 2021, Peakon, a Workday Company, reported on “The impact of COVID-19 on Employee Engagement” globally over the past six months. Their report analysed 10 million employee survey responses and concluded that the emergence of hybrid working models, with organisations not abandoning offices, but redesigning and repurposing them for greater collaboration and connection, is the future. This is where leadership coaching can provide powerful benefits.

However, even before the impact of COVID-19 in 2020, individuals and organisations were embracing a coaching approach. According to the 2018 Human Capital Institute and International Coaching Federation study, 83% of organisations surveyed planned to expand the scope of managers and leaders using coaching techniques over the next five years. This was further supported in the November-December 2019 Harvard Business Review article titled "The Leader as Coach", where the authors Ibarra and Scoular (2019), stated "Rapid, constant, and disruptive change is now the norm, and what succeeded in the past is no longer a guide to what will succeed in the future. Twenty-first-century managers simply don’t (and can’t!) have all the right answers. To cope with this new reality, companies are moving away from traditional command-and-control practices and toward something very different: a model in which managers give support and guidance rather than instructions, and employees learn how to adapt to constantly changing environments in ways that unleash fresh energy, innovation, and commitment. The role of the manager, in short, is becoming that of a coach. Increasingly, coaching is becoming integral to the fabric of a learning culture—a skill that good managers at all levels need to develop and deploy."

In our experience, managers and leaders are seeking to incorporate coaching as an integral part of their leadership style. The Association for Coaching, a leading independent, and not-for-profit professional body dedicated to promoting best practice and raising the awareness and standards of coaching, worldwide, stated that coaching skills are an essential leadership tool that enables leaders and managers to develop and empower their teams through a coaching approach.

How to build your coaching skillset

There are however, few educational options designed for building a leader's coaching skills; QUT's Executive Graduate Certificate in Business (Leadership Coaching) is developed to uniquely address this current leadership coaching gap in the executive education market by encouraging the integration of coaching into the practice of leadership. To date, our graduates have used the knowledge, skills and experiences from the program for both personal and professional growth. For instance, it has given impetus to their individual leadership development and career advancement and development of leadership capacity within their organisations. Consultants have gained value from the program through enhanced knowledge and skills and also through better leadership of large scale coaching and consultancy programs. Whilst some of our graduates, have re-directed their career, from C Suite executive to build a thriving consulting practice, with a focus on supporting leaders through executive coaching.

The feedback that we have received about our 12 month Leadership Coaching Program, has indicated that our current course design is ahead of emerging trends, for instance, as noted above, there has been a recent external focus on leader-as-coach, which is in line with the existing content of our program. Further, within our offerings, a coaching approach in leadership includes elements such as collaboration, empowerment, mindfulness, reflective practice, systems thinking, and compassion – all elements of that are in demand in our current and future ‘VUCA’ context of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. These have been a highlight of discussions as a result of COVID-19, where leaders are looking for opportunities to support well-being and resilience in individuals and organisations.

Relationships matter

The research undertaken by Peakon concluded that the quality of relationships at work matter. They stated when people feel positive about their working environment, it has a positive impact on how they work and how engaged they are. Thus, by immersing yourself in the new leadership coaching mindset, you’ll not only move from surviving to thriving, but will deliver increased leadership impact and achieve tangible results rapidly for yourself personally, your team and your organisation.


Dr Fran Finn

Fran is passionate about developing exceptional leaders. She is the Director, Leadership Coaching and Executive Programs at QUT. Fran is Course Coordinator for the Executive Graduate Certificate in Business (Leadership Coaching); and established The Leadership Coaching Practice Executive Education course.


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