Leading or Coaching

leading v coaching

I was asked today whats the difference between Leading and Coaching.

I think it’s an interesting question, one which doesn’t really have a 100% clear answer, and its probably one which would attract hot debate, but even so one which I will try and give you my view.

According to the Bill Gates MCCL model, Leading and Coaching are both key parts of leadership, along with Managing and Clienting.

To me the key differences are: Leading is about creating the vision, setting direction, being the example; whereas Coaching is about Mentoring, Helping and Supporting others be the best that they can be.

These are complimentary skills which every great leader needs to have.

We often start by leading people then move on to coaching them, as we move from Vision to Executing the Vision.

In my experience the split between the two tends to be 80/20% Leading/Coaching at the start and then becomes 20/80% Leading/Coaching towards the end.

If I can achieve that the I am very happy, as it shows that the team has accepted my leadership, and that we can focus developing the team and the results.

I actually prefer Coaching to Leading, as I see Leading as Targets setting and Coaching as showing the way to achieve them, and it’s achieving Targets which is our goal.

In fact, I see Leading as telling people What we need to do; Coaching as showing them How to do it, and Managing as ensuring that they Do it.

I find that clearer I Lead, and the better I Coach, the less Managing I need to do, and the happier  and more successful the team is. 🙂

Also, with less management, the team feels self sufficient and believe that they have achieved the goal, rather than they have been managed to achieve the goal, which is a key component to developing Winning Culture.

So if you want to be a Great Leader then you need to be able to both Lead and Coach.


Gordon Tredgold

Leadership Principles