The Choice Every Leader Needs to Make: Coach vs. Manager

15439091286_e0e096b183_bHave you ever wondered how great leaders get the most out of the people they lead? Maybe you’re friends with a pastor whose employees love working on his staff. Or perhaps there’s a church in your area that seems to always have volunteers around who can’t wait to arrive early, work hard, and refuse to leave until the job’s done.

So how do you influence people to reach their potential? Lots of encouragement? A fun work environment? Good ol’ fashioned manipulation?

Having led a lot of teams (and having made a lot of mistakes) as well as working with other leaders, there’s a choice every leader has to make that I believe makes a world of difference in their effectiveness: whether to be a coach or a manager.

A coach helps the people she leads develop skills to reach a goal or realize a vision or dream. A manager works to help his team perform pre-determined tasks within a certain set of parameters, ideally in as efficiently of a manner as possible.

Of course at some point, both roles are necessary in the life of a leader. But all leaders will lean one way or the other, and leaders who choose to be a coach instead of a manager will better help others—and the organizations they are a part of—be the best they can be. Here’s why:

Coaches don’t micromanage.

Coaches give input, they critique, they correct, and occasionally they reprimand. But they don’t micromanage. When it comes to goal-setting, they cast vision, but they also let those they lead set goals for themselves and at times for their team or organization. Coaches understand the importance of allowing the people they lead to have plenty of input on important decisions and be a part of the conversation.

Great coaches want others to be better than they are.

Coaches of elite athletes rarely have the athletic ability of those they coach. A coach’s job is not to be a great athlete; it’s to help someone else be a great athlete. Great coaches consider themselves successful when those they work with are successful, and they celebrate the wins of others.

Coaches aren’t afraid of failure…

…mostly because coaches themselves have experienced failure themselves and understand how powerful failure can be as a learning tool and motivator. A leader who is primarily a manger will be task-oriented and at times fearful of not achieving a goal or completing the task at hand. But a coach sees the bigger picture and knows that failure is an inevitable ingredient in any success story.

A coach invests in people.

That’s not to say that leaders with a managing bent don’t like the people they lead or enjoy working with them. But a coach understands the importance of investing in the people he leads beyond just the task at hand, because they never know who might move on to make an even bigger impact.

Coaches are vision-oriented, not task oriented.

Managers lead to get something done. Coaches lead to realize a dream. The difference cannot be overstated.


What do you think about coaching vs. managing? Leave a comment below!

Photo Credit: Jim Larrison via Compfight cc

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