Find Your Certification Leadership Style: Delegative vs. Coaching
NOTE: This article is part of an ongoing series. To read the previous article, click here.
In the last installment in this series we did an in-depth analysis of two popular leadership styles, namely transactional and transformational. In this installment we will take this a step further and do an in-depth examination of two more popular leadership styles.
My hope has been that this series of articles on Finding Your Certification Leadership Style would be helpful to those who deal with certification daily. Based on the feedback I have received to date; this series is hitting the mark.
In case you’re a bit late to this party, here is what you can expect with each installment. I will examine two of the key leadership styles, explore their strengths and weaknesses for those involved in the certification world, and do a quick compare and contrast of the two styles being examined. Finally, I will put forth an argument in favor of one of the two styles.
In the final installment, I will explore all of the styles that I have favored in each of the earlier installments, side by side, and see what they have in common and what makes each stand out. The last thing I want to share with you, the reader, is my top pick of all the leadership styles for Certification Program Leaders. I will also give you my reasons for this selection.
In this installment, we will explore in depth the following two leadership styles: Delegative and Coaching. What are their respective strengths (or advantages) and weaknesses (or disadvantages)? Secondly, we will examine through a brief comparison some of the points of similarity between the two styles, followed by contrasting their major differences.
Finally, I will put forth a brief argument in favor of one of the two styles for managing a successful certification program.
“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one who gets people to do the greatest things.” — Ronald Reagan (32)
“Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere as long as the policy you have decided upon is being carried out.” — Ronald Reagan (32)
No matter what your title is — whether it is Chief Learning Officer (CLO), VP of Education, or VP of Certification, Director of Certification and Assessments, Manager of Certification, or simply the Project or Program Manager of Certification — if you have somehow been blessed with responsibilities of making certification a priority for your organization, then this series of articles will help you better understand your options for leveraging a leadership style within your organization.
Let’s now look at the next two major leadership styles.
In delegative leadership the leader prefers to take a back seat to their team when making decisions. These leaders allow team members to make decisions. The leader understands that s/he is not an expert in every situation. Therefore, it is critical to delegate certain tasks out to knowledgeable and qualified subordinates. Even though the leader allows subordinates to make decisions, in the delegative style the leader is still ultimately responsible for all decisions that are made.
Though the delegative style is often likened to laissez-faire in my view what makes them different is that in the delegative style the leader is ultimately responsible for any decision rendered, while with laissez-faire this ultimate responsibility does not seem to be in place. But more about the laissez-faire style in our next installment.
In my experience the delegative style works for a diverse team of highly specialized professionals who have a good communications rapport with the leader. For example, a certification director whose team has a lead psychometrician — who, because of her (or his) expertise, is given responsibility for all things psychometric. Though this professional is given responsibility for the psychometrics portion of the team, the leader is still ultimately responsible for his/her team’s decisions.
A practitioner of the delegative leadership style prefers to offer her (or his) team the resources and tools needed to get the job done. The delegative leader will only provide input to her (or his) team when asked for it. The subordinates of this type of leader are expected to have excellent problem-solving skills.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Delegative Leadership
Two of the primary strengths of this style of leadership are that it encourages the personal development of direct reports with a hands-on approach and it creates an inviting work environment. Two of the main weaknesses of the delegative style are it requires a certain amount of supervision to be successful — someone must take blame when a poor decision is made, and it is difficult to adapt to changing circumstances.
Advantages of Delegative Leadership (38)
1) A delegative leader recognizes the skills of her (or his) direct reports, while highlighting the expertise of her (or his) team.
2) Delegative leadership is most effective when the leader recognizes her (or his) own limitations. Instead of acting foolishly, the leader knows when it is best to simply walk away.
3) Delegative leaders generally get high grades from their employees on the workplace satisfaction scale. The reason is quite simple: for these leaders, the contributions of the individual are valued.
4) Delegative leaders know how and when to contribute their opinion in order to move the team forward without issue.
5) Delegative leaders are good at boosting the efficiency and productivity of individual workers on a team.
6) Delegative leadership is dependent upon a skilled and a motivated workforce.
Now let’s look at the disadvantages or weaknesses of Delegative Leadership.
Disadvantages of Delegative Leadership (38)
1) Delegative leaders generally deemphasize their role on a project, causing some of their team members to view them as weak.
2) Delegative leaders are sometimes viewed as unconcerned about their team-based cohesiveness.
3) Delegative leaders are more interested in their direct reports’ skills rather than their team’s skillsets.
4) Delegative leadership can shift the responsibility for project-based outcomes, making it difficult for workers seeking recognition.
5) Delegative leaders can hide from their responsibility.
6) Under a delegative leader, it is common for the teams to be slow in their reaction to change.
7) Under a delegative leader, it is common for the workers to have the pride they feel in their work eroded.
8) Under a delegative leader, it is common for the workers to lose all sense of accountability.
9) Under a delegative leader, a certain amount of supervision is required to be successful.
10) Under a delegative leader, someone must take blame when a poor decision is made.
11) Under a Delegative Leader it is difficult to adapt to changing circumstances.
Now let’s look at our second leadership style: Coaching Leadership.
The coaching style clearly defines the roles to be played by each member in the team, along with the respective tasks to be focused on. A coaching leader may also seek suggestions from task owners to ensure accountability of ownership. Though the leader decides on the quality of the outcome, two-way communication makes it an excellent way for everyone to understand the big picture and where their contribution fits. (25)
This style is often framed as the “try this” or “leading through advice” style. The coach is concerned with their subordinates, helping to develop their skills and their potential. She (or he) wants to help improve performance by helping build followers’ capabilities. The coach is interested in the personal growth of her (or his) team and helps them see how to reach their own goals and the goals of the organization.
This style works best when you need to raise awareness within your team. In my personal experience, this style was always appropriate with an established team that was getting through some rough patches.
According to Daniel Goleman, the coaching leadership style is one of six emotional styles of leadership. The reason is that the coaching style of leadership has an emotional effect on the people that are being led.
The following are traits of a Coaching Leader. Coaching leaders are good communicators, while being resilient yet favorable toward innovation. In addition, they are very effective in organizations that need performance improvement and that produce improved results. The coaching leader is outstanding at directing and guiding her (or his) direct reports while providing inspiration and encouragement.
He (or she) does a great job creating a positive workplace environment while communicating the expectations of the leadership, so that workers understand what is expected of them and the company’s overall direction. (39).
Next let’s look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of coaching leadership. First let’s consider the advantages or the pros.
Advantages of Coaching Leadership (40)
1) Coaching leaders inspire a true sense of accomplishment in their direct reports.
2) Coaching leaders inspire and promote their direct reports.
3) Coaching leaders are effective because of their ability to rally their workers, thereby producing a positive environment for work.
4) Coaching leaders are effective because of their ability to encourage their workers to try something new on their own.
5) Coaching leaders often paint the picture of the future using compelling pictures, permitting the workers to understand what is expected of them.
6) Coaching leaders are effective because of their ability to communicate the company’s overall direction.
7) Coaching leaders can create competitive advantages by reducing the soft skills turnover rate.
8) Coaching leaders can help an organization go through a period of change.
9) Coaching leaders can turn weaknesses into strengths.
10) Coaching leadership has a definite beginning and end point in most organizations.
Now let’s examine the weaknesses or the disadvantages of Coaching Leadership.
Disadvantages of Coaching Leadership (40)
1) Coaching leadership mandates a specific coach for a given situation.
2) Coaching leaders can develop negative outcomes if they have bad or no chemistry with their direct reports.
3) Coaching leaders need to understand that leadership often requires more than mentoring of subordinates.
4) Coaching leaders need to be involved in collaborative relationships.
5) Coaching leadership cannot and will not solve universal problems.
6) Coaching leadership is not the leadership style best suited for an emergency.
7) Coaching leaders need to be trained and skilled in organizational leadership.
8) Coaching leaders can produce positive results if an organization has the time and patience for the style to work.
9) Coaching leadership can be effective only when an organization allocates enough time for the coaching style to work.
Next, I will briefly summarize the similarities and differences between the Delegative and Coaching leadership styles.
Compare and Contrast Delegative and Coaching Leadership Styles
First, let’s compare the two styles, or look at their similarities:
● Both styles are designed to boost the efficiency and productivity of individuals on the team.
● Both styles are dependent upon a skilled and motivated workforce.
● The success of both depends on the leader’s ability to communicate what they expect to their teams.
● Both styles are effective because of their ability to rally the workers, producing a positive work environment.
● Organizations should have leaders who embrace both styles at different times in an organization’s history.
● Both styles value the contributions of the individual workers on a team.
Next, let’s contrast the two styles, or look at their differences:
A delegative leader serves more as a consultant when requested by employees, whereas a coaching leader serves more as a mentor when employees demonstrate some weakness.
A delegative leader is most effective with an experienced staff, that works well independently, whereas a coaching leader is most effective when an employee shows weaknesses that need improvement. (For coaching to be effective, of course, the employee must acknowledge those weakness and indicate a desire to improve.)
Delegative leadership requires little or no time to effectively implement, whereas coaching leadership requires a good bit of time and patience to effectively implement.
A delegative leader prefers to take a back seat to her (or his) team when making decisions, while a coaching leader is outstanding at directing and guiding her (or his) direct reports.
A delegative leader understands that he (or she) is not an expert in every situation. A coaching leader can develop negative outcomes if they have bad or no chemistry with their direct reports.
My Preferred style for Certification
Based on the in-depth analysis we have just completed on two of the leadership styles I outlined in the introductory installment, I will now summarize my thoughts on the two, and then share with you my preference for leading a certification program.
In delegative leadership the leader prefers to take a back seat to their team when making decisions. These leaders allow team members to make decisions. The leader understands that he or she is not an expert in every situation. Therefore, it is critical to delegate certain tasks out to knowledgeable and qualified subordinates. Even though the leader allows subordinates to make decisions, in the delegative style the leader is still ultimately responsible for all decisions that are made.
The Coaching Leadership style is often framed as the “try this” or the “leading through advice” style. The coach is concerned with their subordinates, helping to develop their skills and their potential. He (or she) wants to help improve performance by helping build their capabilities. The coach is interested in the personal growth of her (or his) team and helps them see how to reach their own goals and the goals of the organization. This style works best when you need to raise awareness within your team.
After much soul searching, I determined that I would prefer the coaching leadership style because of my recent experiences pitching certification programs to past employers and, more recently, current clients. It is important to have a good relationship with your team for a successful certification program to produce hoped for organization impacts.
Team building, motivation, cooperation and collaboration I believe are the most important things in leadership. With a coaching leader who has a passion for certification, who also is a disciple of various leadership styles then you will have a team of followers that has bought into the leaders’ vision and truly wants the program to succeed. Not only will you have a happy workforce, but you will also have a program that is meeting organizational goals without the fear associated with other styles that are more restrictive.
All that is to say that, as I was finishing this installment, I found myself preferring both styles equally for different reasons. Primarily it is because I recognized having practiced both styles at different times in my career. Both were easy to implement, and both were well received by the workers and the organization. So it would be just as easy for me to say that I prefer the delegative style to the coaching style.
Each leadership style can be useful in the workplace and it is important to understand the differences between the two. But you need to do more than just understand the differences between the two. Sometimes you may be called on to practice principles that you are not a fan of. For example, you may be at heart a coaching leader, but you may on occasion have to step up and be a delegative leader, in order for a short-term objective to be met.
If you are like me, and have had to sell your idea for a certification program when you find a receptive leader who is willing to let your dreams come to fruition, then you need to be ready to sell your idea to those who will be supporting you, and your certification dream, while realizing that some of the folks you will be selling to will not be fans of your vision.
Rather, these leaders may well all be delegative leaders. How you address them may well be what makes or breaks your program. Welcome to the wonderful world of being a coaching leader, a leader who can motivate and empower employees to achieve goals.
In the next installment we will look at two more of the leadership styles available to those driving certification for an organization.
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