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Agile Methodology

Time to Add Coaching to Your Leadership Skill Set

Gabriel Barbur
Gabriel Barbur
Scrum Master & Agile Coach

Leadership skills are essential in a healthy organizational culture. A true leader can turn individuals that work together into teams that flourish and inspire others.

Self-awareness is the foundation of leadership, for any true leader will at some point grow to impact the lives of others. Given this, self-aware leaders may reach naturally to coaching as a means to help others unlock their greater potential.

Coaching Helps Leadership Skills Flourish

Coaching has become a trendy subject these days, though it’s far from the answer to all of our problems. While some develop their skills through coaching, others are hesitant to try. Indeed, coaching does not by itself give people clear solutions to their problems. Instead, it helps them work towards the best versions of themselves by providing awareness into their strengths and limitations. In this way, coaching only partially leads to solutions. The individual has to ascertain the solution and apply it to the problem afterwards. This is why coaching is more of a long-term solution to different problems, not a short-term one: people change slowly, which is why positive lessons learned consistently over time lead to genuine, healthy and sustainable performance.

Coaching Styles Matter

Sir John Whitmore’s book, “Coaching for Performance” encapsulated well the definition of coaching with an example of tennis players experiencing issues with returning the ball to the opponent’s side of the field. While a classic tennis coach would say, “Keep your eyes on the ball”, a modern coach would probably ask something like, “What do you notice you are doing differently when the ball goes in or out?” While the first might sound like good advice, it is truly useful only in the short term. On the other hand, the second question enables players to independently discover the mental and physical reasons for their inability to return the ball, and then make the appropriate changes to correct their performance based on that understanding. In time, both their confidence and performance will increase as a result of them not only exercising better control over their bodies, but also will help them feel more confident in knowing they can adjust their performance through introspection and behavioural management. While not an easy or short journey, such a course of action builds champions in not only sports, but in all other fields as well.

leadership skills

While some teams benefit from top-down leadership, others thrive under the guidance of an informal leader. Source: keithprowse.co.uk

In rugby, teams use scrum (short for scrummage) to restart play by packing closely together with their heads down and attempting to gain possession of the ball. In such an arrangement, the leader emerges organically.

Leadership is complex. For some, including myself, great leadership means changing lives and improving organizations without thought to titles or benefits. From manager to coach to motivator, a leader will strive to get the best out of every individual while also keeping an eye on the group as a whole.

Coaching Applied

The second edition of AGAPE International Coaching Conference in Cluj aroused our curiosity with this headline:


Good leaders manage teams. Great leaders change lives.
How many did YOU change?


Led by Mihai Cimpean, Delivery Manager at Pentalog Cluj, a group of curious and aspiring leaders within our organization attended this conference to discuss leadership topics, discover how to embed coaching inside an organization’s culture, and network with world-class coaches and mentors.

Our takeaways:

  • Positive leadership focuses on building employees’ foundational strengths and skills to build upon through evaluations and growth-focused programming. Encouragement and support improves performance levels considerably. Aspiring value creators should check out the techniques that produce win-win outcomes presented at the conference.

  • Business success hinges on true leaders supporting employees in their personal growth and transformation, as they define the culture of organizations. Progress allows individuals to focus less on themselves and more on others, which is key for long-term productivity.

  • Depending on the team’s maturity level, one can play the role of manager, coach, or leader.

  • – Managers are better suited for groups that are in an exclusive organizational state. Here, rules play an important part in retaining a safe work environment while helping people feel significant to the group.

    – Coaches are better suited for groups in a Control stage. Here, conflicts are used for expression, ideation, and assertion. Asking the right questions is more important than having the right solutions for this kind of group.

    – Leaders work best in groups having reached the Openness stage. Groups at this stage understand the importance in purposing members based on their individual strengths and skills, using authority and motivation to ease decision-making and facilitate focus.

  • All leadership styles assume the presence of flux in an organization. Team dynamics often change, so a good leader needs to understand how to best rotate between manager, coach and leader approaches, and adapt to fit team needs.

  • John Maxwell’s Five Levels of Leadership state that people follow leaders for different reasons. Leaders skilled in People Development (Level 4) invest their time, energy, and thinking into growing others as leaders. Leaders at the Pinnacle of leadership (Level 5) are followed for what they represent, and exist and operate beyond the limits of any organization.

leadership skills - five levels of leadership

The Servant Leaders: Leading Democratically

Some organizations, including Pentalog, promote servant leadership, where companies apply Agile methodologies to achieve success in a flat leadership structure.

As a servant leader, you’re a “servant first” – the needs of others, especially team members, come before your own. You acknowledge other people’s perspectives, give them the support they need to meet their work and personal goals, involve them in decisions where appropriate, and build a sense of community within your team. This leads to higher engagement, more trust, and stronger relationships with team members and other stakeholders.

This leadership type can be effective when leading self-organizing teams, as part of Agile – Scrum organizations that involve three main players: Product Owner, Scrum Master and the Development Team.

The Scrum Master is a genuine facilitator on the project who makes sure that everyone works at their full potential by eliminating impediments and protecting the team from outside interference. To achieve this, a good Scrum Master will use coaching as a key technique both at the individual and group levels.

Pentalog has been practicing change management towards large-scale agility for years. Our Large-Scale Scrum Transformation service offer is based on the best software engineering techniques that help businesses achieve rapid ROI. Learn more!


Discover the professional adventure of a Scrum Master in Pentalog!

Do you have what it takes to lead motivated professionals towards a common goal? Apply for the Technical Lead job at Pentalog Cluj!

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