Leaders should strive to be “coaches not dictators”

Leaders should strive to be “coaches not dictators” according to Colin Price, chairman of organisational health firm Co Company

“We need to see a change in relationship between the top of organisations and the bottom,” Price told HR magazine. “In the past it’s been a sort of ‘master/slave’ relationship, but if we turn that around we see a sort of ‘leader/servant’ system.”

Price said that as the nature of work environments has changed it is important for the role of leader to evolve with it. “In the past most people worked in agriculture, 150 years ago most people worked in factories, being used as units of production. Now most of us work in knowledge industries.

“How can you get a machine to increase its productivity? You can make it work longer and harder. But in a knowledge industry it’s different; you have to allow people to be creative, to bring more of their intelligence to the role.”

He suggested that now leaders should behave more like coaches. “In business schools leaders get taught to think ‘I am the boss, you’ll do what I say and you stay in line’,” Price explained. “If you do that employees are likely to say ‘screw you’ and find creative ways to get around you. We need to be giving leaders the tools to coach instead.”

Price explained that there are economic positives to turning leaders into coaches. “One of these benefits is that you will actually need fewer managers,” he said. “The maximum number of people a traditional leader can successfully handle is around six to 10. If you take a coaching approach they can handle between 10 and 20. If you can encourage that you can save a lot of money in a big organisation.”

Price also stressed the importance of leaders instilling the values of the organisation into their team members. “Your employees have to live your brand,” he said. “The ‘people’ component is dramatically larger today than it has been in the past. Imagine if you see someone from a company looking really brassed off with his or her employer – it leaves an impression on the customer.”