Dwight Weir portrait

Written by Dwight Weir

Dwight is a Deputy Headteacher and Life Coach. He is also an inspector for British Schools Overseas. Dwight has a passion for coaching and leadership development.

Coaching is the process used to enable the coachee to reach their goals or achieve clarity about their life, whether it’s about leadership development, career change, family, personal development or just managing work-life balance. This blog will focus on coaching as a vehicle for leadership development.  

Leadership development training encourages the use of hands-on practical training (Woyach and Cox 1997). The training is more effective if it is context specific (Creasy and Cotton 2004; Barnett 2001 and Kouzes and Posner’s 1995) and engages the use of a mentor or coach (Paterson and West-Burnham 2005) and is personalised (Owen 2007 and Patterson and West-Burnham 2005). 

Coaching has played a significant role in my own leadership development journey. As a not so recent participant in one of the UK’s flagship leadership development programmes, we were grouped according to where we lived or worked for group coaching. We participated in many leadership development tasks which involved role playing, presentations, discussions and a variety of simulation activities. Even after almost 10 years since the training, this has been the most effective CPD I have ever had, for a number of reasons but more so due to the dynamic coaching relationship I had with an experienced Headteacher – the experienced other. 

Even though I have studied, researched and written about leadership and leadership development, I haven’t had the time to exclusively link coaching theory to coaching practice. Being part of a coaching group propelled me further towards developing my own leadership due to expertise of the experienced other. Having been on this journey, coaching relationships can be likened to a journey with ‘three-selves’; self-discovery, self-realisation and self-actualisation.  

At the time of my training, coaching was only a theory for me, group coaching was an even more distant concept. The experience gained as part of the group coaching enabled us to collaborate professionally at an authentic level due to the conventions of group coaching which became apparent throughout the coaching experience. Learnings from the group coaching appears to be performance focus (McGurk 2012) as there was a focus on development orientation, effective feedback, performance orientation and planning/goal setting. From this experience it was evident that the growth expected in group coaching is collective as the outcome will be achieved as a result of the collective sum. Whilst participating in group coaching a number of variables became evident during the process:

  • Collective Growth – the collective process we used as a coaching group to develop our ‘virtual school’ (a project within the training) was dependent on a combined effort. This might not be the same for all coaching groups but can be expected when group coaching participants are working towards an agreed outcome, knowing that the progress of the group is dependent on the progress of all. 
  • Cooperative Reflection – as we developed our virtual school we regularly reflected on our progress and the impact we were having as a team. We always evaluated our efforts with the intention to improve. This was, reflection with a purpose.
  • Collective Honesty and Openness – we benefited from this process as we knew that collectively only honesty and openness truly informed each of us on our individual and collective process. The idea that feedback is a gift kept us open to feedback knowing that gifts can be returned or embraced. The relationships that we developed meant that as we fed-back to each other we respected the feedback given, knowing it was honest. 

In addition to group coaching we also had one to one coaching sessions. These were particularly helpful as I focused on my own development outside the group and the impact it had within the group. This approach was more intense as the focus was more on the individual and our areas for development. This level of coaching involved powerful questioning, Using ideas, shared decision- making and encouraging problem-solving. 

Coaching as part of leadership development is most effective when you are on a journey with an experienced other. Genuine experience in the field helps the experienced other to relate, ask thoughtful, reflective and relevant questions linked to the context in which the coachee works and is developing their leadership. 

Effective coaching during leadership development fosters and unearths the ‘three-selves’; self-discovery, self-realisation and self-actualisation.