Let’s face it, no one really likes to be told what to do. However, following a great leader is something most of us desire.  

While there are many styles and traits of great leadership, the people who made the most significant impact in my own life are the ones that encouraged me. They encouraged me to press into my calling, propelled me to think differently, and often lovingly shared feedback that was essential for my growth.

Creating an environment that nurtures and empowers volunteers as unique individuals is essential.

Early on I observed that these leaders shared common traits—they all had the mindset of a coach over a manager. This style of leadership demonstrated that their goal was to make me better.

They seemed to understand that great teams were made by empowering individuals to thrive in their uniqueness

Not only did it have a profound impact on me, but I also feel fortunate to have experienced it early in my life and have it be the signal biggest influence shaping my own leadership style.

Leading As A Coach: The Leaders Developed Today Will Determine the Future

As we purpose to make kingdom impact in today’s fast-paced world, creating an environment that nurtures and empowers volunteers as unique individuals is essential. Understanding that the leaders we develop today will determine the future of our ministry (and the Church) is humbling.

It’s also a great reminder that what we do today matters!

When viewing leadership through the lens of legacy and impact, a coaching mindset makes sense as a refreshing approach. It places emphasis on building strong relationships, active listening, and asking powerful questions—not for our gain but for the empowerment of the other.

Adopting a coaching style can create a safe space for our team to explore their strengths, passions, and personal development goals. This not only enhances individual satisfaction but also contributes to a stronger, more cohesive team.

When you successfully empower and release people to leadership, you give them the opportunity to fulfill their potential and advance the mission of the church.

Understanding the Difference Between Leading As A Coach Vs. A Manager

What exactly is the difference between a manager and a coach? Here is a standard definition of each that I often work from:

  • Manager: A person responsible for controlling or administering all or part of a company or organization.
  • Coach: A person who teaches and trains individual members of the team to make them better.

These definitions are a helpful a reminder that management often focuses on providing instruction, guidance, and supervision while a coach takes a different path, emphasizing collaboration, personal growth, and unleashing the full potential of each team member!

When leading a team, we will still need to manage people, tasks, and situations throughout our role. However, I remind myself frequently that growth and impact are made when we build up people in their own strengths.

What a gift it is to help someone else see what God has placed within them!

Wonder Ink’s 3-year, 52-week children’s ministry curriculum offers kids space to fully find their place in God’s Big Story. Children discover they are Known by God, Loved by Jesus, and Led by the Holy Spirit.

How to Lead As A Coach and the Qualities that Make the Difference

Coaching is not command and control. It is connection and collaboration.

Creating space where one can maximize their gifts and abilities unleashes the power of both the individual and the team. Here are some core values that are incredibly valuable as we develop a coaching mindset.

Embrace People

People are not the means to an end and having the privilege to lead people means we understand that they are the purpose for which we serve. And that means they deserve our time and attention.

To create space where one can maximize their gifts and abilities unleashes the power of both the individual and the team. Here are two essentials that have shaped the way I want to lead and serve:

  • Know each member of your team. This means knowing each person’s dreams and desires, their pressures and worries, their gifts, and abilities. As a coach we will take the time to know a person’s story and demonstrate that we care. This effort takes time and it not a one and done event if our goal is to be authentic.
  • Believe the best. This needs to be as a priority as we seek to know each person. This should include our own ability to be candid, share expectations and provide (and receive) feedback.  

Purpose to Build the Team

This is intentional work as we remember that we are all better when a team works well together. This is certainly evident in scripture through the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12: 4-7). A good team leader inspires people to a purpose greater than themselves, both here on earth, and for eternity. So how can we put that into practice?

  • Know the bench. Just like we seek to embrace people and know them as individuals, a good coach will know the strengths (and weaknesses) of the team. This will involve everything from knowing the areas each wants to serve (and where they don’t) and who really wants to grow. From that vantage point, a Coach can build to everyone’s strength and finds the role best suited for them.
  • Deliver feedback. This is that not always easy but to hold each member accountable often means providing feedback. Are you sensing a theme here? Feedback is one of the single biggest factors for growth of any individual and team. It should be positive, truthful, and life-giving.

Pay Attention

Remember the role as a coach is a two-way process and experience. If a coach will stay in the game, be invested at a heart-level, and put think time into the process, then “paying attention” to words, behaviors, habits, and patterns reveal exactly what you need to coach effectively.

This work to be discerning and mindful is on us as leaders. It can be the difference between a thriving team and one that just shows up. Why is this?

When we pay attention, we are able to deliver the right feedback to the right person in the right moment with the right words!

The best coaches let you in at a heart-level.

When we show up after having paid attention, we are able to add value in the critical moments of a person’s life. By consistently showing up every meeting does not have to be dramatic. I have discovered that it is the cumulative effect of paying attention over a long period of time that produces great results.

Stay Authentic

The best coaches let you in at a heart-level. This allows the personal connection to remain real and not contrived enhancing trust and the overall process of growth. While there are healthy boundaries we will want to understand as we share with the people we lead, authenticity is an essential ingredient to the process of creating connection and relatability and should drive our desire to be open and honesty.

Keep A Growth Mindset

A key thing to remember is that we are only as effective as when we are actively pursuing our own growth. It is often the glue and active ingredient that strengthens our teams. It reminds us that we are always encountering new people, challenges, and opportunities for growth.

Philippians 3:12 is such a great reminder to keep growing and pressing forward!

‘Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.’

Philippians 3:12

And one last thing, leaders and volunteers are human. That means the process of leading as a coach will be messy, not perfect! So, relationships matter on and with your team. This is where a large measure of grace and a dose of humor in both directions can make all the difference to coaching a great team for kingdom impact!