The manager as coach: leadership, management and coaching

By Elisabeth Goodman, 4th February 2020

We had a question during our recent RiverRhee Introduction to Management course about the relevance of learning about leadership skills as part of a management course. (We do have a follow-on Transition to Leadership course.) We believe that the visionary aspects of leadership are valuable ones for managers to bear in mind, albeit their focus might be more on the operational side of things.

I have, coincidentally, just come across a connection with this topic as part of my reading on coaching skills (Downey, 2014).

Leadership_management_coaching per Myles Downey
Adapted from Myles Downey’s illustration (Downey, 2014)

Myles Downey asserts that a manager can usefully draw on skills from all three areas: leadership, management and coaching, depending on the situation and the individual involved.

(This is a slightly different take on Hersey and Blanchard’s ‘situational leadership’ model (Hersey and Blanchard, 2013))

exercising leadership vs management vs coaching in a management role

Referring to my version of Downey’s illustration above, a manager can make good use of their leadership skills to inspire the members of their team.  They can articulate and role-model the organisation’s vision and values.

They can use their management skills to clarify purpose, roles and responsibilities, to define measures for performance and to foster continuous process improvement.

And they can use their coaching skills to assist with the on-the-job and career development of the individuals reporting to them by:

  • providing feedback on their performance
  • listening to understand and asking open questions to stimulate further thinking
  • supporting (rather than automatically advising) them so that they can find their own answers and solutions

An Individual’s authority over their destiny

I remember feeling ‘liberated’ in my last months as an employee to be totally myself, and more in control of my destiny than I had ever been. I did not worry unduly about needing to respect hierarchy and the boundaries between departments, so much as looking for opportunities to collaborate, share knowledge and ideas, and be of value. How different would my life at work have been if I had adopted more of this kind of attitude throughout my career?

Myles Downey suggests that, whilst an organisation (and a manager) have authority about what work an employee needs to do, the employee could have authority about how they do their work.  It’s something that is often referred to as ’empowerment’, and as something that is in the gift of managers to give to their direct reports; or that individuals should somehow take the initiative to acquire.  Wouldn’t it be better if we just assumed that this is the way we work?

Downey also suggests that an individual could think more in terms of whether an organisation will be a good fit for them before they join. They could ask themselves: “does the organisation have the kinds of purpose, values and ways of working that I can relate to?”.

Similarly, he suggests that an organisation, when recruiting new employees, could consider whether the individual’s aspirations, values and approach, as well as their technical skills are a good fit.


Underpinning all of the above is the necessity for a good relationship between managers and their direct reports.  Such a relationship would be founded on mutual respect, trust, open communication, honesty.  Building this relationship is in the gift of both the manager and the individual.



Downey, M, (2014). Effective modern coaching. London: LID Publishing.

Hersey and Blanchard, (2013). (Accessed 3rd February 2020.)

Other notes:

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, through courses, workshops and one-to-one coaching, and with a focus on the Life Sciences.

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting teams on a global basis.  She is developing her coaching practice, with a focus on helping individuals to develop management and ‘soft’ skills, especially associated with change, and with Neurodiversity.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

1 thought on “The manager as coach: leadership, management and coaching”

  1. Pingback: The manager as coach: pros and cons of internal vs external coaches | Elisabeth Goodman's Blog

Leave a Comment