Becoming a successful leader in today’s complex and rapidly changing world and healthcare industry can be challenging. However, with the proper knowledge and training, transformational leaders can emerge. Transformational leadership requires a leader who inspires others by encouraging change, creativity, and the formation of new ideas (Porter-O’Grady & Malloch, 2018). Through this knowledge, accountability is achieved, not only for oneself, but all people under the leader’s authority. This accountability makes the leader a role model, who demonstrates many important skills by becoming a mentor and a coach. While each serves a vital role in leadership, it is important for a transformational leader to know the difference between a coach and a mentor, and the challenges and benefits that may arise through the utilization of each skill.
Coaching as a Leader
Coaching can best be described as a “developmental process in a one-on-one, formal, short-to medium-term counseling relationship focused on sustained behavior development and modification in the coachee” (Hastings & Kane, 2018, p. 12). Due to the limited time frame, coaching tends to stress the importance of personal, departmental, and organizational growth and development while creating a plan of action for the coachee to follow. The action plan should be detailed and focused in order to achieve the proper developmental goals set forth. Porter-O’Grady and Malloch (2018) expand on the aforementioned definition by adding that the coaching role is a partnership, where the coach forms a meaningful relationship and teaches accountability, while showing that change and adaption are necessary for the growth of the individual and organization. While change is inevitable, having a leader and coach who embraces it and strives to create new avenues to accomplish individual and organizational development is a priority.
When a leader transforms into the role of coach, they must possess many characteristics to ensure they become successful. According to Hastings and Kane (2018) a few key characteristics of a flourishing coach include “rapport, collaboration, commitment, trust, listening, counseling skills, and confidentiality” (p. 12). Each of these characteristics are taught extensively to nurses, however to be a leader and effective coach, each characteristic must be more refined and present with each interaction with the coachee. Coaching should be also be individualized to meet their needs. Yarborough (2018) describe six key principles of a successful coach, which include the creation of a safe and challenging environment, working with the needs of the coachee, facilitation and collaboration, advocating for self-awareness, learning from experience, as well as modeling what you coach. Each of these principles serves to strengthen the relationship between coach and coachee and will help transform the coachee into a more valuable leader.
Challenges are inevitable, but through proper trial and error, they can be overcome. Coaching oftentimes pushes “people out of their comfort zones to stretch into new ways of thinking and doing” (Porter-O’Grady & Malloch, 2018, p. 510). This can make the coaches job more difficult, because people tend to shy away from uncomfortable situations that are out of their control. However, with persistence and proper techniques, the coach can help transform the old behaviors of the leader in training into more of a transformational leader.
Once the challenges of coaching are overcome, the full potential and benefits are able to be recognized. However, the benefits are not felt by the coach, only the coachee, who can then make changes to self, department, and possibly even the organization (Marcdante & Simpson, 2018). Additional benefits of a coaching program include increased knowledge and skill enhancement, stronger self-awareness and confidence, more motivated, a better attitude, and an increase in trust in others (Hastings & Kane, 2018). The benefits of becoming a coach significantly outweigh the challenges. Porter-O’Grady and Malloch (2018) wrote that coaches obtain great satisfaction in helping others reach their true potential and become invested in helping them succeed. Through the use of a coaching program, more successful leaders will emerge because of the persistence of the coach.
Mentoring as a Leader
Mentoring can best be described as a counselor. Additionally, Thomas (2019), defines mentoring “as the support or encouragement of people to manage their own learning in order that they might maximize their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance, and become the person they want to be (p. 4). A mentor strives to help a person see their true potential and meet their goals through guidance and motivation. Where coaching is more of a short-term relationship, the mentor-mentee relationship is long-term and focused on the future (Marcdante & Simpson, 2018). This long-term relationship investment is built overtime and actually ends up benefiting both mentor and mentee. Furthermore, mentoring requires reflection and integration of life experiences from both parties involved in order to achieve the end result, which is to become a successful leader (Hastings & Kane, 2018).
As with coaching, in order to become an effective mentor, certain attributes must be present. A mentor must be committed to the individual. They must be “persistent, empathetic, articulate, a good communicator with strong interpersonal skills, patient, possess emotional intelligence, and have the capacity to share credit” (Thomas, 2019, p. 4). Mentors must also remain consistent and now allow negativity or challenges to hinder the progress they have made. They must share past experiences as well as strengths and weaknesses that may help transform the mentee (Thomas, 2019). Each of the attributes listed above strengthen the qualities of being an exceptional mentor.
As previously stated, mentoring requires personal reflection and the sharing of the strengths and weaknesses of the mentor in order to encourage the development of the mentee (Thomas, 2019). This can be the greatest challenge faced by mentors. The ability to share weaknesses and failures to others can be quite difficult because no one likes to expose their faults. To overcome this, a mentor must continuously self-reflect and remember that it is their responsibility as a mentor to overcome these challenges in order to invest in the mentee so they can acquire the skills and confidence needed to become a strong leader.
At times it may seem as though the challenges outweigh the benefits; however, if a mentor pushes through and continues on the course they started, they will begin to see the positive effects from being a mentor. First, the relationship that is formed through a mentoring program strengthens a person’s skill set, and self-confidence, which makes them a stronger leader (Hastings & Kane, 2018). Secondly, a mentor program is more cost effective than most coaching programs because it does not require special training or classroom time (Thomas, 2019). Another benefit of a mentor program is that a mentee can self-select a personal mentor, which can ease the burden on both parties involved. Overall, the benefits of a mentoring program are considerable.
Often times the terms coaching and mentoring are used interchangeably. However, the two are very different. Thomas (2019) wrote that “coaching is about your job; mentoring is about your career (p. 6). While coaching is more focused on the job, behaviors and their effect on others, mentoring is more focused on career development through relationships and past experiences of the mentor and how they can shape the mentee. Both are vital in the development of emerging leaders, though. In order to be a transformational leader, the attributes of both a mentor and coach should be present. A leader should focus on helping others achieve greatness, not just perform a job or change because they have to. By becoming either a mentor, coach, or both, a leader will encourage others to become a stronger, more reliable individual and future leader.