Coaching versus Pace-Setting: Which Leadership Style is For You?

Managing a team effectively involves more than just holding meetings and sending emails — it’s about ensuring that workers remain engaged, motivated, and productive. This means you’ve got to demonstrate an effective leadership style to keep your team on target.

leadership styleThere are dozens of leadership styles to choose from. However, two of the most oft-encountered ones, because of their effectiveness, are coaching and pace-setting. It’s important to understand each leadership style, as they have strengths and weaknesses unique to themselves, before adopting one for your own management needs. Here’s what you need to know about both coaching and pace-setting, and how to determine which one is best for you.

The Ins and Outs of a Coaching Leadership Style

Coaching is a mentorship-heavy style that is most concerned with developing the skills and expertise of workers for the future. This management style is ideal for employees that are new to an organization, those with little experience in the field of work, or both, as the focus is less on immediate productivity than it is on investing time and energy into a new worker so that they develop into one with finely honed skills and expertise in the future.

A coaching style has other uses as well, especially when assembling a new team from otherwise already skilled and experienced workers. With effective group dynamics needing development to ensure the team itself is productive, coaching leadership styles dovetail well with other attempts at cohesion such as team building events and exercises.

Coaching styles are, of course, not as effective with established teams or more experienced workers. Additionally, this approach does require a patient, mentoring attitude on the part of the manager and a willingness to learn from the worker, making this a rather situational approach to leadership.

Pace-Setting Leadership: an Alternative Approach

Pace-setting, in comparison to the more mentorship-aligned coaching method, is vastly different. While it would be disingenuous to categorize them as diametrically opposed (both strategies are concerned with getting the most from workers when it comes to efficiency and productivity), when it comes to pace-setting leadership styles, the focus is on high-quality immediate results much more than future ones.

A manager adept at pace-setting typically rolls up their proverbial sleeves and jumps into the trenches next to his or her team members. Leading by example, these leaders are excellent when working with a well-established team of workers that are highly skilled and need little in the way of micro-management. A pace-setter has trust in his or her team, providing them leeway when it comes to self-direction, which allows these highly experienced workers to produce results quickly without being bogged down by administrative concerns.

As with coaching, however, pace-setting has some drawbacks as well. Extensive use of pace-setting, because of its focus on high productivity, can be overwhelming and lead to increased burnout on longer projects. It also tends to discourage innovation and experimentation, which means that research and development teams are some of the least suited to pace-setting, even if they are otherwise highly productive.

Choosing the Appropriate Leadership Style

It’s fairly clear that the leadership style you adopt is highly dependent on the type of team you’re leading and the type of projects they’re working on; even the most well-oiled machine of a team may need a breather now and again to work on skill development. There’s a time and a place for both coaching and pace-setting, and it’s up to you, as an effective manager, to know when to use one style and strategy over another.