When it comes to coaching, there are three distinct styles; autocratic, democratic, and holistic. The styles are based upon the studies of Kurt Lewin, a German-American social psychologist.

Each one is effective in its ways, depending on the situation and context. Any good coach should understand each style and how to use them in different contexts to achieve maximum results. Below is an in-depth explanation of each coaching style.

Autocratic style

The autocratic style has been likened to a dictatorship where it is the coach’s way or the highway. An autocratic coach makes all the decisions without considering input from the team. The coach only explains the objectives and how to reach them, but ultimately, the team does as the coach says. The coach is in control at all times and mostly has a strict way of doing things. Some insist on similarly completing specific tasks all the time.

An individual may not thrive under this coaching style as their lack of input in training may make them feel insignificant. This can affect their morale and hinder their success.

Additionally, studies have shown that gender plays a role in how successful autocratic coaching is. For example, a female team is likely to respond positively to aristocratic coaching when the coach is male but less so with a female coach. Employees under this coaching style show discipline and commitment since the structure is there for them to succeed. However, the rigidity can create a stifling environment.

Democratic coaching

Under democratic coaching, the coach lays out the process and objectives but allows the team to find the solutions. Instead of the coach having all the control, this style focuses more on a dialogue between the coach and the team.

A democratic coach encourages team members to give their input, which increases their sense of self-importance. The result of democratic coaching is the team members improve their decision-making, communication, and cooperation. The team is encouraged to collaborate to find solutions with their input put into consideration. It is an effective performance coaching style.

This style is especially suitable for younger members of a team as it makes them feel in control of the training, positively affecting their attitude.

Holistic coaching

This coaching style is also referred to as “laissez-faire.” It is based on the theory that a happy team is a successful team.

Instead of focusing on structured training, holistic coaching creates an enabling environment where the team members are comfortable pursuing different skills and development in their own manner. The team is allowed to pursue their goals without the coach acting as the authority figure.

Coaches who adopt this style believe everything is connected and that individuals are essential cogs in a machine. It gives the employee a sense that they have a significant part to play in the team, which goes a long way in showing the team that everyone matters.

The hands-off approach allows employees to focus on their obstacles and activities harboring their work. However, the lack of an authority figure might be detrimental if employees/teammates are unable to work as a team. Additionally, finding a solution might be difficult because of the different conflicting ideas and little sense of direction.

Which is the best coaching style?

The simple answer is the best coaches cannot settle on one style. Coaching styles are heavily influenced by personal experience, philosophy, and sticking with a single style is not an option for many coaches.

Ultimately, a coach at all levels of coaching should observe their team morale and how they are responding to coaching. Communication, even if it is one-sided, is also vital in achieving success.

Coaches have to balance pushing too hard, losing the team, adopting a hands-off approach, and losing control. Many coaches mix their worldviews with the three styles depending on the situation. Some of the styles take time to yield results but maybe the best approach in certain situations.

The type of team also determines the best coaching style to employ. For instance, a young team may not succeed under a holistic coaching style as it lacks a solid coaching structure.

All the styles can be successful depending on the company, team, or project. The key for any coach is identifying the right situations to use the different coaching styles. The best coaches know to combine all the styles with their personal experiences depending on the situation and expected outcome.

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