Think back to anything you've worked hard to get good at. It could be school, sports, dancing, making videos, public speaking, mastering spreadsheets—anything. Do you prefer to learn from your successes or your failures?
If you ask most people to explain what they mean by “leadership,” you'll probably get a vague description of “coaching” accompanied by a flurry of sports metaphors. It's easy to see why. The sports version of a coach offers a romantic and dramatic example of leadership in which one person brings out the best in others while bringing home the title. It's heroic! The tear-jerking halftime pep talks, the towel-chewing sideline anxiety, and the victory lap on the shoulders of a grateful team all make for emotionally satisfying, inspiring imagery. There's a reason why winning coaches end up populating “great leaders” lists in magazines every year: They seem like a perfect model for winning at business and at life. Who doesn't crave the roar of the crowd to commemorate our success?
But that's not the kind of coaching we mean. In fact, the sports coach may be a counterproductive metaphor for the kind of coaching you'll need to do in almost every way but one. Why? Because game-day inspiration is a poor substitute for the regular, timely guidance your team ...