What are the Coaching Styles?

 Sai Blackbyrn/ 2nd October 2022

The coaching styles are categorized into five different varieties including democratic, holistic, autocratic, vision and authoritarian. Different coaches adopt different coaching styles to make learning easier. For example, an authoritarian coach can make learning easier for students by organising their schedules, setting objectives and taking regular revisions while an autocratic coach uses other methods such as developing time management qualities by encouraging students to create their own learning schedules, taking inputs and altering the course for a better learning experience.

Coaching styles and learning styles are connected to each other. Based on the learning culture of the student, a coach can use different coaching styles. For example, if a person has a collaborative learning culture, a coach can prefer democratic style of coaching. Because collaborative learning requires inputs from the subjects and this is observed in democratic coaching. Every coaching style has different and unique coaching methods for their students. Every coaching style is objective-based, thus the chosen method for coaching can affect the efficiency of learning for the subjects. According to the coaching methods, the learning of subjects can be improved by more than 60%.

While a lot of people prefer learning through a fixed, organised structure; others might appreciate a little bit of leeway. 

For some, learning might involve less communication and more instructions but for the rest, inquisitive questions are the way to go. Hence, everyone learns differently and coaches that adopt more than one way of coaching, tap onto the potential of all their learners. 

Coaches focus on enhancing the capabilities of their subjects, instead of telling them the solutions to their problems. Hence, the process of coaching is purely objective-based but the methods used by coaches to achieve these objectives differ greatly from one another. 

The coaching styles are listed below.

  1. Democratic Coaching
  2. Holistic Coaching
  3. Autocratic Coaching
  4. Vision Coaching

1. Democratic Coaching

Democratic coaching involves inputs from the subjects themselves. In Democratic Coaching style, the learner is free to express their interests, opinions and questions about the subject. The client can also set personal goals and is free to give suggestions on how to achieve them.  Democratic Coaching encourages creativity and empowers the clients by handing over some responsibilities to them. It also inculcates the habit of self-motivation as the client works towards achieving goals that they’ve specified.

However, in democratic coaching, all the major decisions are either taken with the coach’s consent or by the coach himself. This method is especially useful when all the participants are familiar with the basics of the subject. It ensures that the coaching process involves individual creativity and group discussions to figure out the next best course of action. 

The most common examples of democratic coaching users include social media giant Twitter and former-autocratic multinational, Apple Inc. Apple (which was previously an autocratic corporation, thanks to founder Steve Jobs) has done remarkably well since they’ve incorporated democratic coaching into their management.

A democratic coach must possess certain unique qualities. This includes understanding, compassion and the capacity to take constructive criticism from a group of learners. A democratic coach must put the wishes and needs of the learners first and must continue to do so even in the face of unpredictable challenges. And if you’re looking to learn from someone that actively accepts suggestions and encourages collaborative discussions, you should prefer hiring a democratic coach for your organisation. 

The general audience suitable for the democratic style of learning must be cooperative, outspoken and independent. The learners need to observe and analyse the course structure and provide input when necessary. It is singular in the way that the democratic coaching style offers a balance between individual imaginativeness and structured learning.

2. Holistic Coaching

A holistic coach essentially hands over decision-making power to the client, with the expectation that they’ll hold themselves responsible for their training and education. It doesn’t imply that the coach isn’t ultimately held accountable for the progress of the client. Instead, a healthy holistic coaching strategy involves assuming the role of consultant, in which coaches make themselves available to clients asking for help and dispense advice as requested.

The modern nature of holistic coaching is what makes this coaching style attractive to clients. Popularly known as the ‘laissez-faire’ style of coaching, holistic coaching functions on the principle that a happy team eventually becomes a prosperous one. Holistic coaching involves flexibility, both in terms of time and creativity. A participant is free to explore the areas of their interest and set their own objectives accordingly. 

The primary advantage of holistic coaching lies in the freedom that it offers to an individual in making their own decisions. This inculcates several values and skills in the learners including time management, self-motivation and decision-making capabilities. 

The disadvantage of this coaching style is that it gives free reins to the client during the course of the coaching program. The complete delegation of responsibility shall only work when dealing with skilled clients who know their way around the subject and only need a gentle push in the right direction once in a while.

Of course, handing over complete reins to inexperienced players is a bad coaching strategy. Hence, this technique is suitable for clients who already know their way around the subject and are merely looking for some guidance. 

The coach needs to develop healthy relationships with the participants to gauge their growth. Since the method involves minimum control, there must be constant scrutiny of the clients’ objectives and their progress towards it.

3. Autocratic Coaching/ Authoritarian Coaching

Autocratic coaching (also popularly known as authoritarian coaching) is a type of coaching style wherein the coach has complete control over the clients’ time and learning. An autocratic coach has the full authority to make any decision. Autocratic coaching style doesn’t involve any input from the clients and focuses solely on the achievement of objectives through an inflexible coaching plan. 

Autocratic Coaching inculcates discipline, motivation and habit-building skills in the participants by having them follow certain approaches consistently. However,  such authoritarian coaching might invoke certain negative feelings in the clients due to the lack of any creative freedom and flexibility. This is especially true in the case of young learners who might come to resent such coaching practices.

This type of coaching style is popular with team sports where diverse personalities are brought together. It is observed that young people are generally averse to the idea of autocratic leadership but it is important to bestow them with basic skills and knowledge before they could be allowed to experiment with their creativity. 

Autocratic coaching style is in direct contrast with its counterpart; holistic coaching style. While the former allows no room for flexibility and individual input and thus, saves time and ensures responsibility on part of both the parties. The latter allows complete freedom in deciding the methodology of the course. When deciding between the two to find the ‘better’ coaching style, it is imperative to keep in mind the personality and skills of the audience group.

4. Vision Coaching

Unlike its counterparts, vision coaching is barely concerned with the amount of control exercised by a coach. Instead, vision coaching is a coaching style based on futuristic ideas. In this coaching style, the coach emphasises on visualising future outcomes and discovering strategies to achieve them.

Vision coaching encourages the individuals to visualise their ‘success’ eventually making it seem achievable. It is popularly used in sports, where coaches encourage players to push themselves by visualizing their winnings. But it is not just limited to sports, as people from all backgrounds fantasize about their success. 

It is a useful coaching style for individuals who are under-confident about their skills, novice to the coaching subject or motivated to perform. In conclusion, vision coaching is a terrific coaching style to empower your clients. 

How have the Coaching Styles Emerged?

Coaching styles began emerging in the early 1900s, with different thinkers developing ideas of productivity and growth. The three primary styles of coaching, like autocratic, democratic and holistic coaching, were found through the studies conducted by a social psychologist named Kurt Lewin in the 1930s. These studies concentrated on surveying the effects of different leadership styles on the group participants.

While the idea of ‘coaching’ was still being cultivated, the only practised coaching style was the authoritarian style. Stemming from the ruins of the two world wars, autocratic leadership became the first variety of coaching styles. For a long time, coaching implied the transfer of orders from an authority without much room for creativity and freedom.

The turning point came about in the last quarter of the 20th-century when workers and employees rose against the dictatorial nature of such leadership. Individuals throughout the world pushed for their liberties and reached common ground with their employers. Coaching became flexible and creative, an opportunity for people to enhance their capabilities by themselves. The industry for business coaching expanded tremendously as it was not restricted to  the  privileged anymore.

The results of a coaching programme are also of much significance as it is necessary for the coaching to reap benefits. This was previously unavailable as only certain people and institutions focused on coaching and there was barely any follow up regarding the results. Hence, coaching has certainly changed into a client-driven process with only certain important inputs coming from the coach. 

What is the Main Difference between Coaching Styles? 

The main difference between coaching styles is in the level of control exercised by the coach on their clients. The level of control and authority is higher in an autocratic coaching style as compared to a democratic coaching style or a holistic coaching style. The participants are given free rein over their time and work in a holistic coaching style followed by a slightly less flexible democratic coaching style. Vision coaching is based on the principle of future events and actions – a unique characteristic that isn’t recognized in any of the other coaching styles. 

While the autocratic coaching style is suitable for amateur participants, the holistic coaching approach is mainly practised among experienced participants. If the subject of discussion requires constant communication, 

democratic coaching is preferred. Hence, coaching styles can be adopted depending on the pre-existing knowledge and skills of participants. 

The process of coaching remains the same,irrespective of the method used. Coaching is a developmental exercise where an experienced individual imparts knowledge, skills or training to a learner or client for achieving their set objectives. At this point in time, coaching is a widely discussed concept with millions of interested participants. You can learn more about coaching by clicking here “What is Coaching?

The use of different coaching techniques only enhances this process. If anything, varied coaching methods are effective for a better understanding of the subject as people with different personalities perform better with different levels of coaching control.

Which Coaching Style is Correct for you?

The best coaching style is the one that fits into your learning pattern. If you’re looking for a finance coach, a dating coach or a life coach the first step would be to appraise your areas of expertise and weaknesses. Once you’re certain of your position in the subject, you can choose a coach following your desired coaching style. For example, if you’re already familiar with the basics and need constant communication and guidance from your coach, it’ll be best to go for a coach with a democratic coaching style. 

It would also be helpful if you assess the amount of flexibility and freedom you desire in a coaching programme. If you think ‘the coach knows the best’ and are willing to let them take over, an autocratic coaching style would be your cup of tea. Else, a holistic coaching programme with creative freedom and time flexibility would be more suitable.

Other than your individual knowledge and acceptable control, the most efficient way of learning should also play a major role in deciding the best coaching style for you. If you learn better with constant guidance and in strict, inflexible structures then an autocratic coaching style would be your most profitable option. An amalgamation of these three factors can easily yield the best coaching method for you. 

According to most coaches worldwide, the democratic coaching style (also known as the participative coaching style or the shared coaching style) is the most popular today. The reason behind the popularity of the democratic coaching style is the middle ground that it offers to coaches and their clients. Unlike an autocratic style, the participants are free to express their thoughts and concerns. This is useful for having a collaborative environment where individuals communicate and learn from each other. 

It also differs from the ‘laissez faire’ coaching style, meaning that it offers a little less liberty to the participants in terms of course control and creative freedom. This is certainly effective for participants who need a little inspiration to learn. As per the findings in this democratic coaching style case study, the final decision-making capacity shall always lie with the coach. 

As per The Sport Journal, democratic coaching tops the list of preferred leadership styles by student-athletes. An average of 3.39 points was awarded for the participative coaching style (on a scale of 1-5) with 3 being preferred occasionally and 4 being preferred often. 

Hence, it’d be fair to say that the democratic coaching style is not only beneficial for the performance of the learners but also encourages communication, participation and creativity. It boosts the confidence of the participants by making them an integral part of the coaching process and also assists the coach in connecting agreeably with their clients. 

What is the Best Coaching Style?

The best coaching style is the one that works excellently for your audience. Meaning that the definition of the ‘best coaching style’ varies according to the type, experience and efficiency of your client audience. These three factors form the foundation of coaching style selection as every individual has a unique personality, skillset and creative capacity. 

Like Sai Blackbyrn said “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” A coach is defined purely by the connections he builds with his clients and how this impacts their lives for the better. 

Therefore, it is best to evaluate all the coaching styles, apply them to a suitable audience and create an open, friendly and safe environment for learning. These factors will not only be applicable in 2021 but will also linger for decades afterwards. 

Which Coaching Style is the Hardest?

The hardest coaching style is the one that’s highly unsuitable for your clients. If your clients are experienced and mature in the subject of coaching, opting for a strict authoritarian style might put off your clients and invite conflicts. Similarly, providing complete liberty to novices in the field might hamper their subject growth due to a lack of self-motivation.

Hence, to avoid being stuck with the hardest coaching style, it is important to scrutinize your audience before the onset of the coaching process.  

Does Holistic Coaching Include All Styles?

No, Holistic Coaching Style does not imply an amalgamation of all coaching styles. Instead, holistic coaching is a form of coaching style that hands over the reins of the programme to the participants completely. There is a huge potential for creative freedom and maximum time flexibility.

The advantages of holistic coaching include letting the clients learn from their own experiences with minimal coach interference. Unlike the rest of the coaching styles, holistic coaching focuses heavily on guidance rather than training. It imparts wisdom beyond the immediate coaching subject and entails lessons for the long run as well. 

Does Democratic Coaching Provide Freedom of Choice to Students?

Yes, democratic coaching provides freedom of choice to students by taking into account their thoughts, interests and enquiries. This coaching style helps in building students’ confidence and boosts the coach-client relationship by leaps and bounds. It is the most effective communication-based coaching style that encourages discourse and creativity. 

Suppose there is a dating coach who practices the democratic coaching style. To understand the personal nature of his client’s expectations, the coach should focus on developing a genuine connection with the client. The two parties have to share a safe space through constant communication, trust and reasonable expectations. In case these factors are achieved, the relationship between the coach and his client improves greatly, thereby bringing in better results. 

Is Vision Coaching Style Necessary for Entrepreneurs?

Yes, vision coaching style is necessary for an entrepreneur. Vision coaching style is a futuristic coaching technique that emphasises on visualising your goals for them to be achieved. The concept of beginning a new venture depends greatly on the ability of the individual to foresee future opportunities. To know more about vision coaching, click here “What is vision coaching?”

The greatest entrepreneurs of our time, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos were also great visionaries. The ability of an individual to visualise future challenges and achievements speaks volumes of his ability to create something profitable. Hence, entrepreneurs should certainly opt for vision coaching for self-improvement and growth.

What are the Coaching Styles in Education?

The coaching styles in education include instructional, coercive, emotional, authoritative and pacesetting leadership styles among others. To lead educational groups, like teachers and students, a coach must have a set framework of coaching style. Since the groups are usually homogeneous in terms of age, mental capacity and educational backgrounds the right coaching style might save you a lot of time and effort.

Here is a complete list of the different coaching styles in education – 

  1. Pacesetting Coaching Style.
  2. Instructional Coaching Style.
  3. Authoritative Coaching Style.
  4. Affiliate Coaching Style.
  5. Transactional Coaching Style.
  6. Strategic Coaching Style.
  7. Transformational Coaching Style.
  8. Coercive Coaching Style.
  9. Emotional Coaching Style.

The choice between these leadership styles must be made after evaluating all the factors like the type of educational group, their resistance to control and the most efficient way to facilitate their learning. Only after this preliminary screening, the best method for coaching in education can be determined. 

What is the Best Coaching Style in Business?

The best coaching style in business is one that matches your client’s requirements, effectively leading to a successful outcome. Since the onset of coaching in the business world through life coaches, finance coaches and affiliate coaches, more and more people in business are exploring the profession. To decide the best coaching style in business, one must stay updated with clients’ expectations and the emerging new coaching styles. The most popular coaching styles in business are listed below – 

  1. Holistic coaching style.
  2. Transactional coaching style. 
  3. Autocratic coaching style.
  4. Intuitive coaching style.
  5. Democratic coaching style.
  6. Mindfulness coaching style.
  7. Developmental coaching style.
  8. Transformational coaching style.
  9. Bureaucratic coaching style.
  10. Vision coaching style.

Business coaching is a developmental process in which a coach assists a business owner by carrying their business from its status quo to the owner’s desired prominence. It is primarily objective-based and is gradually gaining momentum in the industry. To know more about business coaching, you can click “What is business coaching?

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