Chief Coaching Officer

Why the future of work will require CEOs to function primarily as coaches

Lots of folks make predictions about what the future of work will be in the western economy: the robots are going to take our jobs, the complexity involved in organizations will overtake even the savviest(read:workaholic-iest) of modern execs (and let’s be real, this has already happened, the emperor has no clothes, the chorus of snickering just hasn't gotten loud enough to hear over the crowd noise. Yet.), the successful orgs will be driven by purpose, the org structures will be autonomous and hierarchy will drastically change.

If we add all of the above possibilities up we pretty quickly see that the image of leadership will need to change drastically from our modern concept of an individual at the top of a pyramid authoritatively directing those below. So here’s my prediction to add to the pile: In the future of work, Chief Executive Officers will become more like Chief Coaching Officers.

I already see the power of this role change and I believe that one of the best examples of what the future of leadership will look like is coach Pete Carroll, head coach of the Seattle Seahawks. In reading a recent article about Pete’s vision and principles of how he leads the Seahawks ever deeper into their purpose, I was struck by how much his philosophy and approach fits into the change of leadership in the future of work: coaching autonomous individuals to continuously pursue their best in order to contribute fully to team purpose. Winning football games is the purpose of the Seahawks and Pete’s philosophy is that, in order to best serve that purpose, the team maximises players’ self actualization and helps them to live as their wholly authentic selves. What is interesting to observe is the virtuous cycle that this approach creates: Pete’s focus on maximising individual potential allows players to be their best selves, resulting in an environment that players describe as a place where “’everybody wants to be… because we have something good going,’” and winning games doesn't hurt either: the Seahawks have ranked first in win-loss percentage for the last two years and all signs point to this trend continuing.

Those that don't share my ideology might argue that CEOs need to be technical leaders, adept at ensuring that the organizations they lead stay competitive and profitable and that they have full command of all of the goings-on within their organizations. The issue with this thesis is that it is not realistic. Take the example of the failure of large financial institutions during the U.S. financial crisis of 2008, multiple leaders in the banking industry have stated that their organizations are too complex for them to have known what was going wrong and regulators confirm this as well. The proof is all there in that example, we now know that the emperor (read:the modern concept of a CEO) has no clothes (read:they don't actually function the way we pretend that they do). This is a big problem. We shouldn't pretend that CEOs are capable of holding the whole organization and all its mechanisms, the world is too complex. Instead it’s time we admit the true role leadership has in our complex world: the role of coach and champion of purpose.

Complexity + purpose + autonomy = Chief Coaching Officer

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