Coaching political leaders

Hartley, Jean and Pinder, Kate (2010). Coaching political leaders. In: Passmore, Jonathan ed. Leadership Coaching: Working with Leaders to Develop Elite Performance. London: Kogan Page, pp. 159–176.



In this chapter we consider the coaching relationship, and its contexts, processes and outcomes when coaching takes place with elected politicians. Elected politicians undertake their roles at local, devolved, national or international level. They may be senior leaders (eg ministers, council leaders, mayors) as well as representatives of communities and constituencies. They may be in political control, in opposition or in coalition. If they hold different political roles they may experience control, opposition and coalition simultaneously, for example, if they are political representatives at county and district local authority level, whilst their political party is in opposition at national level. In whatever role, formal political authority carries with it particular responsibilities and vulnerabilities that distinguish it from managerial leadership (where most of the research and practice on coaching has taken place).

The work of the coach is threfore to be sensitive to the particlar contexts, role demands and expectations (from self and a variety of publis and other stakeholders) of the elected political leader. We examine this though a leadership model that conceptualizes the contexts, the challenges and the capabilities of political leadership. In other words, our model does not focus solely on the characteristics of individuals and their self-development but places this in a socially constructed view of leadership whereby effective leadersip is concerned with being able to "read the context" (and sometimes shape it), focus on key priorities (challenges) and acquire or enhance the skills and behaviours to achieve the key tasks of leadership. The chapter illustrates key points about coaching with politicians, using a case study of political leadership in local government.

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