In the world of leadership, coaching is important. Leaders are no different to others in so far as they need guidance.

They receive coaching, and, in turn, they coach (some of) the people who report to them so they can achieve for themselves and for the organisation. When implemented correctly, coaching can help both the individual and the organisation to progress towards their goals. 

Below we look at some of the key coaching styles and assess the influence of these styles on some of the world’s most famous leaders. We also discuss some of the coaching courses that form part of our selection of accredited courses, and on which you can learn more about coaching styles and develop your own coaching skills.

What are the key coaching styles?

We’ve identified autocratic, democratic, and laissez-faire as the three main styles of coaching. Let’s explore them a little more.

Autocratic coaching style

The autocratic style is a no-nonsense style in which the coach makes the decisions and the person receiving the training accepts and complies with them. There is little consideration of input from others if any at all. The coach explains the objectives and the way to reach them.

While the highly structured nature of this coaching style enables people to develop discipline and commitment, it may not be suitable for everyone. An autocratic coaching style sets people up with the structure to succeed, but, at the same time, the natural lack of input from the learner doesn’t provide as much opportunity for growth. A learner wishing to offer more input may not feel this is the right style of coaching for them.

Democratic coaching style

The democratic coaching style is much the opposite of the autocratic one. It’s more collaborative, with the coach relinquishing much control and setting out the objectives but entrusting the person with the task of finding the solutions. 

By encouraging a higher level of input from the learner, this style of coaching increases their perception of their own value and of the importance of their own input. The fact that they are engaging in more discussion with the coach facilitates the improvement of their decision-making, communication skills, and cooperation. 

This is a popular coaching style that encourages a positive attitude, allowing the learner to feel in control of their own training.


The laissez-faire approach to coaching, also known as ‘holistic coaching’, gives people total freedom. The coach, happy to let the learner pursue their development in their own manner and with free reign, doesn’t act as an authority figure (even though they are). It’s a style that instils the learner with the sense that they have a significant contribution to make in any project.

This approach requires the learner to be highly motivated. Under laissez-faire coaching, a group of learners must be able to work together in order to be truly effective, since the coach considers everything to be connected as part of a much larger entity.

Exemplary leaders and their leadership styles

Famous leaders, despite all being different, can serve as an excellent point on a leadership journey. Their stories, as much of their failures as of their successes, serve as lessons from which it’s possible to learn and grow. Below we explore the leadership styles of three different leaders and how they reflect the coaching styles we’ve discussed above.

Martha Stewart: autocratic style

Martha Stewart, the founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, is renowned for her autocratic style of leadership and paid meticulous attention to detail to construct her empire. She’s as demanding of herself as she is of her employees. 

One of Martha Stewart’s major convictions is that there is a ‘right way’ to do things. This comes across in her management style, in which there’s a strong focus on highly regimented structures of work.

Nelson Mandela: democratic style

The late, great activist and South African president is one of the finest examples of a democratic leader. He believed people of all colours and affiliations could contribute to the government and, instead of excluding them, made them part of his government, which accelerated the healing process in South Africa. 

This is an example of what you could expect to experience in a democratic coaching style. Positive. Collaborative. He listened to others actively and allowed them to feel heard. 

Warren Buffet: laissez-faire style

The CEO and chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc, Warren Buffet, is one of the most established and recognised investors there has ever been. His leadership style is very much laissez-faire. Warren hires highly capable managers and, putting immense faith in them, grants them full autonomy in decision-making, just as a coach guiding you with a laissez-faire coaching style would. He encourages employees to go beyond the scope of their jobs. 

Coaching styles in the workplace

The leadership examples above are relatively extreme examples of how different types of coaching can transfer to leadership. If you were to undergo some coaching in your own place of employment, often the style would be a little lighter but still powerful enough to generate a notable uplift in performance. 

We offer two main coaching courses — the CMI Level 5 and Level 7 Coaching and Mentoring Development programmes —so you can learn and help to implement a culture of coaching and mentoring in your workplace. On the courses, you’ll gain insight into how coaching functions, different approaches to it, how it relates to the goals of an organisation, and more. The course will assist you in getting the best out of yourself and out of others in the service of your organisation.

Book your coaching course with us

Booking a coaching course with us is straightforward. Simply visit our courses page, click on the relevant course to begin, and click on ‘book your place’ to begin the process. Alternatively, you can email us at, send us a message using the form on our contact page or call us on 0161 826 3139. If you have any questions about our coaching courses, or about any other of our courses, feel free to get in touch and we’ll be happy to advise you. Then you can book your course and start building this highly valuable skill.

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