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Leader as Coach


The IEL’s first cycle of inquiry focuses on Leader as Coach, an approach that considers the horizontal and vertical relationships of school and system leaders. The question for this cycle of inquiry is:

What are the optimal conditions within a supervisory relationship that foster reciprocal leadership, mentoring and coaching?


The Leader as Coach cycle of inquiry defines reciprocal leadership as follows:

Reciprocal Leadership refers to the relationship by which individuals come together with an open-to-learning stance to collaboratively enhance their leadership practice. The goal of Reciprocal Leadership is to create the necessary conditions for learning and leading. In particular, these are conditions that ensure student achievement, equity and well-being are integrated in context-specific ways.

Guiding Principles

Reciprocal Leadership supports and fosters the Leader as Coach process:

  • Developing a culture of reciprocity in which there is a give and take that results in learning;
  • Framing a clear and adaptive relationship that is mutually respectful, honest and growth-oriented;
  • Fostering the establishment of a trusting space that enables risk taking;
  • Challenging one another through honest exchange and active listening;
  • Promoting reflection and strengthening self-awareness; and
  • Respecting one another’s lived experiences and needs within the organizational context.

The role of leader as coach is a non-evaluative process and a mutually beneficial process, in which both participants learn and develop as leaders.

Case Studies / Scenarios

The following are four sample case studies/scenarios, which leaders can use to consider how they would apply the guiding principles of reciprocal leadership and thereby strengthen their “leader as coach” practice. For more tips on how to use these and other leader to leader scenarios refer to Power Point presentations.

Cognitive Coaching℠ is a resource developed by Bob Garmston and Art Costa.It is a process, a set of strategies, and a way of thinking that supports the ongoing development of individuals and organizations, as they become increasingly self-directed and reflective.

Using the cognitive coaching approach, these case studies can be used to complement existing leadership development programs in your district.


The purpose of this presentation is to offer school and system leaders with an opportunity to revisit mentoring and coaching definitions, to learn about reciprocal leadership and to connect reciprocal leadership with the concept of leader as coach. It offers various activities that will enable school and system leaders to put "Leader as Coach" into practice. The proposed activities can be completed in the same session or over several days. Slides are accompanied by notes and references.


This section of the IEL website provides resources to assist school and system leaders with:

  • Learning about the conditions that foster a Leader as Coach culture
  • Putting the language, skills and tools of Leader as Coach into practice
  • Assessing Leader as Coach development
  • Identifying ways to strengthen Leader as Coach expertise, and much more.

The IEL plans to further expand this section of the website with your help. With this in mind send electronic resources you recommend that will support the concept of Leader as Coach to the IEL Coordinator at communication@education-leadership-ontario.ca.

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