Modeling is the Best Way to Coach Leaders

April 29, 2013

The best way to coach someone in leadership is to be a model for that coachee. Leadership is an area where more is caught than taught, thus it is important that leaders who coach young potential leaders are great leaders.

pic of ducks following each other

Flickr Photo Credit: zenera

A recent article in Coaches PLAN magazine stated that “one of the best communication tools remains the image.” 1 The best way to communicate, teach, and coach is the image that a coach displays to others. When a young impressionable person opens himself up to be coached, the message the coach communicates is the image he displays to that person by living a holy life.

The principle of living a holy life first starts at home before it shows fruits in the coaching relationship. This means a coach must have adequately taken care of his priorities and home life. If a coach fails to take care of the priorities of home life, then the effectiveness of the coach is drastically reduced. This happens because the coachee, whether he realizes it or not, begins to ask himself, “If you cannot get your personal life to work the way it should, why should I think that what you are teaching me is going to work?”

Again, many students may not think this consciously, and they probably will not say it publicly, but a coach’s personal life troubles and failures will negatively affect his coaching ability. One coach shared that he “found that maintaining a fairly active health life, faith life, and family life are pillars that help me to become a better leader.” 2

The responsibility and authority to take care of life at home starts and rests with the coach. “It is the responsibility of the leader coach to exhibit the leadership and emotional competencies. . . that the coachee is trying to develop.” 3

Fortunately for Bible students, the New Testament provides several examples of living a holy life as a key part of the coaching process.

Throughout the New Testament it becomes clear that the apostle Paul knew that his image communicated what he was hoping to teach. Paul writes to the people of Philippi, “Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow your example” (Philippians 3:17). The apostle Paul knew that “the essence of good leadership was to provide an example that mirrored Christ’s own example.” 4 However, Paul was not perfect in the work that he did. He admitted that he struggled with sin, but he did live a holy life committed to following Jesus. Paul’s philosophy of teaching his young followers based on his life continued from his letter to the Philippians to his relationship with Titus, Timothy, and others.

When commenting on Paul’s relationship with and mentoring of Timothy, Alexander Whyte, author of the book Bible Characters: New Testament, describes Paul’s philosophy this way:

Take heed to thy doctrine indeed, but, first and last, take most heed to thyself. Fix thy very best and thy very closest attention on thyself. This is thy main duty as a pastor. Not to set thyself forward as a pattern to thy people. Only, make thyself a perfect pattern to them. For that minister who constantly and increasingly takes heed to himself in his walk and conversation; in preaching better every returning Sabbath; in discharging all the endless duties of his pastorate in season and out of season; in holding his peace in controversy; and in a life of secret faith and secret prayer; God himself will see to it that such an apostic minister will be imitated and celebrated, both as a pattern minister and a pattern man; both before his people, and before all his fellow-ministers. 5

Paul writes, “Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ. You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others” (2 Timothy 2:1-2). At this point in time, Timothy has traveled with Paul on many journeys and they have done much ministry together.

Paul has already written Timothy a letter about what to teach and given Timothy encouragement to teach it. Now Paul takes a different approach. He tells Timothy to “do what I have done.”

Question: Why do you believe modeling is the best way to coach a young potential leader?


  1. Christian Hrab, ChPC, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” Coaches PLAN, Spring 2011, 6.
  2. Sim B. Sitkin and J. Richard Hackman, “Developing Team Leadership: An Interview with Coach Mike Krzyzewski,” Academy of Management Learning & Education 10, No. 3 (2011), 500.
  3. Doug Riddle and Sharon Ting, “Leader Coaches: Principles and Issues for In-House Development,” Leadership in Action 26, no. 2 (May/June 2006), 14.
  4. Tyndale House Publishers, New Living Translation Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2008), 2067.
  5. Alexander Whyte, Bible Characters: The New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1952), 307-308.

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor's degree from Fresno Pacific University and master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

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