Skip to Main Content Skip to bottom Skip to Chat, Email, Text

[CSL] Coaching-Style Leadership’s Effectiveness in Cross-Functional Collaboration

Looking at the potentials of coaching style leadership in teams

By Dr. Sai Raghav

In part I of this blog series blog on coaching-style (CS) leadership, we look at how this concept carries over into cross-functional collaboration, examining briefly the definitions and key principles associated with this theory.  

Experience becomes the teacher

Due to the increased reliance of organizational leaders on work teams, the CS approach to leadership is gaining substantial momentum in the modern work environment. The behaviors of CS leaders, mirroring those of an athletic coach, have been found to be an effective approach for operational streamlining, problem-solving, goal setting, and adapting to change (Cui et al., 2022; Susanto & Sawitri, 2022). As outlined in Figure 1 [below], key qualities of CS leaders play an instrumental role in maximizing leadership outcomes.

Figure 1

Key Traits of CS Leaders



The Concept of  "Cross-Functional"

The concept of cross-functional teams involves a group of skilled individuals with diverse expertise coming together to achieve specific goals (Zhang & Guo, 2019). Needless to say, every individual is different, and their personality might or might not bode well with the person next to them on the cross-functional team. Ego and personality clashes are expected, and a smooth sailing is a rarity in a cross-functional collaboration. Since time is of the essence in today’s innovate-or-die economy and achieving the desired output at the fastest possible speed is paramount, it is crucial for the cross-functional team leaders to effectively and efficiently achieve team cohesiveness. In the realm of CS leadership, there exist several techniques for fostering collaboration within a diverse team, but three in particular stand out as deserving further exploration. Each is briefly outlined below.

Ego and personality clashes are expected, and smooth sailing is a rarity in cross-functional collaborations

Dr. Sai Raghav

Ego and personality clashes are expected, and smooth sailing is a rarity in cross-functional collaborations

Effective Conflict Resolution

Conflict and competition are prevalent within cross-functional teams because differences in priorities, opinions, personalities, and working styles prompt team members to vie for influence and establish their positions in the group. CS leaders are highly skilled at conflict resolution and are fully capable of addressing issues constructively and simultaneously promoting positive team dynamics (Susanto & Sawitri, 2022). CS leaders understand the importance of fostering a collaborative and cooperative environment within their teams.

They approach conflicts with tact and diplomacy, focusing on resolving issues in a way that benefits the entire team rather than fueling competition. By promoting non-competitiveness, CS leaders encourage team members to work together towards common goals and share knowledge and resources. They emphasize the value of teamwork and encourage open communication, ensuring that every team member feels heard and valued. Instead of letting conflicts escalate into destructive competition, CS leaders channel them in a constructive manner, encouraging healthy debates and discussions that lead to innovative solutions. This approach not only strengthens the team’s bond but also promotes synergistic outcomes, where the collective efforts of the team produce better results than individual contributions.

Clear Goal Setting and Expectations

Due to the added levels of diversity and complexity, CS leaders are able to lead by example and simultaneously create a shared sense of purpose within the team (Cui et al., 2022). Good CS leaders understand the importance of involving team members in the goal-setting process. They recognize that when team members are actively involved in setting goals, they are more likely to feel a sense of ownership and commitment to those goals.

These leaders also go beyond just setting goals and ensure that there is a high level of alignment and commitment with the vision, mission, and objectives of the project. They communicate the overall vision and mission clearly to the team, ensuring that everyone understands and shares the same goals. They foster an environment where team members feel motivated and inspired to work towards these goals, creating a sense of unity and purpose within the team. Additionally, these leaders regularly check in with team members, providing support and guidance to ensure that everyone is on track and working towards the shared objectives.

They also encourage open communication and collaboration, allowing team members to provide input and make suggestions to further enhance alignment and commitment. In summary, good CS leaders not only involve team members in goal-setting but also create an environment of alignment and commitment to the vision, mission, and objectives of the project.

Continuous Improvement

It is a key aspect of successful CS leadership (Susanto & Sawitri, 2022). By actively seeking out opportunities to minimize inconsistencies and inefficiencies, CS leaders create an environment that encourages team members to enhance their skills and share their knowledge. This not only allows individuals to grow and develop professionally, but it also fosters a culture of collaboration and continuous learning within the team.

Additionally, the emphasis on experimentation and risk-taking enables CS leaders and their teams to engage in brainstorming sessions that are crucial for effective troubleshooting and process improvement. Through these sessions, new approaches and innovative solutions can be explored, leading to enhanced customer satisfaction and overall organizational success.

This blog reflected on the effectiveness of CS leadership in achieving desired outcomes in a cross-functional setting. I highlighted three particular strategies CS leaders can employ to foster an effective working team: effective conflict resolution, clear goal setting and expectations, and continuous improvement. As well, we looked at the emphasis and importance of promoting collaboration, open communication, and a sense of unity and purpose within the team.

These strategies aim to minimize conflicts, enhance alignment and commitment, and encourage skill development and knowledge sharing among team members. In the second installment of this blog, we will explore how CS leaders are able to have a positive impact on team cohesion and synergy in a cross-functional collaboration through the lens of Bruce Tuchman’s five stages of team development.


Certo, S., & Certo, S. (2019). Modern management: Concepts and skills (15th ed.). New

York, NY: Pearson.

Cui, Z., Wang, H., & Nanyangwe, C. N. (2022). How does coaching leadership promote employee's constructive deviance? Affective events perspective. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 43(2), 279-290.

Susanto, P. C., & Sawitri, N. N. (2022). Coaching, Mentoring, Leadership Transformation and Employee Engagement: A Review of the Literature. Dinasti International Journal of Education Management and Social Science, 4(2), 297–308.

Zhang, L., & Guo, H. (2019). Enabling knowledge diversity to benefit cross-functional project teams: Joint roles of knowledge leadership and transactive memory system. Information & Management, 56(8), 103156.


Dr. Sai Raghav


Dr. Raghav is an accomplished academic and scholar holding degrees in areas such as a Doctorate in Management (Organizational Leadership) from the University of Phoenix, an MS in Organizational Leadership with a specialization in Project Management from Northcentral University, an MBA with a specialization in Strategic Management from the Swiss Management Center, Switzerland, and a B.S. in Physiotherapy from N.T.R. University of Health Sciences, India. He is a presidential member of the National Society of Leadership and Success and a Fellow in Residence for the Center for Leadership Studies and Organizational Research.

Dr. Sai Raghav