You are in a collaborative partnership with your team members and it’s important to acknowledge their visions for their own life. When you energetically invest in the dreams of your team members, you support their whole person.

The number one leadership initiative in any organization today is improved coaching. Coaching empowers employees, empowerment drives engagement, and engagement drives performance. At its core, coaching is about transformation. Leading distributed teams requires transforming how we coach and changing our play calls and playbooks to get things done. As a part of our interview series called “Moving From Command & Control to Coaching & Collaboration; How Leaders and Managers Can Become Better Coaches,” we had the pleasure to interview A. Raheim White, The Transformation Wizard.

A. Raheim White is a wellness specialist, mindfulness master, keynote speaker and the author of Mindfulness Matters: How To Live The Joy-Filled Life You Desire & Deserve. Raheim earned their bachelors and masters of fine arts degrees in dance performance & choreography from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and New York University Tisch School of the Arts with a semester study at the Taipei National University of the Arts. They are a wellness specialist, mindfulness master, keynote speaker, 200-hr certified yoga instructor and social-emotional learning facilitator, Reiki Master-Teacher and akashic record reader. For their contributions to Chicago’s LGBTQ community, Raheim received a Windy City Times’ 30 Under 30 Award.


Thank you for joining us to explore a critical inflection point in how we define leadership. Our readers would like to get to know you better. What was a defining moment that shaped who you are as a leader?

In my late 20’s, my family and I created The Healing Home Chicago, where we hosted weekly meditations and events for the community. I had sporadic wellness facilitation experience prior to this. I’d always attached my work to someone else’s vision, not believing it could stand on its own. But during my time at The Healing Home Chicago, I discovered the effectiveness of my teachings. I realized how my singular voice could leave a lasting impact on a group. I understood what I offered was necessary, especially as a representation for queer beings and people of culture. That time gave me the confidence I needed to lead with love today.

John C. Maxwell is credited with saying, “A leader is someone who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” How do you embody that quote as a leader?

I always say, “I am in process. I AM my process.” If I am not actively working on creating wellness in my own life, how can I help facilitate someone else in their return to wholeness? Through my years as a practitioner of meditation and mindfulness, I have learned the only time we have is now. So many of us are living in the future, which is causing great anxiety, or the past, where regret lives. The joy of life is the now.

I own my light. I own my joy. And I unapologetically embody these qualities. When I enter a space, I challenge people who are not present simply by being myself. Simply by being loving. When you are a person who walks in love, those who operate out of fear or domination find challenge with that. My easeful, authentic embodiment as an invitation for others to be their true selves.

How do you define the differences between a leader as a manager and a leader as a coach?

Managing leaders tell their team members what to do. They’re probably teaching what they’ve been taught; prescriptive instructions, patterns of behavior, habits, and working to get the job done in a particular way. If we’re looking at this model as a body, the managing leader would be the “brain” and the team members would be the “limbs.” The brain tells the limbs what to do.

Coaching leaders invite their team members into a process. They inspire innovation, cultivate ingenuity, and encourage the leadership qualities within their team members. If the coaching leader was a lit candle, they would light the candles of their team members so their brilliance can shine.

We started our conversation by noting that improved coaching is the number one leadership initiative in any organization today. What are some essential skills and competencies that leaders must have now to be better coaches?

Listening Skills

A good listener can perceive information with their entire being. They are attentive to details. We are constantly interpreting words, sounds, sights, sensations moment-by-moment. A good listener can receive, integrate, and intentionally use these various stimuli. In other words, they take the chaos of the life and make it make sense in thoughtful ways. We rely on words as our primary means of communication, but these are limited. Being attentive to a person’s facial expression, their body language, and motions all useful insight. An effective listener hears what’s not being said.


To be an effective, trustworthy leader, you must lead by example. If you make a mistake, own it. Team members can feel slighted when they have to correct the mistakes of their leaders without acknowledgement. This can create resentment and misplaced anger.

Owning your mistakes doesn’t make you weak. It makes you human and will help garner the trust of your team.

We’re all familiar with the adage, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” How are you inspiring — rather than mandating — leaders to invest in upskilling and reskilling?

When we believe something is irrelevant to us, we won’t pay attention to it. By helping leadership understand how improving their managerial toolset will help create a more effective in team, lead to easier management, cultivate ingenuity and innovation, and put money in their pockets — then, they see the benefit. I remind leaders that their success can be easier and show how to do that by creating a space for all to thrive.

Let’s get more specific. How do you coach someone to do their best work? How can leaders coach for peak performance in our current context? What are your “Top 5 Ways That Leaders and Managers Can Be Effective Coaches?”

Positive Affirmation & Building Trust

Team members want to hear when they are doing something well. Too often, leaders are only share ways to improve but aren’t affirming what’s also great. By offering affirmations, you improve the morale of your team members. When feeling low, the team needs your belief in their ability to succeed. Affirm your vision of their greatness.

When teaching children, I ask about their perspectives and experiences. Adults treat little ones as if they are incomplete, not like entire beings with a perspective. Because I ask how they feel and respect their opinions, they trust I have their best interest at heart. So, when I’m encouraging them to try something difficult or unfamiliar, like a math problem or dance move, they’re more likely to succeed because they “borrow” my belief in them through the trust we’ve built.

Responding With Intention

It’s not always rainbows and unicorns at work. Sometimes, you’re met with challenges that disturb your peace. As an empowering leader, you must respond to hiccups intentionally to ensure your message isn’t lost in overwhelming emotion.

A circus student was learning a new skill they couldn’t quite grasp. Professor A berated their efforts and made the student feel insignificant. This experience continued to affect the student’s performance over several days. In another class, the same student was experimenting with a similar yet different skill with Professor B. Professor B encouraged the student and pointed out what was working. In this space, the student could perform both skills successfully. However, when they went back to Professor A’s class, they could not.

As a leader, your words hold weight. Be mindful of what you say to your team members. It will continue to affect their performance.

Investing In Your Team

You are in a collaborative partnership with your team members and it’s important to acknowledge their visions for their own life. When you energetically invest in the dreams of your team members, you support their whole person.

People want to feel seen, heard, and appreciated. Asking your team members about their family goals, their discoveries on a recent trip, something they’re passionate about, lights them up and brings them into the present moment. If members are present and enthusiastic about being at work, they will perform better.

Supporting Mental and Emotional Balance

Humans love to compartmentalize things and people. “Your work self and your home self are not the same people.” This is incorrect and damaging. People are not pieces of themselves. They are whole. And if they are not emotionally and mentally sound, it will reflect in all aspects of their lives.

As a leader, you must honor that everyone of your team members has their own fears, stressors, and worries. To better manage these, the team needs the right tools provided by an effective facilitator who can offer unique insights for each individual. By bolstering their mental and emotional landscape toolkits, you also provide them with the means to better navigate their lives.

Encouraging Failure / Creating a Safe, Loving, Sacred Space

When we cultivate a space for all to thrive, team members feel encouraged to innovate. If you are unafraid of failure, you fail forward. Did you know that Thomas A. Edison failed 1,000 times before he invented the lightbulb? Each attempt pushed him toward creating an item that revolutionized the way we live.

By cultivating a safe, loving, sacred space, you remind team members their perspectives, wisdom, and sensitivities are important. Each member has their own dreams and visions. By cultivating space for this, team members are encouraged to use their unique intelligences to problem solve. Thus, innovation.

We’re leading and coaching in increasingly diverse organizations. And one aspect of workforce diversity on the rise is generational diversity. What advice would you offer about how to effectively coach a multi-generational workforce? And how do you activate the collective potential of a multi-generational workforce?

First, leaders must honor the lived experiences, values, and wisdoms of other generations within self. Then, cultivate an environment that celebrates these various perspectives and puts them in a positive conversation with each other. As a leader, are you expressing gratitude to your team members for their thoughts and opinions? Are you asking for their perspectives on projects? If you’re embodying this, your team members will reflect the same.

This may be one of the few environments where various generations can dialogue meaningfully and leaders set the tone. Building trust takes time. It requires vulnerability. Creating a cross-generational “buddy system” can support peers in learning from each other’s experiences and generate greater camaraderie. If someone makes on a mistake on a project, they are more apt to sharing their mishap with their buddy versus the entire team. That buddy can support corrective action and offer encouraging affirmation.

You’re referring to emotional intelligence, in a sense. What are two steps every leader can take to demonstrate a higher level of emotional intelligence?

Compassionate Listening

Most people listen to respond, but miss the opportunity of listening to understand. They absentmindedly nod their heads and mumble grunts of half comprehensions. In the yogic practice of compassionate listening, your entire being is present to receive your partner. No nods of compliance or “uh-huhs,” simply listening, being mindfully present to what you’re receiving.

To truly listen to someone takes a lot of energy. But it also gives you an opportunity to connect holistically. When you listen compassionately, you open your heart to other’s joys, their grievances, and their nuances of living. This allows you to be empathetic to provide an intentional response.

Constructive Critique

Effective leaders are open to constructive criticism. We all have blind spots, habits, shortcomings we can’t see. Establishing that you’re all on the same team with the common goal of being your best selves invites constructive critique with greater ease. As you reflect your team members’ challenges, it’s important to allow them to reflect the same to you.

No matter where anyone is along the perceived hierarchy, they have a particular, necessary point of view. Yes, it can be a sensitive matter — so, deliver the information with tact and sensitivity. Creating a space for internal development can inspire members to grow in their intended direction. It is through awareness where we transform our challenges into strengths.

Words matter. And we’re collectively creating a new leadership language right now. What are the most important words for leaders to use now?

This is good! Here are some words and phrases:

Mental and emotional wellbeing, honor, values, boundaries, “What do you think?,” alignment, inspired action, vision, clarity, ease, peace, mutually beneficial, in the flow, and “in this moment, what do you need to feel supported in doing your best work?”

I keep inspiring quotes on my desk. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote,” and why does it mean so much to you?

Be scared, and do it anyway. This is a reminder that my action is stronger than my fear. Just because I practice and teach mindfulness doesn’t mean I’m immune to experiencing challenges. I’ve just learned how to navigate them more masterfully. Whenever my fears start to get the better of me, I remember I am responsible for my life. I’d rather be making bold choices than letting my fear prevent me from living the life I desire and deserve.

Our readers often like to continue the conversation. What’s the best way for readers to connect with you and to stay current on what you’re discovering?

The best way to connect is by signing up for my newsletter. Here, I share upcoming classes, workshops, and inspirational messages with my subscribers. You can email me via my website and I’m on all social media: Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and Twitter @RahTheWizard. We can also connect via LinkedIn.

And lastly, I invite you to read my book, Mindfulness Matters: How To Live The Joy-Filled Life You Desire & Deserve, available on Amazon. I’d love any feedback on how the work is assisting you in creating your desired life.

Thank you for sharing your insights. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.

Thank you so much for your time, energy, and the invitation to share my wisdom. I am extremely grateful.