Demonstrate intellectual humility — accept that you don’t have all the answers and be willing to change your mind.

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 Gia Lacqua.

Gia is the founder and CEO of elivate. She a widely regarded trauma-informed empowerment coach, motivational speaker, author, and leadership transformationalist. She brings 20 years of experience in the biopharmaceutical industry leading companies, teams, and individuals through strategic change and growth, and most recently served as Vice President of a Fortune 100 Company.

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?

Thank you for inviting me to join in on this important conversation!

There were countless people and experiences that shaped who I am as a leader; many positive, and some negative, but they all came with important lessons that I carry with me to this day.

The most impactful moment for me was an inner experience. One day I had a life changing realization that what I had perceived to be a weakness for most of my life, was in fact, my superpower.

As a female in my early 20s starting out in the corporate world, I received numerous messages, implicit and explicit, that in order to be successful, I had to think and act like a man. Sadly, I am not alone when I say, I had to play a role to “fit in.”

Over the years, I took inventory of what was working for me, as well as other women, and what wasn’t….and there was a lot that wasn’t working. Something needed to change. As I progressed in my career, I allowed myself to show up more authentically at work. What I discovered was that I instantly became a better leader. I developed stronger, more meaningful relationships, and I had expanded my influence and impact because I was genuine, and that authentic human connection is what people not only wanted, but needed and craved.

I am a nurturer by nature, but I had suppressed this quality at work for years out of fear that I would be perceived as “weak” or “too feminine.” It took me far too long to realize that my intrinsic ability to develop and empower others is my superpower. It’s what defines me as a person — as a mother, a leader and a coach.

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?

If you want people to follow, lead by example. People will listen to what you do, before they hear what you have to say. Most leaders can talk the talk, but what sets exceptional leaders apart is integrity — ensuring that your actions and your words are consistent.

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

Leader as coach is such an important concept in business today, and companies that have adopted this philosophy are thriving as a result. Companies are shifting from a top-down, command and control environment to a matrixed and collaborative environment; from a know it all to a learn it all culture.

Accordingly, a coaching mindset is a shift away from traditional leadership, focused on telling, and toward drawing out with a focus on people development. Think of it as a pull, rather than a push.

A manager spends more time speaking. A coach spends more time listening and observing.

A manager instructs and delegates. A coach asks thoughtful questions to stimulate creative thinking.

A manager is transaction focused. A coach is relational focused.

A manager engages in directive conversations. A coach engages in collaborative thinking.

A manager provides answers. A coach draws out solutions.

A manager solves problems. A coach supports others in solving their own problems.

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?

Show up authentically — being true to who you are in your leadership role requires a deep sense of self. Do the inner work, know what you stand for (and what you don’t).

Invest in relationships — instead of focusing on ROI (return on investment), we should be focused on ROHD (return on human development).

Lead with heart — show up for your team, show you care and be willing to be vulnerable.

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?

As a leader, it is critical to lead by example, embrace adaptability and adopt a growth mindset. In my experience, many people don’t like the concept of reskilling or upskilling because it might imply that what they are doing is wrong or not good enough. When we have a fixed mindset, it can prevent us from necessary growth. Instead, I encourage leaders to be lifelong learners and approach development from the lens of continuous improvement — when you know better, do better. The world is rapidly changing, and the business environment is dynamic. We must learn to continuously evolve. It’s a non-negotiable in leadership today.

I firmly believe that instead of focusing on leadership development, we should be investing in people development, and supporting leaders to learn and grow holistically. When we try to compartmentalize learning, we are limiting growth potential. The key to unlocking leadership potential lies in personal growth.

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?”

Listen loudly– stop telling, start asking, and genuinely seek to understand.

Get wildly curious — ask powerful, open-ended questions and remain open-minded and non-judgmental.

Demonstrate intellectual humility — accept that you don’t have all the answers and be willing to change your mind.

Be an advocate — empower and enable others; stop creating dependency and start creating self-reliance.

Create a psychologically safe environment — create a culture where people feel safe speaking up when there’s a problem, disagreeing with one another (including senior leaders), and challenging the status quo.

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?

The key is inclusion. Identify, recognize, and appreciate the unique strengths and talents each person brings to the table while uniting them by inspiring a shared purpose.

As a leader, it’s your job to listen to all the different voices in the room. If everyone on your team agrees with you, one of two things is happening — either you’re not challenging people to think differently, or they don’t feel comfortable speaking up.

Find out what each person needs, celebrate differences, and showcase acceptance.

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?

Emotional intelligence is a critical leadership skill. It is about identifying and managing our own emotions and recognizing and influencing the emotions of others. It’s where the heart and the head overlap so self-awareness and empathy are key.

Self-awareness — know yourself inside and out — your personal and professional strengths, weaknesses, your drivers, and your triggers. Our thoughts impact our emotions, and our emotions drive our behavior, so being aware of what we are thinking and understanding how we are feeling is essential.

Empathy — connect with others on an emotional level. Empathy is about understanding and appreciating what others are thinking, feeling, and experiencing and being able to respond accordingly. It leads to greater trust, engagement, and motivation.

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

Stop asking “does everyone agree?” and start asking “who has a different opinion?” You’ll be amazed to hear all the dissenting opinions and fresh perspectives in the room that you would otherwise never hear.

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

“Vulnerability is not a weakness; it is our most accurate measure of courage.” — Brene Brown

Many of us were raised to believe that vulnerability is a weakness, and that showing emotion at work is unprofessional. However, in today’s world, vulnerability can be a leader’s greatest asset.

Think about the leaders you’ve had in your life who you respect and admire. Chances are they were vulnerable in some way. Vulnerability is about being authentic and transparent. It’s about letting our guard down and being seen and heard for who we are. It fosters deeper connection and is at the core of courageous leadership.

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?

You can visit my website to learn more, and follow me on Instagram and LinkedIn!

Thank you for a meaningful conversation. We wish you continued success with your mission.