Which: Leader, Trainer, or Coach?

3 woman are sitting at a table and talking.
3 woman are sitting at a table and talking.
Which- Leader, Trainer, or Coach?

Often these roles are confused or used interchangeably when they are actually very different. Each serves a unique purpose.  Following are definitions, simple how to outlines for each role, a short list of what happens with each role, and questions considered for each role.


A leader shares vision, gives direction, provides resources and tools to their team, motivates, and recognizes.

How to Be a Leader
•       Be Confident and Knowledge
•       Be Firm and Kind
•       Be Decisive
•       Give and Earn Respect and Trust
•       Be a Visionary
•       Be a Motivator
•       Manage Accountability

What Happens in Leading:
•       A leader develops or communicates the vision.
•       A leader makes decisions.
•       A leader inspires people to act.
•       A leader motivates follow-through.

The Leader Asks Them Self:
•       How does the requested change align with the vision?
•       How does this change improve operations?
•       What is the impact of the change?
•       Who are the stakeholders?
•       How capable is the person who will lead the change?
•       How will accountability be managed?


A trainer facilitates a person learning and improving a particular skill or a type of behavior.

How to Be a Trainer
•       Learn training methodologies and processes for sharing knowledge, assessing retention, and supporting application.
•       Develop expertise with the subject matter.
•       Determine what is to be learned by assessing skill gap.
•       Design the training experience.
•       Deliver the training.
•       Assess learning.

What Happens in Training:
•       The trainer assesses the skills gap.
•       The trainer designs the learning to include teaching and practicing skills.
•       The trainer assesses through observation, testing, evaluating, etc.
•       The trainer provides feedback.

The Trainer Asks Them Self:
•       What is the skills gap?
•       How do I know that for sure?
•       What do I have to offer?
•       How do I best support skill development?
•       How will I know when the trainee is competent?
•       How can training help this person?
•       What is the best way to train?


Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.   – International Coaching Federation

How to Be a Coach:
•       Become a coach with training/certification.
•       Co-create the process.
•       Client determines focus, goals, and action steps.
•       Coach asks questions and facilitates growth.

What Happens in Coaching:
•       The coach asks open-ended questions focused on the client so they:
•       Define Goals
•       Consider Challenges
•       Identify Resources
•       Create Actions Steps
•       Develop Accountability
•       Celebrate Progress and Success

The Coach Asks Them Self:
•       What questions can I ask my client to help them come to their own conclusion(s)?
•       How can I partner with them effectively, so they expand their thinking and create their strategies?
•       How can I support my client in developing their personal accountability?
•       How can I support them to be their best self?

The paradox is that coaching can be used when leading or training while leading and training CANNOT be used when coaching.

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