Get Complete Project Material File(s) Now! »



This chapter presents an overview of the theory and praxis of the postmodern approach to coaching, taking into account the influence of AI principles and the positive psychology paradigm on postmodern coaching as a methodology. Postmodern coaching is defined and AI theory and key constructs in positive organisational behaviour are explained. The chapter will firstly introduce postmodern leadership coaching and provide a definition, followed by an outline of AI principles as tools for individual transformation in postmodern coaching, followed by outlining the key principles and processes of AI. It will then present various models of postmodern and AI coaching, concluding with an overview of critical reviews of AI as a discipline with recommendations for further research.


It has been argued that within the postmodern context that the traditional approach of leadership coaching should be challenged in favour of leadership coaching characterised by a wider repertoire of theory and practice – a more integrative approach, with a new and appropriate set of tools and techniques, such as the narrative biographic approach, to address this challenge (Cochran, 1992; McMahon, 2007; Savickas, 2007). Various authors have stated that a new and alternative method of preparing and strengthening managers through leadership coaching is required (Goldsmith & Lyons, 2006; Goldsmith, 2006; Kets de Vries, 2005; Kilburg, 2004a; Kilburg, 2007).
In addition, the current generations of emerging leaders in organisations are not looking for ‘best solutions‘, but for answers, dynamic solutions and new virtuous cycles that are relevant to their own unique experience of life and work (Bolden, 2007). It is proposed that this only happens when the meaning, purpose and deep perspectives of the individual leader are fundamentally transformed during the coaching process and in relationship with the coach (Laske, 1999). Post-modern leadership coaching has as its ultimate aim the facilitation of optimal functioning of leaders, through perspective transformation of their personal and professional agenda (Laske, 1999).
Furthermore, the organisation requires a tangible return on their investment for coaching and lasting and sustainable change in behaviour; moreover, leaders demand to be “active agents in the production of their careers” (McMahon & Watson, 2008, p.280).
In order to meet the needs of the postmodern leader, it is proposed that the prevailing leadership development paradigm is shifted to include or be replaced by a social constructionist ‘narrative’ approach. This is more appropriate for postmodern leaders, because through the use of techniques such as narration, storytelling, drawings and biographical work, it provides a richer, more personalised, leader-specific coaching experience (Morgan, 2000). Research by Joseph, Griffin, Hall & Sullivan (2001) also points towards the use of the group-based (narrative) approach to coaching as holding specific opportunities for meeting the demands for an alternative approach in the leadership coaching context. Likewise, group-based leadership coaching is outlined and described by Kets de Vries (2005) as a powerful collaborative tool for coaching. More recently, group-based coaching has been reported to be a viable, low-cost intervention for use in the business context (Oades, Crowe & Nguyen, 2009).
The methodologies used in postmodern leadership coaching are many and varied, and depend upon the philosophical approach, professional training, personal style and experience of the specific coach. In general, the predominant coaching methodology is strongly influenced by positive psychology, which aims to enable intense and timeless happiness through “meaningful and purposeful endeavours and relationships” (Silverstein, 2007, p. 5), to seek, find and nurture genius and talent, and to make normal life more fulfilling. It aims “to build thriving in individuals, families and communities”, not simply to treat mental illness (Csikszentmihalyi 2002, p.13). Likewise, the focus of this research is on leadership development, inquiry into ‘talents’ and the construction of a ‘personal created future’.
In contrast to the traditional method, the postmodern coaching approach significantly restructures the roles of the coach and leader and moves us towards a model of co-constructing preferred personal and professional life stories through dialogue and the use of narrative as a process of meaning-making and for restoring personal agency (Kilburg, 2007; McMahon, 2007; McMahon & Watson, 2008; Morgan et al., 2005; Watson & Kuit, 2007) and perspective transformation (Laske, 1999). In the postmodern approach to coaching, instead of assessing, the coach is a co-author, and instead of interpreting test scores, the coach will interpret and shift client stories (McMahon, 2007). The use of group work or coaching in groups also becomes more prevalent in this approach (Silverstein, 2007).
In addition, the concept of leadership in the postmodern approach expands beyond the business definition to include both personal and professional life themes (Savickas, 2007). There is a need to incorporate the postmodern approaches to coaching as a discipline. It is suggested that, due to AI’s promise of providing a new co-operative search for the best in people (Sloan & Canine, 2007), linking AI principles to coaching will fulfil these abovementioned requirements to add a new positive dimension to the field of coaching.
Being rooted in epistemological pluralism (Veldsman, 2009), the postmodern coach will use an integrative, rather than a selective, approach to understanding and creating meaning for clients (Hoffman, 2009). Consequently, the coach working in the postmodern paradigm should be open to multiple methodologies and possibilities in their practice with clients (Hoffman, 2009; Veldsman, 2009). There is also a growing argument for a controversial new flexible ’both/and’ approach in science and in psychology (Johnson, 2005): a new philosophical perspective which may represent an eclectic merger and collaboration between the two modalities (Savickas, 2007). The multiple foci of leadership coaching (Allen, Maguire, & McKelvey, 2011; Kilburg, 2007) include individual, organisational and relational points of reference, requiring the leadership coach to be skilled in both business and organisational dynamics, as well as group facilitation and organisational development facilitation. In fact, it is argued that most leadership executive coaching is already atheoretical or eclectic (Douglas & Morley, 2000). For example, the CCL defines the executive/leadership coach as “a consultant who uses a wide variety of behavioural techniques and methods” (Ting & Scisco, 2006).
Stelter (2009) states that the complexity of the postmodern situation requires a new approach to coaching. The core objective of postmodern leadership coaching is to build reflective ability as well as an ability to appreciate hyper complexity and “multiversality” (Stelter, 2009, p.9). This means that the outcomes of the coaching dialogue will be a more agile leader in their ability to invite and ultimately integrate diversity in its broadest sense as an attitude to life and work, within a strong value system.
Secondly, the ability to make meaning of the complex and changing life circumstances will broaden and strengthen the leader’s scope and range on a personal and professional level (Stelter, 2009). Finally, the use of narrative processes will enhance the coaching dialogue so improving the coherence of self-identity and the ability to integrate past, present and future by the leader (Stelter, 2009).
For the purposes of this research, the definition of postmodern leadership coaching is as follows:
A reflective dialogue which opens spaces for the unfolding of narratives that strengthen the agility of leader’s to make meaning of social, personal and professional life experiences, so that the leader is able to unlock an authentic value based self-identity and from this create breakthrough opportunities for growth within conditions of ever-increasing complexity.
However, Watson and Kuit (2007), proponents of the postmodern approach, warn against missionary zeal either for or against the modern and postmodern approaches, because this has polarised psychology and research into either/or viewpoints, whether subjective or objective. By being forced into choosing an epistemology, the researcher and psychologist is able to construct a clear identity and boundaries, but may then be limited by a narrower worldview (Savickas, 2007). An integrative approach therefore also suggests that the psychologist is not ‘strait-jacketed’ into one school of thought – while remaining centred in a specific foundation of practice, he/she will also draw thoughtfully from other theories to strengthen research and practice (Peltier, 2010). This discussion is relevant to this research in that, whilst certain principles of AI and positive psychology are used, the prime determinants of the contents and process of the proposed coaching process are postmodern. At the same time the researcher was also able to mix and integrate a more conventional approach to coaching in a section of the coaching programme where it was necessary and relevant to the flow of the process. Whilst incorporating certain principles of AI, these are not the only defining features of the programme. The proposed coaching programme is in its essence embedded in postmodernism. The postmodern group-based design is described in more detail in Chapter 4 in the discussion of the components and design of the programme. The process and role of AI in postmodern coaching will now be outlined in the following section.


By breaking down AI into its linguistic components, we are able to build up to a definition of appreciative inquiry. According to the (Oxford Dictionary, 2011), to appreciate is “to recognise or understand that something is valuable, important or as described; recognise the full worth of; be grateful for (something); rise in value or price”, whereas to inquire is to “ask for information understand (a situation) fully; grasp the full implications of” (Oxford Dictionary, 2011).
The definition for AI can be broken down into two parts, one relevant for an organisational development context: “a form of transformational inquiry that selectively seeks to locate, highlight, and illuminate the life-giving forces of an organisation’s existence” (Cooperrider et al., 2008, p.130). The second definition is more appropriate for a group-based coaching process, in that “Appreciative Inquiry is about the co-evolutionary search for the best in people, their organisations, and the relevant world around them” (Cooperrider et al., 2008, p.3).
It involves the discovery of what gives ‘life’ to a living system when it is most effective, alive, and constructively capable of, in economic, ecological, and human terms. AI involves the art and practice of asking questions that strengthen a system’s capacity to apprehend, anticipate, and heighten positive potential. The inquiry is mobilised through the crafting of the “unconditional positive question”, often involving hundreds or thousands of people. AI focuses on “the speed of imagination and innovation instead of the negative, critical, and spiralling diagnoses commonly used in organisations; the discovery, dream, design and destiny model links the energy of the positive core to changes never thought possible” (Cooperrider et al., 2008, p.3).
For the purposes of this research, AI is defined as:
A revolutionary theory, in which a pragmatic inquiry process, based upon an appreciation for and a focus on the positive core and strengths of a human system, is proposed as a solution in which entirely new meanings and shared images are collectively generated, providing previously untapped sources of strength and solutions with a powerful call to action.
Appreciative coaching (AI coaching) is the practical application of AI principles to the process in which a trained coach is engaged by a person to function as a counsellor and advisor, through a process of co-creative partnership between the client, the coach and the relevant client’s social system (Sloan &and Canine, 2007, p.1).
AI is an approach to coaching that is founded in Appreciative Inquiry, using a “discovery process for clients to discover the positive possibilities within them” (Orem, Binkert, Clancy (2011, p.xiv).
For the purposes of this research, appreciative coaching and AI coaching are used interchangeably. The definition for AI coaching is:
AI coaching is the linking of the AI principles to coaching, characterised by a conscious positive stance and appreciative inquiry throughout the coaching process, with the aim of co-constructing new worlds and meanings for the client previously not available to them in service of mobilising a dramatic transformation in the possibilities, purpose and resolve of the client.


In order to ensure the success of organisations, AI provides an approach which “consciously designs processes for human organizing through an affirmative life giving lens” (Whitney, 2010, p.1), and in so doing, ensuring the on-going sustainability of enterprises and the collaborative effort of all stakeholders of the enterprise.
Appreciative inquiry is a pragmatic and hopeful theory, and according to Cooperrider & Srivastva, 1987; Cooperrider & Whitney (2005), and Cooperrider et al. (2008), it has enormous possibilities for triple bottom-line results, namely people, profit and planet applications.

1.1. Introduction
1.2. Context for the study
1.3. Problem statement
1.4. Research objectives
1.5. Integrated model of social sciences
1.6. Measures to ensure the quality, trustworthiness and rigour of the study
1.7. Measures to ensure adherence to ethical principles
1.8. Research process
1.9. Chapter Layout
1.10. Chapter Summary
2.1. Introduction
2.2. Leadership coaching defined
2.3. Coaching versus therapy
2.4. Purpose and outcomes of leadership coaching
2.5. Coaching approaches
2.6 Competencies required by the leadership coach
2.7 The strengths-based approach to leadership coaching
2.8 Group-based leadership coaching
2.9 Chapter summary
3.1. Introduction
3.2. Postmodern coaching
3.3. The Appreciative inquiry approach to coaching defined
3.4. Appreciative inquiry purpose and outcomes
3.5. Appreciative inquiry principles
3.6. Appreciative Inquiry models
3.7. Models of Appreciative Coaching
3.8. Critical review of Appreciative Inquiry
3.9. Chapter summary
4.1 Introduction
4.2 The development of the LCP
4.3 Objectives of the LCP
4.4 Design and rationale of the LCP
4.5 Appreciative Inquiry principles as applied to the LCP
4.6 Programme structure and components
4.7 Stage 1 – Here and now
4.8 Stage 2 – There and then
4.9 Stage 3 – Personal created future
4.10 Chapter summary
5.1. Introduction
5.2. Participants
5.3. Pilot
5.4. Measurement
5.5. Data collection
5.6. Data analysis
5.7. Chapter summary
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Participant reaction
6.3 Word frequency count
6.4 Coding analysis
6.5Thematic Analysis
6.6. Integrative themes
6.7. Integrated model of the transformative effects of a postmodern group-based leadership coaching programme
6.8. Premises of the study
6.9. Chapter summary
7.2. Recommendations
7.3. Shortcomings
7.4. Final integration
7.5. Chapter summary

Related Posts