In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Coaching and Feedback for Leadership Development

  • Introduction
  • Feedback Overviews
  • Bibliographies and Reviews
  • Coaching and Feedback
  • Competencies, Assessment and Development
  • Surveys of Coaching Practices

Education Coaching and Feedback for Leadership Development
Mark D. Cannon
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 December 2011
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 December 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0005


The use of coaching and feedback to develop leaders has grown dramatically in recent years in private-sector organizations and has become generally accepted as a valuable method of leadership development. Increasingly, school districts are experimenting with coaching and feedback for leadership development and performance improvement. Although numerous types of coaching are being used in schools, this bibliography focuses specifically on coaching and feedback. It draws heavily on research done in private-sector organizations because that is where most of the studies on coaching and feedback for leadership development have occurred. Early psychologists recognized that accurate feedback is essential for learning and performance improvement. More recently, methods of gathering multisource feedback have been developed to produce better-quality feedback. However, feedback alone often proves insufficient to bring about appropriate changes in behavior and performance. Thus, coaching has been proposed as desirable in combination with feedback. Coaching is typically a one-on-one intervention through which the coach helps the leader assess current performance, set goals, design an action plan for improvement, and then enact a plan. Although there is a growing interest in coaching among scholars, the writing on the subject has been dominated by practitioners. Scholarly research, especially the use of randomized controlled studies to investigate the effectiveness of coaching and feedback practices, has lagged behind the writing done by practitioners, but it is beginning to catch up. Because coaching is costly, organizations are eager to gain a better evidence-based understanding of best practices in coaching to determine how best to invest in leadership development. This bibliography includes work by both scholars and practitioners and makes some clarifications of writing that is primarily oriented toward scholars and of writing that is primarily oriented toward practitioners.

Feedback Overviews

Feedback has long been recognized as necessary for learning and development. However, multiple complications exist related to the use of feedback and reactions to it. For example, Tesser and Rosen 1975 explains that people are reluctant to deliver bad news. Given that critical feedback may be seen as bad news, people often choose not to share feedback with others, and these others therefore miss the opportunity to learn from feedback. Even when feedback is provided, feedback alone is often insufficient to bring about a constructive change in behavior. In fact, feedback sometimes proves to be detrimental to performance. As is demonstrated in the Kluger and DeNisi 1996 meta-analysis, the majority of studies find that feedback enhances performance, but in 38 percent of studies, performance actually deteriorates after feedback. London 1997 explores current limitations in individual functioning and in organizational operating practices that lead to feedback opportunities falling short of their potential. Cannon and Witherspoon 2005 identifies the cognitive and emotional dynamics between feedback givers and recipients that hinder the ability to provide actionable feedback, and the authors provide recommendations for making feedback more actionable. Kettle and Haübl 2010 demonstrates that anticipating rapid feedback can be helpful in motivating feedback receivers to perform effectively. London and Smither 2002 notes that feedback should not be seen as a discrete event, and the authors explore how organizations can take into account and constructively shape reactions to feedback. Drawing on London and Smither and others, Gregory, et al. 2008 explores the development of a model for constructively using feedback in coaching. Maurer 1994 provides a brief set of recommendations for giving quality feedback.

  • Cannon, Mark D., and Robert Witherspoon. 2005. Actionable feedback: Unlocking the power of learning and development. Academy of Management Executive 19.2: 120–134.

    DOI: 10.5465/AME.2005.16965107

    Identifies cognitive and emotional dynamics of feedback givers and recipients that hinder their ability to provide actionable feedback. Provides recommendations for giving actionable feedback, including a set of questions feedback givers should address in preparation for giving feedback. Available online by subscription.

  • Gregory, Jane Brodie, Paul E. Levy, and Micah Jeffers. 2008. Development of a model of the feedback process within executive coaching. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research 60.1 (March): 42–56.

    DOI: 10.1037/1065-9293.60.1.42

    Draws on London and Smither 2002 and other studies in examining the dynamics of feedback in coaching and proposes a model of how feedback could be constructively used in coaching. Available online by subscription.

  • Kettle, Keri L., and Gerald Haübl. 2010. Motivation by anticipation: Expecting rapid feedback enhances performance. Psychological Science 21:545–547.

    DOI: 10.1177/0956797610363541

    Illustrates that motivation and performance are influenced by individuals’ expectations regarding when they will receive feedback and that expecting feedback sooner rather than later enhances performance.

  • Kluger, Avraham, and Angelo S. DeNisi. 1996. The effects of feedback interventions on performance: A historical review, a meta-analysis and a preliminary feedback theory. Psychological Bulletin 199.2: 254–284.

    DOI: 10.1037/0033-2909.119.2.254

    This informative meta-analysis is distinctive in documenting that performance feedback enhances performance in the majority of cases but also hinders subsequent performance 38 percent of the time. It also provides a thoughtful theory of how to use performance feedback effectively. Available online by subscription.

  • London, Manuel. 1997. Job feedback: Giving, seeking, and using feedback for performance improvement. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

    Provides an insightful overview of the nature of job feedback and the purposes. Offers an accurate and useful illustration of complications in developing feedback. Explores both individual and organizational dynamics that lead feedback interventions to fall short of desired objectives.

  • London, Manuel, and James W. Smither. 2002. Feedback orientation feedback culture, and the longitudinal performance management process. Human Resource Management Review 12:81–100.

    DOI: 10.1016/S1053-4822(01)00043-2

    Argues that organizations should conceptualize feedback not as a discrete event but as an ongoing process of learning and development that may both influence and be influenced by individual feedback orientations and the organization’s feedback culture. Available online by subscription.

  • Maurer, Rick. 1994. Feedback toolkit: 16 tools for better communication in the workplace. Portland, OR: Productivity.

    Short, accessible practitioner-oriented book that provides valuable practical recommendations on how to deliver feedback.

  • Tesser, Abraham, and Sidney Rosen. 1975. The reluctance to transmit bad news. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 8:193–232.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0065-2601(08)60251-8

    Provides theory to explain the observation that people are reluctant to deliver bad news. Reviews research on the MUM effect, which involves the hesitation to deliver bad news. Has relevance to feedback, in that critical feedback is considered a form of bad news. Available online by subscription.

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