To understand what coaching itself might be, you can read more at my main website

On this website however, we are talking about business or executive coaching. This of course typically includes leaders. The distinction is most clear when compared to coaching that helps an individual for example, to achieve a personal goal such as happiness, work-life balance, financial security or wealth, or better relationships.

Of course, there are several exceptions to this distinction and in my own coaching practice for instance, there is often a continuum between business and personal life and it is sometimes difficult to separate the two. Nevertheless, executive or leadership coaching is meant to meet organisational needs.

Leadership Coaching, however, is a collaborative, individualised relationship between a leader and the coach — the leader could well be an executive, manager, supervisor, team leader or business owner for example — anyone in charge or responsible for a group of people.

Coaching is a partnership

Coaching is a partnership

Regardless, it’s a partnership — one in which both sides work to reach an agreed-upon destination. The aim of the partnership is to bring about sustained behavioural change and transform the quality of the leader’s working and personal life.

It could involve working with individuals or teams in executive or management positions.

But first, let’s understand what leadership coaching is NOT:

  • It isn’t technical guidance although it’s true to say that some coaches have a strong technical background.
  • It isn’t career counselling although many coaches certainly assist in helping leaders find the right fit and match for their talents and strengths.
  • It isn’t consulting (although the boundaries between coaching and consulting can often be blurred) where the consultant is really seen as the expert who comes in to solve a problem and give advice. Coaches on the other hand, prefer to ask questions and assist the leader to find their own solution.
  • It isn’t mentoring who is someone who has trod the journey before. In this way, mentors are often informal supports either within or outside the organisation, but they have done the journey and typically have the wisdom of experience on their side. However, they can often be compromised with the company on the one hand and the needs of the ‘mentee’ on the other. Further, mentees are somewhat loath to bring up issues with them that might be considered ‘career limiting.’ Coaches instead, are generally hired from outside the team or organisation, have a broad range of experience and are skilled at managing discussions that might be deemed sensitive or ‘off limits.’
  • It isn’t training. Training usually doesn’t involve reflection and introspection, it’s usually not tailored to the individual and trainers are often not aware of the intricacies of human nature that undermine or sabotage behaviour (including success) or that bring about an individual’s downfall.

The Executive CoachingHandbook  ( defines executive coaching as…

…an experiential and individualized leader development process that builds a leader’s capability to achieve short- and long-term organizational goals. It is conducted through one-on-one and/or group interactions, driven by data from multiple perspectives, and based on mutual trust and respect. The organization, an executive, and the executive coach work in partnership to achieve maximum impact.

Flow on Effect

Coaching is a one-to-one or perhaps group service for leaders or executives designed to bring about more effective, healthier organisations. Hence, when leaders improve their performance, such benefits spread throughout the organisation. In a sense, exposing senior leaders to the coaching experience has a flow-on effect of precipitating a coaching culture within the organisation itself.

As people responsive to coaching apply their new found skills and techniques to other people in the organisation, improved interaction cascades down the organisation.  Hence, coaching can also be viewed as a passing on of a set of skills used by leaders in the organisation on a day-to-day basis that enhances the performance of their people.

Individually Tailored

Coaching has become a viable option for businesses and organisations looking to operate at peak performance. Where training and workshops are usually general in nature when everyone learns the same set of material, coaching is individualised and specifically tailored to the person.

In most leadership coaching situations, the real objective is to help successful people become even more effective. Effective coaches go to great lengths to emphasise the unique talents and abilities of their clients as well as emphasise their client’s potential. It’s about challenging their clients and helping them change their behaviour. It’s about encouraging clients to be open to change, to step-up, and to be more responsible corporate citizens. Not surprisingly, leadership coaching improves the bottom line.

At an individual level, in a sense, the leader often uses me as a “confidential thinking partner.”

For instance, the areas that senior personnel have sought my coaching for have included:

Coaching can cover any number of issues

Coaching can cover any number of issues

  • develop a more effective leadership style or manner
  • engage in succession planning & management
  • improve interpersonal or communication skills
  • speed up personal development
  • develop “superstar” workers
  • manage “difficult” people
  • find that elusive work / life balance
  • expedite priority setting and time management
  • enhance presentation and networking skills
  • engage in career development & planning
  • learn how to have crucial conversations
  • deal with conflict and learn conflict-management skills
  • learn how to manage upwards
  • recognise and implement effective staff development
  • strengthen self-confidence, assertiveness and well-being

Two Main Forms of Coaching

Coaching for leaders however, tends to fall into two main categories:
(1) Developmental Coaching
(2) Coaching to Resolve Problems or Risks

Let’s take each in turn.

Developmental coaching is about improving skills and knowledge, providing frameworks for effective work-life balance as well as developing sound emotional intelligences which area all oriented towards good leadership. At an interpersonal level, the coach can support a leader in a new role and help teams set the bar for excellence in behaviour. At an organisational level, coaches can support the succession planning process by helping people realise their potential as well as help fast-track the “rising stars” or those leading transformational change.

Coaching to resolve problems or risks is about helping to prevent career derailment or helping to reduce stress or other emotional factors that might get in the way of effective performance. It might also involve reducing conflict between team members or helping to resolve issues with company politics.

Why the Growth in Leadership Coaching?

The pace of change in our world is not just fast, it’s frenetic. Once upon a time…