What is leadership Coaching

What is Leadership Coaching?

As part of their leadership development programs in the past, many organisations set out to train or educate leaders primarily on how to do things correctly. They would attempt to provide them with tools and techniques which could be applied when they are in a ‘live’ situation. The intention here is primarily for training purposes.

The conscious approach in coaching leaders is to focus on the why and how of their decisions. It aims to get to the heart of what makes each leader unique and special, so that they can unleash and build upon their own personal strengths.

The coaching process is an interactive one: between person and coach; coach and client; client and client’s world; coach and organization within which the person works.

Leadership coaching rests on the belief that by participating in this process, a leader can explore and develop his or her own unique talents. The coach provides a space for leaders to share their experiences and insights with a supportive listener who challenges them to think differently about themselves, their world and what they want to do about it.

Why is coaching important in leadership?

Leadership coaching is the process of working with leaders to help them enhance their performance. Coaching individuals who are already successful can be immensely rewarding, because there will always be something that an individual has not done before. There are opportunities to stretch and increase effectiveness by providing support, encouragement and inspiration.

Coaching also provides an opportunity for an objective assessment of the strengths and limitations of an individual. Coaching can help leaders to see more clearly what they are doing well, what needs to be improved and how that might be achieved. It provides a method for building on existing strengths and mitigating against any weaknesses in performance.

Leadership coaching is not about finding solutions; it’s about helping leaders find their own solutions. It is the process of helping leaders to re-focus on what they are trying to achieve, and giving them the tools to enable them to do it better.

What skills does a coach need?

A coaching conversation can vary greatly in content, direction, intensity level and length. Successful coaches know how to keep things on track, encourage detailed discussion where necessary and always maintain a focus on the future.

A coach needs to have expertise in leadership development, be able to work with leaders at all levels of an organization, have good interpersonal skills and be familiar with relevant concepts, practices and methods.

What are the benefits of coaching?

Coaching can help clients to improve their performance at work by:

• Improving self-awareness of strengths and challenges;

• Enhancing self-confidence;

• Increasing the ability to make better decisions;

• Providing new ways of thinking about issues;

• Promoting accountability for action.

Coaching benefits an organization by increasing retention, engagement and motivation.

Coaching can help leaders to work through challenging or sensitive issues, by providing an environment where they do not need to be constrained by organizational politics. Coaching is also a safe way of exploring new ideas and developing managerial competencies.

What makes a leader coachable?

People look for good coaching when:

• They know that they need to stretch themselves and build on their existing strengths;

• They want a better understanding of what’s working and not working about their leadership style;

• They are feeling stuck or frustrated – it may be that coaching can provide a new route forward.

Coaching is an outworking of the principle set out in Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, which suggests that we should seek first to understand before we seek to be understood. When people feel heard and understood, they become more open and coachable – whether it is a leader, team member or an employee who is looking for assistance with their development.

How can coaching benefit an organization?

Coaching can help an organization to:

• Enhance individual and team performance;

• Increase engagement and retention;

• Build capabilities through learning and development initiatives.

The benefits of coaching to an organization are very similar to those for individuals. Organizations that fully understand the principles and practices involved in coaching will realize significant benefits as a result, including improved performance, conflict resolution and development of leaders.

Who are the best coaches for leaders?

Leaders need coaching from someone outside their organization, or at least independent of them, to avoid potential conflicts of interest and ensure that the coach is fully objective in their approach. Coaches can be internal employees with leadership development expertise, but it’s important not to have a conflict of interest when coaching someone in a more senior role or with direct line management responsibility.

Some organizations have found it useful to pair a less experienced coach with a more experienced one, which is a form of mentoring and allows the less experienced coach to learn from their more experienced colleague. Others utilize internal coaches on rotation; this can be a good way of developing coaching skills and knowledge within the organization.

What makes a good coach?

The qualities for successful coaching are largely common sense:

• Passion – to inspire and motivate;

• Confidence – there’s no point in encouraging someone to be more assertive if you appear nervous or lacking self-confidence!;

• A desire and ability to listen;

• Non-judgmental;

• Objectivity – remaining neutral and not taking sides;

• A positive approach.

A successful coach can demonstrate:

• Genuineness/authenticity – the ability to develop a relationship in which the coachee feels comfortable in sharing thoughts, feelings and experiences;

• Self-knowledge – a coach needs sufficient self-awareness to reflect on their own actions and responses in the coaching context;

• The ability to put aside preconceptions or assumptions when working with someone.

What is the role of a coach?

A coach can assist you to explore your strengths, abilities, motivations and the beliefs that influence the way you behave. A good coach will challenge assumptions and thinking patterns in a constructive manner so that people can reflect on their situation without feeling judged. They also have the skills to help individuals to stretch themselves beyond their existing capabilities or comfort zone.

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What is the definition of leadership as it is described in successful coaching?

There is no specific definition of leadership as it relates to coaching, but successful coaching requires that a leader demonstrates:

• Commitment and dedication – to themselves and their role;

• Open-mindedness – the ability to consider new possibilities and alternatives rather than sticking rigidly with existing thinking patterns;

• An open attitude towards feedback – without which the coaching process is not possible;

• An ability to influence others.

What are the key attributes of a leader?

A leader needs to be able to demonstrate:

• Authenticity/integrity – being true to oneself and acting consistently with personal values, beliefs and feelings;

• Collaborative working – the ability to work with others as a member of a team;

• Clear communication – listening and receiving feedback. A leader is also able to share information about the organization’s goals, plans and strategy so that people can contribute effectively;

• Commitment – commitment to more than just making money – eg., an interest in strengthening communities or improving the environment;

• Flexibility – the ability to adapt and improvise in response to changing circumstances.

What are some objectives of a leader?

A coach can help leaders to:

• Identify personal strengths, abilities and motivations;

• Explore assumptions about themselves or others that may be limiting their potential or their effectiveness;

• Consider alternative views or possibilities for action that might remove barriers to achievement of their personal or professional objectives;

• Explore how they come across to others – what are the most important messages they are communicating through the ways in which they speak, act and behave?

What would be some possible coaching strategies for a leader?

When using coaching as a leadership development tool?

Coaching to support leaders to develop their leadership skills may include:

• Leadership development planning – working with the leader to identify areas for personal and professional development;

• Reviewing coaching sessions – looking at how well they are meeting their own objectives and if there are any further actions that should be taken;

• Accountability – the leader agreeing to a process of reviewing progress against personal or professional development plans.

How does leadership coaching work:

Coaching is a two-way process in which a trained coach works with an individual or group to explore experiences, think about issues and set goals. It is a flexible, voluntary approach that does not have fixed time limits.

How does the process of coaching work?

The coach facilitates a conversation that enables participants to explore their own thoughts, feelings and ideas about an issue or goal they are interested in. The coach uses questions and listening skills to encourage them to think for themselves, rather than talking about what they should or shouldn’t do.

What are the factors that affect coaching?

• Cultural factors – for example, some cultures place great value on telling people what to do, whereas others are more comfortable with allowing people freedom of choice;

• Organizational factors – the organization’s policies and culture will affect how coaching is perceived by employees;

• Individual factors – for example, some people find it difficult to work in a non-directive way. Others may have had negative experiences of counselling or psychotherapy.

What are the challenges of coaching?

Frequently a leader’s immediate boss may be resistant to a coach working with them – particularly if this was not their idea in the first place! The best approach is for senior management to take ownership of coaching as a leadership development activity, ensuring that it is seen as a positive step forward.

• People’s expectations of coaching may be different e.g., some people will expect to complete a programme in a certain time, whereas others are more flexible about when they might want to start;

• Coaching is not suitable for everyone – sometimes participants may find that there are issues in their lives that coaching is not able to deal with;

• People who are coached need to be open-minded and prepared to try new things.


A coach may support leaders in designing and delivering a programme of development, such as workshops or tutorials. When successfully implemented, this can help to raise the profile of coaching within an organization.

Coaching is a two-way process between a trained individual called a ‘coach’ and another person who has agreed to being coached. The coach listens and provides guidance to help the coachee think differently about their situation, choose what they want to do, and take effective action.

Coaching delivered on its own is not always enough for an individual’s development needs – for example coaching may be used alongside formal training courses or workshops. Coaching can be more informal, such as a chat with a friend or colleague, or it can be more structured when the coachee has been coached before and knows what to expect.

Coaching is a two-way process in which a trained coach works with an individual or group to explore experiences, think about issues and set goals.

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