How to Become a Leadership Coach: A Step-by-Step Guide

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April 15, 2022
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The COVID-19 global pandemic shook not just the common man but also the world of business. The lockdowns and WFH (work from home) altered the professional corporate landscape, making them more demanding (ask anyone who has had to go through the horror of being in a critical office meeting and seeing their toddler barge in and press the power button on their laptop just for fun!) and more complex (ex: matching US and India work hours takes some real juggling so that none of the participants fall asleep during those all-important budgetary sessions!) – this brings up previously unforeseen work challenges as well as straining the boundaries of managing personal & professional relationships. 

In the past 2 years, businesses have realized, even more so than before, the importance of investing in the personal & professional well-being of individuals who work for them. After all, it is the skills and talents of the individuals, be it CEOs or junior members, that contribute to the organization’s success (or failure)! 

A happy, resilient and confident workforce that can maintain a healthy work-life balance will, in all probability, perform to the best of their ability, deliver transformative outcomes, both for themselves and their organization. Especially, the top rung leadership on whose shoulders rests the responsibility to deliver the best possible results for their company, require that vital edge to tackle challenging business situations, make the right decisions, motivate their team members and maintain their leadership status. 

Leadership Coaching & Its Effect on Leaders & Businesses

More and more companies are starting to understand the need of investing in a professionally qualified & trained leadership coach to help guide their leaders (existing as well as potential) to upgrade their skills, develop newer competencies, improve man-management skills, promote out-of-the-box thinking, approach issues and solutions from a 360° angle and more, to help accelerate their own & ultimately their company’s growth. 

The following statistics show how leadership coaching has had an impact on leaders and businesses alike:

  • Around 70- 80% of leaders/executives who received leadership coaching have reported that they found improvement in their self-confidence, work performance, communication skills, personal & professional relationships
  • In fact, the very best of the best including Apple founder Steve Jobs, Ex Google CEO Eric Schmidt as well as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg credit one of the top leadership coaches, Bill Campbell for having a profound impact on their (and eventually their organization’s) success
  • At least one out of every 6 leaders chose to get guidance from a business/leadership coach to improve their performance 
  • A survey, conducted on Fortune 1000 executives found that investing in leadership/executive coaching gave an ROI of almost six times of the investment!
  • At least a third of all Fortune 500 companies invest in executive/leadership coaching for their top leaders as well as potential ones
  • In a survey conducted by the Institute of Coaching, 86% of the companies who took part said that they recovered their coaching investment
  • As many as 96% organizations, who utilized the services of an executive/leadership coach said they would do it again
  • 99% of companies who hired an executive/leadership coach termed the process as extremely beneficial for their leaders with the company saying the they were either satisfied or very satisfied with results 

With such terrific statistics proving the global impact and importance of leadership coaching, it is no wonder that leadership coaching is one of the most sought-after careers where highly skilled leadership coaches are much in demand and can charge top prices for their valuable services. 

For all those who are just starting out as professional coaches or even for those with a fair amount of experience in the field looking to upgrade their skills, here is a step-by-step guide on how to become a leadership coach.

What Does a Leadership Coach Do? 

A leadership coach can work closely with executives to help them become more self-aware of their individual resources, talents, limitations and goals as well of their business, their team members and then channel this deeper insight into becoming better leaders that benefit not just their own professional development but also of their team and ultimately their organization. 

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How to Become a Leadership Coach

As shown in the statistics above, leadership coaching is one of the most rapidly expanding segments in the coaching industry. But is becoming a leadership coach just restricted to having the right credentials alone? 

Actually, it is a more systematic, planned process that involves not only a passion for helping people but also an inherent skill for listening & understanding people, empathizing with their issues and challenges, encouraging them towards a self-discovery of hidden talents, urging them to seek out solutions, charting out an action plan and then implementing those steps in their journey towards attaining their & their organization’s goals. 

Now these attributes are generally necessary and possessed by all coaches, but leadership coaching is a little different than other types of coaching in that it involves coaching those individuals who are already (well, in most cases) well established, experienced in their field with a deep knowledge of their industry, have a stellar professional record and have a group of people working under their direction. So, what extra qualifications and skills, in addition to regular coaching abilities, are required to coach business professionals, CEO’s, top management and those in executive positions? 

At the outset, remember that a leadership coach is not a mentor, counsellor or a therapist. The main intent of leadership coaching is to help the leaders navigate challenges in their lives, such as:

  • becoming a more effective leader
  • forging healthy professional relationships in and out of the office
  • coming up with innovative problem-solving solutions
  • being firm but fair in decision making
  • being open to suggestions but also assertive in final decision making
  • handling office disputes in a non-biased and fair manner 
  • giving frank feedback to subordinates while providing encouragement for improvement 
  • ensuring better time management to promote a healthy work-life balance   

Here’s How to Become a Leadership Coach… 

  • Find your niche 

As mentioned earlier, leadership coaching is a specialized type of coaching than say life coaching or health & wellness coaching or even career coaching. But even leadership coaching has further niches that a coach can choose, depending on their skillsets and knowledge. 

Team building, leadership change, sales coaching, strategic planning and execution, leadership development and succession planning, as well as coaching certain types of leaders or industries – these are some niches on which a leadership coach can focus on. 

Knowing your strengths and focusing on your positive attributes can help you make the correct choices while selecting a particular niche to operate in as a leadership coach – to ensure you stand out in the competitive field and succeed. 

  • Make sure you are ready for the highly competitive corporate world 

Leadership coaching is a highly rewarding but also an equally demanding job. As a coach you operate in the high stakes world of business, with clients who already have outstanding track records, experience, knowledge and skills. These people are employing your services, at top price in some cases, to help them with professional development and by extension benefit their organization’s performance and productivity. 

These are high achievers who expect you to hit the ground running with the process and would demand results that exceed expectations – their own as well as their organization’s. 

So, before you dive into the leadership coaching waters, make sure you are fully prepared, mentally and emotionally, to tackle the high stakes arena of the business world. 

  • Have an intensive understanding of the business environment 

This is a given actually. If you as a leadership coach are helping a top-level executive chart their path across challenging business situations, it is obvious that you need to have a fair grasp of the business environment, its operations, tasks, processes, etc. Not that you need to be an expert in that industry, but a good amount of knowledge will give you that comfort of truly understanding what the executive is going through, the subtleties of the situation, the unique problems that are faced by the top leaders (high rung decision makers do have a different set of issues/office politics/bureaucracy headaches/delicate inter-personal relations between senior executives etc., that they need to navigate through) which will be useful while guiding the leader to seek out solutions. 

This understanding will be available only if the leadership coach has worked in the demanding corporate world and has not simply gained knowledge via bookish theories. Knowledge of firsthand leadership in an organization (no matter if it is of short-term nature or in a junior capacity) gives the comfort of real insight into the client’s circumstances and also helps to bolster the credentials of the leadership coach. Once the client is convinced that the coach has gone through similar situations, they are more likely to listen with interest to their advice and be more receptive to guidance. 

  • Possess knowledge of organizational procedures and leadership 

A leadership coach who has previous experience of the business environment and its challenges is necessary. But in addition to that, it is also important that the coach has kept themselves open to learning and have ensured to upgrade their previous knowledge of effective leadership models, organizational procedures, innovative problem-solving approaches, 360° understanding of business situations and more. After all, relying on past glory can only take you so far, but regular additions to the resume via continued learning will not only enhance your value as a leadership coach but will also prove to be a good resource while guiding clients in their journey of leadership development.  

  • Be able to set a self-example 

It is said that the best standard to set for others is to lead by example! As a leadership coach, if you are guiding/advising your client to develop or upgrade certain leadership traits it is necessary that you lead by example and display those characteristics that you want the client to acquire or grow. 

For instance, when you urge the client to improve their basic interpersonal communications or promote an unbiased, neutral outlook towards team members, the leadership coach must demonstrate those traits themselves while coaching… being nonjudgmental about decisions the client may have made and helping the client seek solutions to overcome setbacks, or adjusting communication preferences to make the client more comfortable during sessions or being secure enough in your skills to willingly take a backseat and let the focus be on the client and their development, and more. 

Awareness of one’s capabilities, keeping track of one’s own progress (or limits) and controlling emotions during the coaching process are some of the most necessary qualities for a leadership coach to possess. After all, before you can help others with leadership development, you have to work on your own strengths, weaknesses and leadership skills to set a credible example for your clients. 

As mentioned earlier, leadership coaching can be a most rewarding profession After all there is no better satisfaction than being a part of the leadership developmental journey of your client and ultimately seeing the transformative results of all the hard work, time and energy that was put forth by both the leadership coach and the coachee. 

How to become a leadership coach (or even how to become a certified leadership coach) is not answered just by having a coaching certificate (though that is essential!), but that involves a lot of hard work, perseverance, patience, the ability to self-develop continuously, regularly upgrade knowledge about industry and organizational processes, a real connect with the corporate world, the ability to coach by self-example and finally having the true desire to help others in their leadership developmental journey.  

FAQs 

1. What is a certified leadership coach?

A certified leadership coach is an individual who has completed an ICF recognized leadership coaching course successfully and has been awarded certification to work as a professional leadership coach. 

Certified leadership coaching programs provide training procedures that help prepare the individual with the knowledge and experience to become an accomplished coach & confident leader with skillsets that help/guide top leaders boost their self-confidence, improve strategic thinking and visioning, improve stress management, help with networking and social communications and generally inspire belief in all the concerned stakeholders. 

2. How do I start a leadership coaching business?

As with all businesses, a leadership coaching business also requires qualifications, hard work, deep research, knowledge and patience to succeed. In addition, choosing the right niche to operate in, reaching the right clients, having a detailed business plan, calculating setup costs & ongoing expenses, choosing the appropriate name for the business, registering the business, getting insurance, bank accounts, creating a solid brand for the business, having a fully functional website, offering multi-tiered coaching packages & pricing options to reach a wider clientele, having a solid sales & marketing strategy are all vital aspects for starting a leadership coaching business. 

3. What does leadership coaching include?

Leadership coaching includes helping increase existing capabilities and develop new ones, boosting self-confidence of the leader, helping them navigate specific challenges, promoting newer thought processes & strategies, encouraging them to become more self-aware of their own strengths, weaknesses, challenges and ambitions, urging them to chart out action steps and execute those tasks to achieve their goals, enhancing social communication skills, inspiring team members through leading by example, delivering optimum output and performance that benefits both the leader and in turn their organization. 

 

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