The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching to mean “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”
The leadership coaching definition builds on this meaning and adds a bit more to describe the leadership coaching process as an empowering management tool that helps business leaders refine their inherent leadership skills, gain better understanding of their true potential, become better communicators to understand and motivate their teams, grasp the importance of strategic planning and accurate execution, realize the importance of frank & honest feedback that drives career progress, and eventually deliver specific professional as well as personal outcomes that will result in transformative business growth.
To maintain a business edge over competitors, several companies invest in the services of a highly skilled leadership coach who can guide their top rung management as well as potential leaders to become more effective versions of themselves, upgrade their skills, develop newer competencies to accomplish existing tasks to accelerate business growth as well as to prepare them for navigating the company through future challenges.
Let’s find out what is a leadership coach and what does a leadership coach do:
What Is a Leadership Coach?
When we say that leadership coaching involves guiding people who are well established (in some cases even exceptional performers who are at the very top of their career) or those who show a lot of promise of becoming good leaders in the future, it is a given that these individuals already have (or in the case of younger leaders, are beginning to show) a lot of qualities that make them inspirational leaders.
So, the natural question that follows is do these executives even need leadership coaching in the first place and what can a leadership coach contribute to their further development? The answer is yes, even the top management and decision makers can benefit largely through leadership coaching.
Even the best of leaders who are vastly experienced individuals with sterling careers can struggle adapting to newer challenges and technologies and may require a bit more insight into upgrading their social & management skills. They may be completely oblivious of their hidden talents and may need a trusted, compassionate voice of reason that offers not just solid advice but also a fresh perspective of looking at challenges and solutions. This is where a highly skilled leadership coach can make all the difference.
A leadership coach, thus, is a trusted partner to the executive, a skilled professional who understands the demands, stresses and inner workings of the business world, who provides the leader with a secure environment to reveal and discuss concerns, ambitions, challenges and goals (both personal & professional), helps them recognize their own untapped potential as well as of their team, encourages them to upgrade themselves to embrace the changing business landscapes, and helps them understand that their development journey will ultimately reflect in the progress of the organization as well.
Why Is a Leadership Coach Essential?
A leadership coach empowers the leaders with customized tools & processes to build their capacity for achieving short term as well as long term goals – both personal & professional – that align with the business and result in accelerated growth for the organization.
Many organizations bring in an experienced leadership coach to help their leaders through specific business events such as high value mergers & acquisitions, market disruptions, etc. that can adversely affect the growth trajectory of the company.
During these specific business challenges, the leadership coach can help the leader understand the changed dynamics of the business, help create a positive environment to adapt to the changing scenarios, encourage the leader to recognize unique talents and strengths of every team member, utilize those to transform a team of separately working individuals into a cohesive, high functioning unit that works towards a common goal and produces results.
Of course, the leadership coaching process delivers best when all the stakeholders – the coach, the leader/executive and the organization – work in collaboration towards achieving maximum impact.
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What Does a Leadership Coach Do?
The role of a leadership coach differs from other coaching disciplines such as life coaching, health coaching or even personal development coaching. Unlike those types of coaching, where the coachee might be a newcomer (or even if they are experienced, they might have none to very little knowledge of that particular domain), in the case of leadership coaching they are looking at the coach as an expert in the field to guide them towards realizing their goals.
The difference with a leadership coach is that the coach is guiding individuals who are already leaders in their companies and, in many cases, hold positions of seniority, decision making and power within the organization and are the experts in their own fields. These individuals generally avail the services of a leadership coach to overcome professional roadblocks, gain self-confidence in a new role, to find solutions for specific challenges or to speed up actions required for achieving their set goals.
Leadership coaching is an individual-dependent process that is designed by taking into account the issues, strengths, limitations, talents, future ambitions and organizational goals of that leader to help them progress to where they wish to be.
The role of a leadership coach is not that of a mentor/trainer but of a trusted partner, compassionate listener, neutral adviser who can guide the leaders to improve their performance, upgrade/develop skillsets, inspire them to raise their productivity, all the while making sure that the personal/professional developmental journey aligns smoothly with that of the organization’s vision and benefits the company.
Here are some of the things that a leadership coach does:
a. Creates a stimulating environment
In many cases when a leadership coach is brought in, the bottom line is that the process should result in the leaders being coached achieving certain expectations set by the organization. For such a result to be possible the leadership coach has to make sure that the coaching environment is energetic, inspiring and challenging for the leaders to persuade them to put their best foot forward.
The start of a session is where the coach needs to establish a solid rapport with the client which will help the leader gain trust in the coach. A secure environment will help the leader be honest and open about the challenges, their own performance and productivity against organization expectations.
The role of the leadership coach is to listen attentively, pick aspects that can be discussed and improved upon, give praise where necessary but also give a frank assessment, encourage the leader to come up with action plans that gel with the company’s vision and execute those plans to achieve set targets.
b. Helps consolidate inherent leadership qualities
Maybe not in the cases of truly top-level management but where the individual is new or just getting stared in the role of a leader, the coach can help the leader identify and bring to the fore some inherent leadership qualities (solid ethics, excellent communication/ negotiation skills, ability to motivate a team, out-of-the-box thinking, security in own skills and knowledge, etc.) that can be strengthened so that they last a long time and propel them to greater achievements in their profession.
c. Helps identify strengths & weaknesses
Even the best leaders have their limitations, and these weaknesses may be the very things that prevents them from reaching their full potential.
A leadership coach, during the coaching engagement, encourages the leader to pinpoint their own shortcomings, think of ways to find solutions for those shortcomings, chart out an action plan that matches the company’s vision and goals to surpass desired objectives, and more.
Similarly, the leadership coach also urges the leader to list out their areas of strength, the qualities that have worked well in their role of a leader and further build on them.
d. Fosters hands-on learning
A leadership coach generally works with individuals who have climbed the ladder of success one step at a time, for a long duration and have a vast amount of experience to dip into. In many cases, hands on learning/tapping into own know-hows can prove to be one of the most effective strategies in helping the leader analyze the situation, identify a solution and chart out an action plan to bridge that gap in improving performance and output of the organization.
e. Improves self-confidence
Whether you are a young leader just stepping into your role or an industry veteran with years of experience under your belt, the one quality that every leader must possess is confidence. If one doesn’t have faith in their own abilities, how and why will someone else?
A leadership coach helps the leader gain self-awareness of their own personal & professional reality and steps required to change that situation. This self-awareness is crucial as it gives real comprehension of one’s flaws and talents and instils self-confidence to embrace change that eventually leads to growth.
A leadership coach empowers the leader to become better versions of themselves, trust their skillsets & capabilities, take constructive actions based on sound analysis & feedback, and improve social skills and time management for a better work-life balance, making them more well-rounded leaders.
f. Promotes team motivation for increased productivity
It is said that a leader is only good as their team. A true leader understands the value that their team brings to the organization through their dedicated performance.
If a team is not delivering output that matches their ability or they are not motivated enough to give their best, a leadership coach can help the leader figure out the barriers that are obstructing increased output.
A leadership coach can provide valuable insights to help the leader comprehend the resources, skills and limitations of each team member and how to best utilize their talents, resolve any inter-team issues that hinder productivity, and deliver enhanced productivity for the company.
g. Assists in re-igniting stalled career
Many a times even the top rung management can feel stuck in a professional rut. The leader might feel that they have reached a career plateau, that the work is not challenging enough, that too much time and effort is being spent on organizational work or sorting office politics rather than on the core job, an overall sense of discontent or even frustration with their job profile, or something else. In such scenarios, a leadership coach can help the leader figure out the exact trigger area, identify means to overcome those obstacles, have a solid plan of action, and execute that plan to essentially restart their stalled careers and achieve professional success that benefits their organization.
To conclude, a leadership coach can help leaders fine tune their entire leadership journey, positively impact not just their current job and responsibilities but also their future course, improve their performance and productivity to accelerate not just their own professional growth but also that of their team and organization – to maintain an edge in a fiercely competitive corporate world.
1. How do you become a leadership coach?
In addition to having the necessary certification and formal training to become a leadership coach, having some experience of the corporate world is beneficial (after all you are coaching leaders, it is necessary to understand the environment in which they operate), have at least some of the essential interpersonal leadership skills that you are helping your clients develop, have a good control over your own emotions & judgements, present yourself with confidence, have a positive approach, be a good communicator and listener, bring solid work ethics, experience and knowledge of leadership and organizational development content, encourage & empower the client and understand the importance of continuous learning and improving of your own skills and knowledge.
2. What do leadership development coaches do?
Leadership development coaches empower leaders to develop self-confidence & new skills, enhance their existing competencies, improve self-awareness, identify strengths & weaknesses, improve their performance through goal setting, increase inter-personal communication, motivate team members to deliver top output, create a more inclusive work culture, improve all round performance and produce transformative results that align with the organization’s goals.
3. What do you expect from a leadership coach?
A leadership coach must have the necessary knowledge of the industry the coachee belongs to, should be able to ask relevant questions, be an active listener, have the ability to identify the leader’s strengths & limitations, help the leader clarify their vision and goals, aid them in setting accountability for implementing strategies that will help the leader achieve their goals and provide a solid, non-judgmental, non-biased support to the leader as they navigate through difficult business decisions.
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