The Complete Guide to Being a Leadership Coach

People have been discussing this since ages; are leaders born or made? While there is no single answer, every leader needs a leadership coach.

Coaching leaders is a growing industry. People and companies are opening up to hiring coaches to nurture future leaders. Leadership coaches also help grow people who are already leaders. A true leader knows the importance of continuous learning. They always welcome a leader’s coach with open arms.

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Before we begin, let’s look at what is leadership coaching and who is a leader’s coach

What is Leadership Coaching?

Leadership coaching is a process in which coaches help leaders become better leaders. In leadership coaching, both sides agree to certain goals and objectives. A leader’s coach then helps the leader achieve those goals and objectives. Leadership coaching is a very personalized profession. It focuses on both short-term and long-term goals.

Leadership coaching is a partnership between a leader and the coach. The aim of this partnership is to ensure that the leader grows and achieves more success. Leadership coaching is both for established leaders and budding future leaders.

Leadership coaching usually takes place in an organization. But leaders can be in different fields, not just in the corporate sector. It is easy to confuse leadership coaching with mentoring. Mentoring is usually within the same industry.

But coaching leaders differs from mentoring. Mentors will have first-hand experience and wisdom. Leader’s coaches, on the other hand, are skilled people who are brought in to increase the talents of a leader.

I have written about the difference between coaching and mentoring.

Read: Coaching vs Mentoring – A Simplified Guide

When leadership coaching takes place, the partnership goes beyond you and your client. It now includes the company as well. Consider the company’s short term and long-term goals when coaching their leader. Developing a leader includes paying attention to the company’s value and culture. This is so they can tailor the experience to the specific needs.

Consider a company that is going to change their business model. Here a leader’s role is to help other employees in this transition. A leader’s coach will work with the leader to build the skills of managing change, among other qualities.

Let us say a company has been in operation for a long time and is now stagnant. The leadership coach teaches leaders how to motivate others to increase their performance. This leader will also identify and lead other future leaders from the organization. The benefits of coaching leaders thus help the entire organization.

In leadership coaching, skills required by a leader pass on from the coach to the client. This enhances a leader’s performance.

Read: 5 Benefits of Implementing Leadership Coaching

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Who is a Leadership Coach?

A leadership coach is one who helps leaders become better leaders. Leadership coaches work with leaders to identify challenges and roadblocks. They work closely with leaders to solve these challenges and become better leaders.

Leader’s coaches are often good at leadership themselves. They also have a good working knowledge of the industry that they are working in. A leader’s coach can be from inside the organization, known as internal coaches. They can also be from outside an organization, called external coaches.

Many companies like to hire external coaches for their leaders. This is because ‘outside’ coaches bring in a fresher perspective about the industry.

A leadership coach helps leaders identify their unique talents and works on improving them. A leader’s coach also works as a sounding board for clients who want to develop a better leadership style.

Consider this famous problem, ‘Are leaders born or made?’

A leadership coach works for both kinds of leaders. Some people are naturally better at inspiring people. A leader’s coach helps such leaders to become better at what they do.

Some people have the potential to become leaders. A leadership coach will identify that potential and help create leaders that our society needs.

“Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen.” – Alan Keith

Read: 11 Great Leaders – How They Achieved Success

Role of a Leadership Coach

A leadership coach works with leaders separately or in small groups. The role of a leadership coach is to give leaders a better experience of leading people.

It is a common misunderstanding that leadership coaches are for leaders who have ‘problems’. Another common misunderstanding is that only new leaders need a leadership coach. That’s not true. Even experienced leaders need help and guidance.

Let’s take the example of any famous sports personality. They don’t stop coaching just because they are at the top of their careers. This is true even in other fields. A leadership coach ensures that there is a continuous learning and development.

A leadership coach helps identify obstacles. They then design plans to overcome these barriers to success.

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Often, we have blind spots in our vision, because of which we cannot see the barriers. Bad habits and negative thinking patterns can also reduce our chances for achieving success.

A good leadership coach helps in removing blind spots and bad habits. The aim of any leader’s coach is to go for higher performance.

A leader’s coach creates an open and trusting environment. In this environment, leaders can open up and face their fears and challenges. They create a safe space for leaders to try out new things and become better leaders.

A leadership coach helps in identifying the right leadership style for the client. Usually leaders already have a certain style of leadership. These style of working comes naturally to them. But, some types of leadership methods do not work in all situations.

Leader’s coaches work with these leaders to understand their individual potential. They would then suggest the style of leadership apt for the clients and their situations.

For any organization, a leadership coach is an investment into their future. Because they will grow higher when their leaders work better!

Why do people hire a leadership coach?

The simplest answer – because they want to be better leaders! Any leader will tell you this to continue being successful, you must keep learning. A leadership coach works with you to make sure you become a better leader than before.

Many leader’s coaches are hired by individuals. But now there is a lot of demand for leadership coaches from corporate organisations. Some reasons for them to seek a leader’s coach are;

  • To achieve a high level of personal development of leaders
  • To develop and design a better leadership style to suit their needs
  • To improve communication and conversation skills.
  • To enhance personality and interpersonal skills
  • To improve decision making, deal with conflict and manage difficult situations
  • To become better at presentation, networking and assertiveness
  • To be better at time management and have better work-life balance
  • To be more assertive and better at presentation skills
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Benefits of hiring a leadership coach

Every one can feel stuck once in a while. Even great leaders feel that way. That’s where leadership coaches can help. The biggest benefit of leadership coaching is the increase in power, success and creativity for every leader.

Better communication

Many people make this very easy and common mistake. They believe that other people think just like how they think. And that people understand things just like how they understand things.

Communication is a two-way street. Sometimes, there are roadblocks. A leader’s coach helps leaders understand how people communicate, think and behave. Through a leadership coach, leaders can learn how to identify roadblocks. They then come up with strategies to make communication better together.

Through leadership coaches, leaders become better at communication. Leaders who do well in communication are better equipped to lead others.

If you think about it, all great leaders are excellent at communication! Better communication also helps in solving disagreements easily.

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”–Epictetus

Read: (Infographic) Characteristics of Good Leadership

Better awareness

Leaders can become great leaders, only when they understand how the world works. A leadership coach helps in increasing awareness by asking well thought out questions.

Internal awareness is just as important. Leaders should know how the world sees them. Once you have a high awareness, opportunities for growth are visible! A leader’s coach also helps in increasing awareness about a leader’s natural and unique talents.

“Leadership is about going somewhere – if you and your people don’t know where you’re going, your leadership doesn’t matter.” – Ken Blanchard

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Better self-awareness

Every leader has their own unique talents. They have certain skills that set them apart from other leaders. A leadership coach helps in creating that awareness through self-reflection. It is common for people to underplay their strengths and believe that they are not good at something. That may not be true.

We all have our blind spots. Once leaders can identify their unique strengths, they can work on improving them. Sometimes, it takes an ‘outside eye’ to identify unique talents. That’s where a leader’s coach comes handy.

“A good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are.” — Ara Parasheghian

Better skills

Think of all the skills that a leader must have? A leadership coach helps in making leaders better than what they already are. This process starts with increasing skills and qualities.

It’s about better communication skills, knowledge about presentation and dressing style. It can be as simple as writing better emails and it can also be about being better at networking. Leaders need to have the skills of listening better to lead people. Building and improving skills is as important as coming up with a game plan.

Better skills also lead to higher confidence. Every great leader makes sure that they come back to the basics and improve those skills. A leader’s coach helps in refining every basic skill that leaders must have.

Read: Why Do Leaders Fail Even When They Are Good?

Better advice

A leadership coach helps leaders understand how their decisions will impact their careers. Looking at the ‘big picture’ is difficult when you’re on the ‘inside’.

A leader’s coach has the unique advantage of looking at your life from a new perspective. This insight can then be used to design plans to improve a leader’s life. Good leaders spend a lot of time caring for others. This can lead to burnout. It is not always possible to realise that you’re going through a burn-out phase.

A leadership coach can see this from the outside. They can give proper advice accordingly. A good leader’s coach teaches you how to work smarter, not harder. A leadership coach will help you get better at what you do.

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Better opportunities

A leader has to work with various kinds of people in different situations. A good leader must be able to look at the ‘big picture’.

There are many styles of leadership. Each style is different and serves a different purpose. A leader’s coach helps leaders learn about different styles of leadership. This knowledge then helps leaders decide which style works best for them.

Such knowledge is difficult to achieve all by yourself. A leadership coach makes sure that this knowledge is easy to understand. A good leader also needs better approaches to deal with changing situations. Once a leader knows how to adapt to change, they have higher chances of success..

To be a great leader, one must also know what motivates people.

Read: 14 Billionaires & Celebrities Get Coached

Different Leadership Styles for a Leadership Coach

Every leader has their own unique style and way of leading people. Leaders choose their style depending on their talents and the need of the situation. The mark of a good leadership coach is the ability to understand the situation and the leader as a person. They then help the leader choose the best style of leadership that achieves the leader’s goals.

Leadership Coaching with Daniel Goleman’s study

Daniel Goleman authored the study ‘Leadership that Gets Results’ (Harvard Business Review, 2000). He studied 3000 managers in it. He found that they usually have six different styles of leadership.

“Do as I do, now. ”

A ‘pace-setting leader’ works on a higher form of self-direction. For such leaders, they already have a team that is ready to follow them. The leader needs results fast and they ask their team members to ‘do as they do’.

“Come with me. ,”

The authoritative leader works towards a common goal and gets the team towards that goal. This approach works best when there is a need to set up a goal. It may not work with seasoned employees who already know a lot.

“People come first. ,”

The affiliative leader focuses on creating a long-lasting relationship between:

1. The leader

2. Their team members and

3. Their organization.

Such an approach needs a lot of trust and a feeling of belonging.

“Try this. ”

The coaching leader works on nurturing people and making them ready for the future. This leadership style aims to build the talents and capacities of every team member. This style works better if the team is already motivated and willing to learn..

Read: Ask Yourself These 5 Questions Before Deciding On A Leadership Style

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“Do what I tell you”

The coercive leader is someone who requires their team members to be obedient. The leader wants the team to do tasks as soon as it is told. This approach might sound negative at first. But such an approach is helpful in difficult situations. When there is a crisis, say a fire or any other natural disaster, people need a leader who can tell them exactly what to do.

“What do you think?”

The democratic leader works on increasing the equal participation of all members. Such a style of leadership doesn’t alienate team members and makes room for flexibility. When the entire team buys into a common goal and plan, the chances of success are higher.

What no one tells you about being a leadership coach

Clients will expect a quick fix for their problems, and they will expect ready answers from you. They would want results overnight. That will not happen. It will take many sessions to have a successful outcome.

Clients may see you as a miracle worker who can come and fix a sinking ship. Coaching and coaches can achieve a lot, but we can’t turn around a situation and make it new. The GROW model of coaching can also help set clear expectations.

I have written about it in depth before.

Read: Coaching Model: 3 Models You Must Use For Success

Your work can be confused with career counselling. Sure, helping a leader find their path in their chosen field is one part of leadership coaching. The main task of a leader’s coach is to improve the skills, talents and qualities of a leader.

Your clients would hate stepping out of their comfort zone. We need to ensure that there is a nurturing environment for them to step out, be uncomfortable, and take risks.

You will hear a lot of excuses. Usually, excuses come up because clients are afraid to take risks and try out something new. Change is difficult and doing something different is scary. A leader’s coach must see excuses as an opportunity to help their clients self-reflect. Then they can understand why they cannot stick to their commitments.

Get your hands dirty. You can’t be a leadership coach without stepping out of your comfort zone yourself. Be out there and get to know the situation first-hand.

Invest in yourself before people will invest in you. As a leader’s coach, you will have the spotlight on your own personality and behaviour. Keep upgrading your skills and talents.

People will not always like and love you. There might be situations where you have to share hard truths and give critical feedback. Working on increasing emotional intelligence of your clients will help both of you.

Conflict resolution will never become easy. Your clients may expect you to take your side in situations of conflict. But you will have to make the hard decision to resolve problems without favoring one person. This never gets easy, resolving conflicts is one of the major parts of being a leader.

Your clients will expect you to give them instructions on how to solve their problems. Yes, that happens quite often. Being a leader is not about giving orders. A good way to solve this is to come to a shared understanding about the definition of leadership.

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“Leadership is not about being in charge. Leadership is about taking care of those in your charge.” – Simon Sinek

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