Home » Blog » Leadership Coaching

Leadership Coaching

FAQs about Leadership Coaching

Over the years I have been asked many questions about leadership coaching. This article seeks to provide answers to FAQs about Leadership Coaching.

What is leadership coaching?

Leadership coaching is the process of developing a leader’s skills of leadership using coaching as the developmental tool.

What is coaching leadership?

The process of developing leadership by means of coaching techniques. It can also refer to those who lead progress in the field of coaching.

How does coaching leadership take place?

Normally it is conducted in a 1:1 developmental session between the coach and the developing leader, in a private setting.

What is a leadership coach? What qualifications do they have?

Coaching and MentoringA leadership coach is someone who develops leadership skills using coaching as the main development tool. The best qualification a skilled leadership coach can have is that s/he can do it, very well, and consistently well.

In all the years I have been coaching leaders I have never once been asked to show any qualifications. Why? They are irrelevant once you can prove excellent capability by doing, by adding huge value, right there and then, in real time.

For those who have no track record it is possible to gain qualifications from a wide range of competing “authorising” bodies.

However, please note, pieces of paper are no proof of in-the-field-actual-competence. It seems that the vast majority of people who pay for coaching qualifications never manage to make their living in coaching. As an aside, that is also the case in psychotherapy, hypnotherapy and counselling.

What is the relationship between leadership and coaching? What is the connection between coaching and leadership?

There are multiple connections and a multitude of connecting factors between coaching and leadership. Here are just some.

Great leaders have often become so, by being highly effective coaches, and can develop their direct reports, using coaching techniques, to be highly capable, more competent than the staff employed by competitors.

Some may say that great leadership IS great coaching. That is, nurturing others, inspiring others, to be more effective is both leadership and coaching.

How do you conduct coaching for leadership development?

The Perfect Communicator Book CoverIn the same way you would conduct coaching for any other skill development, with the added knowledge base of the wide array of leadership skills being helpful.

How does business leadership coaching differ from non-business leadership coaching?

Business coaching focuses more on adding financial value, and non-business coaching can focus more on capability development. Of course, in many business situations the way to add greater value is to develop leadership skills for the purposes of achieving better results. In some situations there is no difference between leadership coaching in a business and non-business context.



What kinds of people become an executive or leadership coach?

There are several categories.

Successful coaches who acquire knowledge about leadership and coach at that level.

Successful leaders who are no longer working in large organisations and have acquired coaching skills.

Successful entrepreneurs who have sold out of their businesses.

Performance analysts who have studied leadership.

Some leadership coaches fit in to several of the prime categories above.

Others include, academics who have studied leadership, but have rarely, if ever, done it.

And the least effective category of all: those who have been “exited” from corporate life on Friday and decide after a weekend coaching course to set up as coaches on Monday. Most do not last six months before they are back working for another organisation, usually in a more junior capacity.

That is the main reason for following this advice: only ever use a leadership coach who has a track record of leadership AND has been doing it for at least 18 months. There is too much at stake to trust your future to someone who dabbles in leadership coaching until the get their next job.

How do companies use leadership coaches?

Some companies have in-house leadership coaches. Alas, as anyone who has been coaching for any period knows that role rarely delivers results long-term. Why? The coach is on the payroll and as such is beholden to the company. The ability of the person being coached to trust such a person is greatly impaired.

Here is an acid test question: would you reveal your weaknesses to a fellow employee who has a financial and self-interest in sharing that information or using it against you at some stage in the future? Probably not. And that impairs coaching effectiveness, dramatically. Or would you you rather share your most vulnerable side with someone whose career would be finished if they breached your confidence?

Other companies hire leadership coaches for a certain number of coaching sessions, as and when required. I prefer to work on a guaranteed outcomes basis, that is, being paid only after the agreed objectives have been achieved.

How do you conduct coaching in leadership?

The Perfect Coach Book Cover 160kUsing the wide array of coaching skills that any competent coach, who is knowledgeable about leadership would use. For instance, by using The Perfect Coach model, or the 7 stage coaching model (possibly the world’s first process model of coaching) published by Prof Nigel MacLennan in ‘Coaching and Mentoring’. Normally a competent leadership coach can bring many, many tools to help a leader improve his/her performance, from vision formation to culture leadership, to communication management and many more.

What kinds of people provide leadership in coaching?

Normally leadership in the field of coaching comes from people who develop more effective coaching methods and publish books on the subject. For instance, when Prof Nigel MacLennan published ‘Coaching and Mentoring,’ to go beyond the largely ineffective GROW model, it was a No 1 best seller.

How can you coach leadership capabilities?

By identifying the beliefs, knowledge, attitudes, behaviours and skills required for a given leadership role and developing those capabilities with the use of coaching techniques.

What is the difference between leadership and executive coaching? What is the difference between executive and leadership coaching?

The Perfect Motivator Book Cover

Leadership coaching can refer to coaching in the skills of leadership, whereas executive coaching refers to the coaching that takes place when a person has current management rather than leadership responsibilities. Leadership coaching can also be used to mean preparing  a manager for higher responsibility.

What is the leadership coaching process? What is in leadership coaching programs?

There is massive variability. It is probably better to ask: what are the commonalities in leadership coaching processes? Each organisation has its own ideas of what makes a leader. For instance, in a fast moving industry, the ability to come up with and sell product and service ideas may define leadership. That combination of skills in a moribund organisation would be viewed as disruptive and destabalising.

Typically the internal definition of leadership informs what skills, knowledge, attitudes, behaviours, beliefs, etc., are developed.

Equally, the specific approach to developing the preferred combination of skills, varies from company to company. Some organisations think that coaching is chalk and talk. Others, that assigning a mentor is the best way. Others, that hiring an external leadership expert is the way forward. Still others believe that people in the HR department can develop the skills thought necessary.

In other words, there are as many leadership coaching methods as there are organisations. That is not to say that we don’t know what works best, we do. But, and it is a big but, evidence of efficacy usually plays a tertiary role to internal politics and the personal preferences of the person designing the leadership development programme.

What kinds of leadership coaching topics does a coach cover?

The topics covered depend on the approach taken by the organisation.

The Perfect CultureWhere an expert leadership developer from outside is hired and given carte blanche to improve leadership results, s/he may cover areas such as: vision formation, culture leadership, coaching skills, communication leadership, objective setting and agreement, performance measures, change leadership, designing the customer service experience, strategy formation, conflict resolution, minimising politics and political damage, and many, more, depending on the context of the leadership situation, the skills and knowledge of the leader, and where the greatest value can be added.

How long is a typical leadership coaching program?

There is huge variability in the duration of leadership coaching programmes They can last for as little as one day, or be provided periodically over 18 months to three years.

How long is a typical leadership coaching session?

That depends on who is delivering it. An effective leadership coach can deliver a life changing coaching session by telephone by asking a couple of questions in 30 seconds or less. Typically a leadership coaching session takes between two and three hours.

What is the difference between leadership coaching and mentoring?

A definition that may shed light on the difference is from Prof Nigel MacLennan’ landmark book, ‘Coaching and Mentoring’:

A mentor is someone FROM whom you learn.

A coach is someone WITH whom you learn.

The key difference is that a mentor is a resource that can share knowledge with you. Whereas a coach is a resource that can create knowledge with you.

In other words, a leadership coach helps a leader to develop in a way that is unique to the leader, whereas a leadership mentor shares her/his knowledge with a developing leader.

Please note: the definitions of coaching and mentoring vary from company to company, to the extent that what is described as mentoring in one organisation can be coaching in another.

How does coaching for leadership differ from coaching for other professions?

The Perfect Change Book CoverCoaching for professions, generally focuses on the professional’s own performance, and their intra-personal skills (note: intra and not as is usually assumed, inter). An expert coach with advanced knowledge of performance is able to quickly identify and develop areas where a professional can make rapid improvement.

Coaching for managers is at a higher level. An expert coach has to equip the manager with awareness of how to apply performance techniques to themselves, in their given context, and, how to understand the performance mindset of each individual member of staff, and, how to apply the same in a team setting. Leadership coaching in a much higher level of complexity, again.

What are the benefits of leadership coaching?

If you have experienced high calibre leadership coaching you will know that it can be life changing. You can go from struggling to get any performance for months, to achieving spectacular results within days, or hours.

Massive value can be added very quickly with just a subtle change in approach. Skills can be dramatically improved, and immediate results achieved, with just a ten minute coaching discussion on the blockages to applying those skills. As a guide, the more experienced the leadership coach the more value s/he can bring. And if s/he has been making advances at the cutting-edge of performance and leadership performance for decades, the value they can add cannot be found elsewhere.

What kinds of leadership coaching services are there?

Leadership coaching services vary along a wide set of variables. Some providers offer a fixed number of coaching sessions. Dr Nigel MacLennan, provides a guarantee of the desired outcome or there is no fee.

Others offer a sheep dip approach. That is, you can choose from a menu of coaching sessions (on specific topics). That approach is more 1:1 training than coaching, but is described as coaching.

Whatever approach you choose, I would strongly recommend that you go for the payment by results approach, otherwise you have a guarantee that time will be invested in lots of coaching conversations, but you have no guarantee of achieving any improvement.

What is the coaching approach to leadership?

The coaching approach to leadership involves developing and nurturing staff to be able to achieve at levels previously impossible for the member of staff; of putting staff development, using coaching, at the top of the leadership task list.

————– End of FAQs ————–

To explore leadership coaching on a guaranteed outcomes basis (payment only after results are achieved) you can contact Dr Nigel MacLennan here.

Please note: most of the books pictured above are ONLY available to leadership coaching clients, in order to give them a competitive edge.

Copyright 2016 Dr Nigel MacLennan