Why Leadership Coaching is an Essential Skill in 2023
- POSTED ON MARCH 16, 2023
I have taught coaching to coaches and leaders through CTI and coached many leaders, executives, and founders in fast-growing organizations for the last 12 years in Asia, Europe, and North America. Before that, with an MBA, I was a leadership team member in a successful and growing family business in France and, later, in China, in a private Chinese heavy-industry and natural-resource organization.
Over these 25 years, I’ve had the opportunity to experience firsthand the impact of conversation in the exercise of leading self and others in fast-changing environments. I’ve seen the abundant benefits of creating robust and qualitative developmental and reflective spaces for leaders as they navigate complexity and ambiguity in the pursuit of emerging collective goals and vision.
The abundance of books, research, podcasts, movies, academic degrees, love, hate, and fantasies surrounding the role of leaders mirrors society’s hopes and fears. It is testament to the diversity, humanness, and forever-changing nature of a role we often take on for reasons we know very little about.
Through a conversation about leadership coaching, this blog post addresses the inner journey of leaders as they take on the role of “being” leadership. My clients generally don’t hire me to help them work on their competencies. Most of them want to find a partner to help them engage as people in the exercise of their role and help them “see” their current algorithm and operating system at work so they can free up some “update” or even better “upgrade” to serve their organizations. This type of conversation is valuable and rare. It is rare to find a sparring partner who can hold you accountable, help you confront yourself, and appreciate your capacities — and lack of — at the same time.
It is no surprise then that good-quality leadership coaching is in such high demand. It holds many promises. It encapsulates the richness and complexity of the environment it’s trying to serve. But what is it, actually?
Leadership Coaching Is a Journey in the Journey
Leadership coaching is a journey of supporting someone in a leadership position to support their reflection and growth as they’re navigating a path filled with ambiguity and complexity. The importance of this partnership is to help the leader discover who they are “at the edge of themself” to be able to manage, engage, motivate, innovate, and lead the organization on its quest. We see that in all industries, whether healthcare, tech, or finance, the pace of innovation and change tests leaders and their team every step of the way.
Leadership Coaching Is a Rich Relationship
This relationship is mainly between the coach and the leader, although it integrates data from many stakeholders. It includes the private dimensions of the leader’s life, such as their trajectory, mission, or purpose. It’s also a relationship with time, encouraging the leader to consider questions such as who was I, who am I expected to succeed, and how to lead.
The design alliance of leadership coaching engagement is multifaceted and robust and must be worked out delicately. It requires a clear and safe partnership. The primary objective of the conversation and the journey is to serve a larger community and a purpose, something that is not always the case for other forms of coaching and might trigger “alarm bells” if not considered.
Leadership Coaching Is Systemic by Nature
Leadership coaching, like all other coaching conversations, is systemic by nature. We spend time working and, to some extent, leading the system and its evolution through the leader’s shifting perspectives as their self-awareness evolves. Although this mechanism is similar to other forms of the coaching conversation, the awareness of the systemic dimension of the relationship is central to its impact. It requires shifting views, holding many on a dime to identify and include multiple systemic views.
Leadership Coaching Is a Game of Paradox
What makes it so interesting and rich is the constant interplay between macro and micro environments, between the width of scope and the depths of reflection, between practical and pragmatic conversation, and in ethical, moral, philosophical, spiritual, and purposeful discussions.
It is in the details that we see the big picture: from how we manage a meeting to how members of a team hold each other responsible, we can become curious about the soundness and robustness of a strategy. Similarly, our relationship with authority, as a group, depends on our way of learning about authority at home as a child. Understanding our gender, ethnic, academic, and communication bias is at the root of culture definition and might look very different in the boardroom and in the factory floor.
Leadership Coaching Is about Integration
Leadership coaching is designed to integrate and recognize the fast and slow dimensions of life and the multiple axes of reflection and ways of being to satisfy, as we go, the various tensions and opportunities available in our environment. All this enables the person and the system we’re working with to make conscious decisions, as much as possible, on a moment-to-moment basis to serve immediate concerns while having sighted the longer time horizon. This ability is particularly appealing for those working with various teams and teams of teams who, by nature, have various agendas and worldviews.
Leadership Coaching Is Crucial
Let’s look at what makes leadership coaching such a pertinent choice for coaching in 2023.
The ambiguity of the context we’re living in is not new. Conscious and aware leadership was certainly needed before — and is still urgently needed now in 2023. Developing the capacity to hold multiple dimensions and perspectives while working on the quality of our energy is needed to make decisions that will transform our relationship with the planet and our diverse selves.
It is essential for our societies, organizations, communities, and families.
Organizations are vehicles of transformation for society. Working with leaders in organizations and working on ourselves intensely and skillfully is working on the world.
The Co-active statement “Everyone is a leader” has never been such a calling forth, so understood and palatable. Learning to be with this conversation, as a guide, in our many contexts and in supporting our clients in their multiple leadership roles — at home, at work, and in society — is a way of “being” more than a skill.
Based on my observation, the outcomes of leadership coaching relationships are often much-heightened self-confidence and clarity of purpose, which translate into effective leadership competencies such as courageous authenticity, being decisive, and the capacity to define a clear and compelling vision across the hierarchy — among many other competencies.
The fabric of society is the outcome of our collective conscious and unconscious behaviors, which result from an individual capacity to recognize and engage with inner and outer leadership conversations. I have seen multiple times how working with a leader and their team through leadership coaching engagement profoundly transformed the quality of conversations and generated transformational outcomes for the company and the community.
Finally, working on ourselves, as coaches, in a similar way to how we work with our clients is paramount. It enables us to engage and identify ways of being and ideas at the edge of who we are collectively to respond to the needs of a changing world as trusted partners.
I look forward to engaging with you and creating a leadership ecosystem, leveraging coaching conversations to develop the world we want.