Leaders pass through several development phases as they progress through their career. As they advance, they often seem to require a different type of executive coaching: The need moves from tactical coping through personal issues and thinking, especially confidence related (See this popular LinkedIn blog post I wrote on women leaders). Finally, leaders can face existential and philosophical questions that require exploration of deeper issues such as purpose, contribution and legacy.

Not getting what you need

The issue that arises for Executive leaders is that they often want/need high quality coaching but are provided with support that is not always fit for purpose. Sometimes CEOs and other C-Suite execs receive little more than mentoring from highly qualified and experienced former executives. This can be an excellent intervention in and of itself but is often not the support that the executive actually needs. As suggested, very senior leaders frequently need support that includes an element of ‘Self’ development – a depth┬áthat very few NEDs or former execs who are playing the role of mentor, are trained to work at.

Couple this issue of not matching provision and need, with the fact that the coaching industry itself is still a bit of a lottery and perhaps it is not surprising that leadership standards have not improved as much as the $2bn p.a. spent on executive coaching should have produced. Coaches, almost universally well-meaning are not always able, comfortable or confident of working with the most senior leaders yet find themselves in the hot-seat doing their very best but struggling. I know coaches often struggle because many have discussed this very challenge with me. Indeed, I recognise it from my early days of coaching: Feelings of being out of your depth are exacerbated because you so want to help your client.

Internal not external development

Executive leaders, in my experience do want mentoring at times. They want to be able to turn to someone who has been there, done that, got the T-Shirt and in some cases literally written the book about it. When you find a great mentor it can be a life-line for overwhelmed senior leaders. In addition to such an intervention, those charged with steering, driving and supporting the growth and success of their organisation often require high quality, developmental leader coaching. When experienced, developmental coaching does not provide an external life-line via the mentor but more frequently, prompts a wholesale shift of perspective and thinking that provides an inner, highly personal strength, wisdom and clarity.

Dr Glenn P Wallis provides executive leaders with the challenge and support needed to succeed at whatever level of leadership they are operating. When you need such support contact Glenn here.

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