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FAQ: What is Leadership Coaching and How Does It Work? - HRDQ

FAQ: What is Leadership Coaching and How Does It Work?

Leadership coaching involves a partnership between a leader and a coach where both parties work to reach a shared destination. Though the specific goals can differ, leadership coaching ultimately serves to transform the quality of a leader's professional and personal life while also bringing about sustained behavioral change.

In some instances, leadership coaching might involve one coach meeting with a group of leaders or executives to help bring about positive change at an organizational level. Offering leadership coaching to managers or leaders in a company can have a rippling effect throughout the company– as they apply what they've learned, the entire company culture can benefit.

This type of coaching can help organizations operate at peak performance in a competitive landscape. When sessions are one-on-one, the program can be specifically tailored to the individual leader. This helps produce the most effective results and provides the greatest amount of positive change.

Are you interested in setting up a leadership program in your workplace or considering finding a coach to help hone your leadership skills? Either way, stick with us while we look at the answers to several frequently asked questions regarding leadership coaching. 

What Is Leadership Coaching?

A leadership coach is an individual that works with clients to help them achieve their professional and personal goals. They can help people in leadership positions achieve their goals by identifying and working on their strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, emotions, feelings, and more.

Leadership coaching is the conscious process of developing an individual's competencies and talents to make them a more effective team leader.

It's common for leadership training to incorporate business coaching, effective communication skills, and a knowledge of the wide variety of leadership styles.

Leadership Coaching

Engaging in leadership coaching doesn't necessarily mean signing up to work with a personal coach as an individual– it can also take the form of formalized executive coaching programs, occur in mentoring relationships, or emerge in other coaching programs.

Being coached in regard to your leadership skills doesn't mean that you are failing in your current position. Even the most successful people in the world will receive help from coaches. A coach can help leaders see themselves and their situation from a different angle and teach them new skills, all of which can help improve performance, build self-confidence, improve communication, and help create stronger relationships with peers and subordinates. 

How Does Leadership Coaching Work?

Depending on the avenue through which you are meeting with a leadership coach and the type of leadership coaching you're receiving, the process won't always look the same.

That being said, the coach's role is generally the same: they act as an advisor, strategist, sounding board, and guide. They'll help you define and create a plan to reach your business goals while also analyzing your current leadership style and how it can be improved.

A Leadership Coach

Coaches aren't just cheerleaders, though. Every coach has their own style, but tough love can also be an essential element of a coaching session. When entering a coaching session, it's important to try and be open-minded that there are more things you can learn about being an effective leader, even if you are already highly skilled and experienced.

What Skills Are Taught Through Leadership Coaching?

There are many different ways that leaders can grow from coaching sessions.

Leadership Coach Teaching Essential Skills

These skills don't just help out in a person's professional life, but they can also be incredibly useful in one's personal life and in obtaining that all-important work-life balance.


Self-awareness is one of the most valuable skills learned through leadership coaching. While we all might consider ourselves highly self-aware, the scary truth is that only a tiny percentage of the population is actually self-aware.

In the mid-2010s, a team of researchers launched a large-scale scientific study of self-awareness. Involving nearly 5,000 participants and ten separate investigations, they estimate that only 10%-15% of the people they studied fit the criteria they outlined for self-awareness.

Self-awareness involves both being aware of your own thoughts, emotions, personality, and actions, as well as being aware of how other people view you. These two types of self-awareness are known respectively as internal and external self-awareness.

Leader Gaining Self-Awareness Skills

In a leadership position, it's essential to be able to have a realistic perspective of your strengths and weaknesses as well as a realistic perspective of how you are seen by the people you lead.

It can be challenging to see ourselves and our leadership styles objectively. Sometimes, a specific belief or mindset impacts the way we behave, but we are unaware because it lies in our blind spot.

Leadership coaching can be massively beneficial to self-awareness. It can help leaders notice negative thought patterns, ineffective leadership behaviors, and much more. 

Listening Skills

Learning to listen isn't quite as easy as it sounds. A leadership coach can help individuals in leadership positions realize whether there is room for improvement when it comes to actively listening to their team and the other people they interact with throughout the day.

Leadership Improving Listening Skills

Meeting with a coach can help leaders identify barriers to active listening in their workplace and leadership style while also coming up with solutions to encourage active and effective listening within themselves and their team.


Self-regulation is an essential skill for managers and leaders. Research has found that one factor that impacts a direct report's job satisfaction, empowerment, and sense of inclusion and belonging is the day-to-day interactions they have with their manager.

As you might imagine, this means it can tremendously impact employees' experience when a manager can't regulate their emotions. They can learn skills that help them step back from situations and take space before responding. By learning how to step away until they can have a more productive conversation, leaders can maintain a more stable, positive, and healthy culture in the workplace.

Leadership Increasing Self-Regulation Skills

There are numerous different techniques that a leader can use to increase their self-regulation skills. For example, they might learn to identify things that trigger negative emotions and lead them to lose their cool. By noticing and analyzing common patterns, they are better able to be present in the moment and stay in control of their emotional responses.

Communication Style

Another valuable takeaway leadership coaching can produce for leaders is a greater understanding of their communication style. By gaining self-awareness and taking a close look at how an individual communicates with their subordinates, coaching can be a game changer for any leader's ability to communicate effectively in the workplace.

Leadership Learning Their Communication Style

With the help of coaching, leaders can learn to offer their employees constructive feedback, set clear expectations, and become more aware of what they are communicating through their body language and nonverbal cues.

Growth Mindset

A growth mindset is an outlook that views abilities, talents, skills, and intelligence as things they can learn and improve by applying effort. The opposite of a growth mindset is a fixed mindset, which posits that intelligence, skills, abilities, and talents are unchangeable and eternally stable. If a leader doesn't already have a growth mindset, leadership coaching can help them achieve one.

Leader With a Growth Mindset

In a quickly changing world and fast-paced industries, a fixed mindset will lead to significant roadblocks for leaders. On the other hand, a growth mindset can mean that a leader sees obstacles as challenges that will enable growth rather than something to fear or avoid at all costs.

Developing a growth mindset involves being able to think creatively, learning how to be flexible, and figuring out how to bounce back when wrenches are thrown in the gears of a project or campaign.

How to Leverage Strengths

It can be challenging for leaders to see their strengths, even if they're apparent to everyone around them. A leadership coach will be able to hold a mirror up to an executive, manager, or business owner so they can become aware of the places where they truly excel.

Leader Learning to Leverage Strengths

Once they have this information about their leadership style and skills, they'll be in a much better position to leverage their strengths.

Cultivating Empathy

Leadership coaching can also help leaders become more empathetic to their team and create a more supportive and productive environment.

Leaders Learning to Show Empathy

When employees feel that their leaders are showing empathy when they are struggling or dealing with a problem, they tend to feel much more comfortable in the workplace and have a greater degree of trust in their leader.

Exuding Executive Presence

Not everyone is a leader, but some people have an exceptional executive presence everywhere they go. Essentially, this means that they inspire confidence in their subordinates in how they are communicating, acting, presenting, and carrying themselves.

Leader Learning to Exude Executive Presence

Leadership coaches can help individuals change different aspects of their leadership and communication styles to present an executive presence that helps to magnify the effectiveness of the other leadership skills they have honed.

What Are the Benefits of Leadership Coaching?

A Group Leadership Coaching Session

The benefits of leadership coaching include:

  • A new perspective: Sometimes things are right in front of our noses, but we're too close to see them. Meeting with a leadership coach can help offer a fresh perspective that makes it possible to create lasting, meaningful, and positive changes.
  • Increased confidence: Leaders' confidence levels can be positively impacted by the support offered by a leadership coach and simply having a witness to their progress and successes.
  • Boosted performance: Engaging in leadership coaching can help individuals be more effective in their leadership roles. By becoming more aware of their strengths and weaknesses, they can shift their style to best lead their team.
  • Improved job and life satisfaction: The fruits of stepping back and assessing one's life and work can be life-changing. By analyzing one's own leadership style, one can figure out how to have a better work-life balance. That can ultimately lead to better performance, increased job satisfaction, and improved retention at the organization.

What Are the Different Types of Leadership Coaching?

A Leadership Coaching Program

Before you begin a leadership coaching program at your company or start searching for a personal leadership coach, it can be useful to understand some of the most popular types of leadership coaching programs out there.

Business Coaching

Business coaching is focused on helping to improve leadership performance at the team level. Though coaches might engage individually with people in the program, the central goal of business coaching is to help teams develop strategies that allow them to meet their departmental and organizational goals.

Business Leadership Coaching

The emphasis here is on improving collaboration and coordination within the workplace.

Executive Coaching

Specifically geared toward executive leadership, the executive coaching style is a one-on-one coaching experience. Rather than working with a team of leaders, as with business coaching, an executive coach will help high-ranking organizational individuals improve their management and leadership skills.

Executive Leadership Coaching

Usually, executive coaches will be hired from companies outside the organization and go through several sessions with executives. While this is commonly used to help individuals that are new to leadership positions transition into their new roles, it can also be useful for more senior executives that are seeking a fresh perspective.

Strategic Coaching

Strategic coaching is a specific type of executive coaching. Just like executive coaching, strategic coaching is geared toward top-level leaders.

Strategic Leadership Coaching

The difference is that strategic coaching is primarily focused on helping high-level executives focus on their long-term goals and determine the most effective paths they can use to reach them.

Behavioral Coaching

Finally, behavioral coaching is focused on an individual's behavior and how it plays into their leadership style and effectiveness.

Behavioral Leadership Coaching

This type of leadership coaching might involve analyzing and changing behaviors to help leaders better connect and communicate with their teams.

Gaining Leadership Style Awareness Can Be a Game Changer

Understanding one's own leadership style can open up an entirely new world of possibilities when it comes to leading a team or running a business. By using our What's My Leadership Style tool, assessment, and workshop, leaders can become more effective at their job. A part of our best-selling HRDQ Style Suite, What's My Leadership Style begins with a leadership style assessment and finishes with an easy-to-follow workshop outline.

A Team Leader

By identifying an individual's leadership style, they are able to figure out where their strengths and their trouble spots are. This offers priceless information about how they can leverage their strengths, minimize their weaknesses, and even "flex" their style to suit different circumstances and situations.

Do you have any questions about leadership coaching or leadership styles? If so, feel free to leave a comment below, and we'll get a conversation started! We always reply to every single comment and are always here to help in any way we can.

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About our author

Bradford R. Glaser

Brad is President and CEO of HRDQ, a publisher of soft-skills learning solutions, and HRDQ-U, an online community for learning professionals hosting webinars, workshops, and podcasts. His 35+ years of experience in adult learning and development have fostered his passion for improving the performance of organizations, teams, and individuals.