Good leadership requires a broad range of technical skill, experience, and emotional awareness.

To keep up with the fast pace of today’s business world, leaders need to continue to develop skills in relationship-building, inspiring and motivating others, and steering organizations toward business results.

That’s where leadership coaching can make a difference, at any level of leadership, in any field. Capella University’s School of Business, Technology, & Health Care Administration, faculty member and personal development coach Michael Laibe, PhD, explains what it is and why being coached is valuable.

What is leadership coaching?

The core of leadership coaching is helping leaders improve performance and build organizational capacity. Through a one-on-one, personalized process of self-discovery, leadership coaching guides clients to align their values, vision, and authenticity toward personal and professional goals.

Coaching is a great way to explore the gap between where the client is now and where they want to be as a leader. The coaching relationship is a partnership – an equal relationship allowing the client room to grow and develop, and at the same time be accountable for meeting goals.

“Leadership coaching is a means of examining the thinking of an individual, whether it’s in development and pursuit of goals, holding them accountable, or identifying where blind spots exist and working through them,” says Laibe.

“Leaders often find that the initial objective for coaching might start out as rather tactical, such as ‘improve my communication with my direct reports’ or ‘move from being operational to strategic.’ After that, we start exploring things like developing self-confidence and emotional intelligence, improving the ability to see the big picture, better handling ambiguity and complexity, and practicing resilience.”

In one instance, a client had been referred by his employer to work on what the employer called his “abrupt and too direct behavior” which was off-putting. Initially, Laibe says, the man’s response was externally driven: “Everything was someone else’s fault. It’s something many of us do, going through life thinking people experience us as we experience ourselves.  All too often, there is a disconnect.”

But when Laibe asked him to describe a difficult co-worker, then asked him if he thought that co-worker would describe herself the same way he did, the man had a breakthrough.  He realized that others do not experience him as he experiences himself.

Why is it important?

Like the man in the above example, there are many potentially excellent leaders who have a stumbling block they need to identify, understand, and work to overcome. A good leadership coach can help them do that.

“A leadership coach doesn’t form judgment, but we do ask a lot of questions—really powerful questions,” says Laibe. “Ultimately that helps people develop. It’s an avenue for people to think deeply and challenge their own thinking. If they can’t see themselves as others see them, they’ll just continue as they are.”

He notes that it’s also about challenging what they tell themselves. “We see a lot of ‘group think,’ and it can be eye-opening to get someone to see that they’re falling into that mindset,” he says. “Changing your self-talk can be a powerful tool for overcoming challenges and paralyzed mindsets we often hold.”

Leadership coaching can work on several different levels, whether it’s developing confidence, decision-making, emotional intelligence, helping an introvert manage to interact more, or working on important interpersonal skill required in relationship building. Ultimately it is about relationship-building, which is at the cornerstone of all leadership connections.

“Too often we see people who were promoted without consideration of those soft skills that can make or break a leader,” he says. “Leadership coaching can help them develop those.”

The value of this kind of professional development makes itself apparent in improved relationships with colleagues and employees, more cohesive teamwork, increased self-confidence, and more thoughtful leadership. Good leadership, in turn, can pave the way to improved job satisfaction, employee engagement, and enterprise success.

Capella’s MBA program now includes a leadership assessment and personalized coaching. Learn more about Capella University’s MBA programs.

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