What is Leadership Coaching and How Is It Beneficial?

March 15, 2023

Iain Robertson and Helen Caton Hughes

Director of Consulting and Strategic Leadership & Coaching Manager
A close up of some hands tending to a plant bathed in sunlight

Why do leaders need coaching? What is the organizational benefit from providing coaching for your leaders? Why is leadership coaching different from ‘normal’ executive coaching? And why should you pay a professional rather than delivering coaching in house?

It’s one thing to have a clear vision and mission: it’s another to clearly express it to the team and, as a result inspire them to deliver. Leadership coaching supports leaders to clarify their vision, such that it has a motivational impact. It helps them discover and value the strengths their people bring and enable them to deliver, and leaders and managers to better delegate.

This is what makes leadership coaching different: it considers the needs and expectations of followers. Leadership coaching helps managers address the complexity and volatility they experience everyday: juggling different priorities, targets, and goals.

Working through challenges with a supportive third party can help provide leaders with:

    •    Clarity of goals. The objectivity that a coach offers can support leaders in clarifying their individual and collective goals, and focusing their efforts in delivering them
    •   Increased self-awareness. Confidential coaching conversations are a powerful forum for leaders to explore their strengths and weaknesses – and the impact this might have on them and their teams
    •   Improved communication. The ability to work through a challenge with a coach can significantly enhance a leader’s ability to effectively communicate that challenge to their team
    •   Better decision-making. A coach acts as a sounding board for ideas and can challenge assumptions that the leader is making, helping them to improve the quality of their decisions

Forton leadership coaching is based on a behavioural approach (there are others). We start from the outside in – the visible behaviours that leaders and managers display every day, through their words and deeds. From there, leadership coaching can explore how to achieve more of the high performance behaviours; how to lead with vision and from values.

This helps leaders by removing some of the burdens they often face; for example:
    •   By reducing micro-management: when the leader no longer feels they need to be subject matter experts
    •   By increasing delegation: thanks to them understanding and appreciating the resources available to them
    •   By supporting greater autonomy and freedom within the team: when they harness the skills and trust the team to deliver
    •   By improving time management: through better decision-making processes and more effective meetings

With all those benefits, it is clear that organisations should be looking to provide coaching for leaders at every level. So, why not do this in-house?

Recent research from DDI shows that leaders are more than twice as likely to value professional coaching over that provided by their managers or others in their own organization. Whilst some of this preference can clearly be attributed to a difference in capability (professional coaches will simply be better at coaching), there are undoubtedly other benefits to a professional coaching relationship. These include:

    •   Confidentiality. Many leaders feel vulnerable admitting weakness or indecision to an internal coach – particularly if that coach is also their line manager. A professional coach can create a safe space to explore an work through sensitive issues
    •   Objectivity. Being external to the organization allows professional coaches to provide a fresh perspective on issues – and they are not invested in a particular approach or outcome in the way that an internal coach might be
    •   Flexibility. The experience of working with individuals and teams from a variety of industries and backgrounds provides professional coaches with the ability to adapt and adjust their style to meet the needs of the individual they are working with and meet their specific needs
    •   Accountability. We are more likely to deliver on our commitments when we make them to objective third parties – professional coaches can therefore provide a strong incentive for leaders to deliver on their promises


IDG now offers Leadership Coaching

Find out more about how we can help you, your team and your organization.

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