Executive Coaching vs. Leadership Coaching—Similar, but Different

Executive coaches and leadership coaches perform similar roles within the business world, yet these two coaching careers do have some subtle differences. Understanding how they are different is important when deciding how to steer your career or choose a coach to move your business or organization forward. So, what is the difference between the two? Here is a closer look at executive coaching, leadership coaching, and how they differ.

What Is Executive Coaching?

An executive coach will work to help leaders improve their performance and their organization as a whole. Executive coaches serve as neutral sounding boards to clients, giving organizational leaders a listening ear when their working through decisions or seeking personal improvement by supporting them to gain more awareness about how to reach their goals.

Often, executive coaching professionals work with C-suite executives or vice-presidents, helping them as they make decisions in a fast-paced business world. Executive coaches can also help these leaders learn how to better work with, guide, and lead their people. Much of the focus of an executive coach is on navigating the relationships in the business world to push organizations to greater success.

Executive coaches are often external coaches, which means they work on a freelance or independent basis and are not direct employees of the organization. This allows them to give fully unbiased support to the executive because the coach does not have a vested interest in the organization’s success. Instead, the coach focuses the success of the client, both personally and professionally, providing that critical neutral third-party viewpoint.

Why Executives Need Coaching

It can be lonely at the top. Executives lack someone above them in the organizational leadership chart that they can bounce ideas off of, and this can create a lack of motivation. An executive coach can come alongside and encourage the leader towards greater motivation, increasing their momentum as they continue to inspire the people in their organization to achieve success.

Executives can also reach a place of stagnation, not sure what to do to move the organization forward or what next step to take. Again, this is where a coach can come in and provide guidance. They can help the executive figure out what needs to change to move the company past whatever hurdle they are facing.

What Is Leadership Coaching?

Leadership coaching has much of the same focus as executive coaching. In fact, it is sometimes called a subset of executive coaching. The goal of a leadership coach is to support a client to gain awareness about how to become a more inspirational, impactful leader with strong communication skills. In leadership coaching process, the client learns how to improve teamwork and communication with staff.

With leadership coaching, the client is typically a manager or team leader. This may also be a C-level executive. If the individual is in leadership over a team or department or will soon become a people leader, they can benefit from the services of a leadership coach.

Leadership coaches are often internal coaches. This means they are employed by the organization or business. They may be mentors that are higher up within the organization, or they may be hired specifically to serve as a coach to the management team. They build a relationship of trust with the management team in order to inspire them to do their best to lead their own teams.

Why do Managers Need Coaching?

Companies often select their managers from high-potential individuals who may not have full leadership training. Leadership coaches can support them to develop their natural leadership skills. In fact, in one survey 86% of companies indicated this was a reason they hired leadership coaches.

Leadership coaches can also be beneficial when addressing awareness of the impact of behavioral problems that impact the management team. This can help create better camaraderie within the organization as a whole.

Sometimes companies will hire leadership coaches for people that are new to their management roles. This helps improve their chances of success by developing good communication skills between these leaders and their team members.

What Is the Role of Coaching in Leadership?

Whether executives or managers, leaders can find themselves in a lonely position. A coach can perform several roles for these individuals. Often, the main role is that of a full partner in their professional development and attainment of their goals. The coach typically takes the time to observe leaders at work, seeing how they interact with their team members in the day-to-day operations of the business. After making observations, the coach provides an opportunity for the client to gain insight into their leadership style and how it may be helping or hindering the organization.

When a leader meets with a coach, the discussions they have are confidential. The coach does not have to report to others within the organization—outside of stating they have had meetings. Because of this confidentiality, clients are often more willing to be open with their coaches, which makes the coaching more effective.

Coaches support their clients to both explore their roles more thoroughly and engage with the people in those roles more effectively. They assist clients with self-assessment, so clients find their own strengths and weaknesses and build upon those to develop their personal leadership styles.

Getting Started as a Coaching Professional

Though coaches sometimes serve as a sort of counselor, the roles within executive and leadership coaching require more leadership and coaching skill training than counseling training. If working as an executive coach or a leadership coach appeals to you, the right training will set you up for success. Both undergraduate and graduate degrees in organizational leadership can help prepare a student to serve as a guide in the business world as well as other industries.

Lewis University’s Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership delivers the decision-making, coaching and leadership knowledge coaches need for success. With a Professional and Executive Coaching concentration, students can prepare for Board Certified Coach certification as well as their International Coach credential. This is an Accredited Coach Training Program through the International Coach Federation, indicating the quality of education provided. Discuss your career goals with an admission counselor today to see if this graduate degree would be a good fit.

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