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Executive Coaching or Leadership Coaching: Which One is Right for Me?

Article Categories: Executive Coaching + General + Leadership
Leadership Articles | Executive Coaching | Executive Coaching or Leadership Coaching: Which One is Right for Me?

by | Jun 21, 2023

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When it comes to executive coaching or leadership coaching, many people wonder about the difference between the two and which type would be most beneficial for them.

In this article, we will focus on the latter question and provide you with the information you need to find the right coach.

Understanding Coaching

Before we dive into the specifics, it’s important to clarify what coaching is and what it is not.

Coaching is distinct from therapy, mentoring, or consulting.

While coaching can have a therapeutic effect, it is not a form of therapy. Therapeutic approaches are rooted in the medical model of illness, often focusing on diagnosing and treating psychiatric conditions.

In contrast, coaching operates on the premise that clients are already whole and capable individuals, with the coach acting as a facilitator to help them tap into their own resources. Coaches do not provide diagnoses or treatment but instead focus on empowering clients to achieve their goals.

Coaching also differs from mentoring or consulting. A coach does not claim to have superior knowledge or expertise about the client’s situation or themselves. Instead, a coach’s role is to listen, ask powerful questions, and reflect back the client’s patterns, emotions, and underlying beliefs that may be hindering their progress.

The coach supports clients in discovering their authenticity, aligning their actions with their values, and creating positive behavioral changes.

The Role of a Professionally Trained Coach

Professional coaches undergo rigorous training programs that typically span one to two years. Reputable coaching programs are accredited by organizations such as the International Coaching Federation (ICF), which sets industry standards.

ICF offers three levels of certification:

  • Associate Certified Coach (ACC)
  • Professional Certified Coach (PCC)
  • Master Certified Coach (MCC)

Each requires a certain level of training, experience, and adherence to ethical standards. Coaches with these credentials have demonstrated their competence and commitment to ongoing professional development.

Different Types of Coaches

It is recommended to choose a coach who is at least a PCC level certified coach, as this ensures a certain baseline competency. Beyond that, you can consider the specific genre of coaching that aligns with your needs.

  • Executive Coaching: Executive coaching focuses on C-suite level leaders and senior executives, and the coaches themselves often have experience in leadership roles. They understand the unique challenges faced by high-level executives and have specialized training to address their needs. Executive coaches may also work with clients from other contexts. You can get more details on what executive coaches are here.
  • Leadership Coaching: Leadership coaching encompasses coaching aimed at developing or enhancing personal, professional, or community leadership skills. It is applicable to individuals at various levels of leadership, including mid-level managers and directors. Leadership coaches often employ tools like 360-degree feedback and emotional intelligence assessments to support clients in creating a leadership development plan. They may hold ACC, PCC, or MCC certifications.
  • Life Coaching: Life coaching is a broad term used by individuals who aim to support others in navigating different aspects of their lives. While many life coaches are not certified by the ICF, those who are certified typically assist clients with life transitions, personal growth, and achieving their best selves. Life coaches often work with clients facing divorces, career changes, or parenting challenges.

Shared Characteristics of Coaches

Regardless of the specific type of coaching, all certified coaches adhere to professional standards and are trained to establish meaningful connections with their clients.

Coaches recognize that personal and professional aspects of life are interconnected, and they aim to support clients holistically.

Comparing Coaching Types

Coach TypeDescriptionPurposeBenefitsDrawbacks
ExecutiveExecutive coaches work with individuals in leadership positions to enhance their performance and professional development.To support executives in achieving their full potential, increasing effectiveness, and overcoming challenges in their roles.Focus on improving leadership and management skills. Provide guidance on strategic decision-making. Help in developing effective communication and interpersonal skills. Usually at the expense of the company.Is typically very expensive as it leverages executive salaries and company benefits. Limited availability and specialized expertise. May not address underlying organizational issues.
LeadershipLeadership coaches focus on guiding individuals in leadership roles to improve their leadership abilities, develop a leadership style, and create positive impact.To develop leadership skills, enhance personal growth, and drive organizational success through effective leadership practices.Help in developing self-awareness and emotional intelligence. Assist in setting and achieving personal and professional goals. Provide guidance in team building and collaboration. Usually at the expense of the company.Can be time-consuming.Typically will not provide technical or industry-specific expertise that may be desired.
LifeLife coaches work with individuals to help them clarify their life purpose, identify values, and make positive changes in various areas of their lives.To improve overall well-being, achieve work-life balance, enhance relationships, and navigate life transitions effectively.Support personal growth and self-discovery. Assist in setting and achieving life goals. Mine for motivation and creates accountability. Can support extraordinary, important life changes and challenges.Lack of professional licensing and regulation- many life coaches are not ICF certified. May not address deep-seated psychological issues impacting current behavior that need a different level of therapy. Results can vary based on the coach’s competence, training and specialty. Can be costly. Can be fraught with ethical issues.

Please note that while these descriptions and purposes provide a general overview, the actual services, methodologies, and coaching process may vary based on their training, experience, and specialization.

What are some examples?

Executive coaching: A CEO of a technology company is struggling to improve decision-making in product development, and enhance communication with the management team. An executive coach may help this CEO diagnose the underlying problems that have led to the current struggles and identify potential strategies to shift and enhance culture, learning and critical thinking.

Leadership coaching: A newly promoted team lead in a consulting firm is struggling with assertiveness and better assessment of emotional “temperature” in a meeting. A leadership coach can enhance their emotional intelligence, help them set clear leadership goals, and improve collaboration and communication with the team to become a more effective leader.

Life Coaching: A client is struggling with making a big life decision – a dream job that will require moving the entire family across the country. A life coach can help this client identify personal values that are at odds, improve communication skills with their family, and make decisions based on the family unit that will serve everyone in acceptable ways.

wooden executive climbing steps to the top after coaching executive climbing top

All Leadership is Personal

Whether you are working with an ICF certified executive coach, leadership coach, or life coach, they share two common factors: adherence to professional standards and the ability to establish personal and meaningful connections with their clients.

Our actions, characteristics, and behaviors in any aspect of our lives are influenced by our values, past experiences, future aspirations, spirituality, and our relationships with loved ones.

Therefore, all aspects of our personal lives impact our leadership. For instance, going through a divorce can likely affect our work, while experiencing a demotion can potentially impact our marriage.

Coaches are here to genuinely connect with you as an individual and provide support throughout your life’s journey, irrespective of the coaching context.

Selecting the Right Coach

To find the right coach for your needs, consider what you want coaching on.

If you’re looking for help with a career transition, seek out a life or leadership coach who specializes in this area. If you aspire to be a better parent, a life coach with expertise in parenting could be beneficial.

When evaluating potential coaches, think about the characteristics you prefer in a coach, such as communication style, accountability approach, professional background, and coaching philosophy.

It’s advisable to narrow down your choices to three to five coaches and arrange chemistry calls to gauge compatibility. It’s worth noting that sometimes being matched with a coach from an approved pool can be more effective, as the selection process ensures a suitable match based on your specific goals and needs.

Take the Next Step

We have written an article to help you select the right coach for you. This article includes a questionnaire to assist you in selecting the right coach for your profession, goals, and character. So, go check out our article and questionnaire now, it only takes a few minutes and could be the choice that makes a difference in the rest of your life.

Originally authored by Grace Calpus, PCC; grammar edited by ChatGPT; content re-verified and approved by Grace Calpus and Bridgeline Coaching.

<a href="" target="_self">Grace Calpus</a>

Grace Calpus

Specialties - Emotional Intelligence, Executive Presence, Personal Branding, Stakeholder Management, Career Transition

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