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Executive Coaching vs. Leadership Coaching – Understanding the Difference

By Numly - Leadership Coaching Group
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Is there a difference between ‘Executive Coaching’ and ‘Leadership Coaching’? These terms are often used interchangeably and can make it seem like they have the same meaning. Identifying the difference between the two becomes crucial as coaching becomes essential to help leaders across the organization develop the skills needed for this new-age world of work. 

Both executive and leadership coaching are focused on growth and development. One of the easiest ways to differentiate between them is to understand that one is about managing the things that influence management, and the other is about learning more about the ‘people’ side of duties. 

Since the devil is in the details, let’s take a closer look at the differences between the two. 

The What(s) and Why(s) of Executive Coaching

Executive coaching is the kind of coaching that helps an individual develop critical skills that enhance personal and organizational success. The focus of executive coaching is to help managers become better leaders, improve their managerial skills, and elevate their execution skills. 

Executive coaching is also focused on helping senior leaders develop their skill sets and provides them with a space to explore avenues to improve their business planning, strategy management, technical and decision-making skills, etc. 

It is highly focused on career management, stakeholder relationship management, identifying ways to improve performance and productivity, and discovering pathways to overcome challenges. 

Executive coaching not only helps at an individual level but has a team impact as well. When people identify how to excel in their roles, their entire team benefits. When managers have the right skill sets to lead, their team performance improves. 

In this age of constant change, executive coaching becomes essential to make sure that individuals have the required skills to navigate the changing world of work. It is also a great program to navigate career roadblocks and prevent career stagnation. 

Executive coaching is an excellent antidote for people who feel ‘stuck’ as it helps them move towards their goals with compassion and clarity. 

The What(s) and Why(s) of Leadership Coaching

The Oxford Dictionary defines the term leadership as “the action of leading a group of people or an organization.” Leadership coaching, as such, focuses on leadership skills.  

Leadership coaching, contrary to popular belief, is not reserved for senior leadership. It is, in fact, appropriate for leaders across levels, right from new executives to seasoned managers. Leadership coaching is designed to provide individualized support to help people address challenges, develop new skills, and take on new roles. 

A more holistic form of coaching, leadership coaching is focused mainly on developing the skills that influence and inspire. This coaching has three main aspects – how to lead the self, how to lead others, and how to lead the organization.

This type of coaching places a great deal of importance on developing key skills like self-awareness, clear communication, empathy and understanding, engagement styles, etc.

The objective of these programs is to help people identify leadership blind spots that could impact careers – their own and that of others. Leadership coaching provides support and non-judgmental space for leaders to explore their leadership styles, identify areas of improvement and develop an authentic leadership vocabulary that drives positive influence. 

It is also heavily focused on helping leaders shift their leadership style from being transactional to becoming transformative. As such, it becomes highly focused on driving behavioral change through constant dialogue and an objective, goal-driven feedback loop. 

Leaders work on developing their emotional intelligence to create more psychologically safe spaces, identify ways to foster connectivity and belonging, elevate conflict management capabilities, and improve their emotional resilience to move from being reactive to becoming more responsive in the face of challenges and conflict.

Developing emotional intelligence forms a big part of leadership coaching to improve performance and leadership effectiveness. It is one of the critical building blocks of effective and influential leadership in a world characterized by constant change. 

Developing this skill needs greater self-awareness and a safe space to explore belief systems and biases that impact how we engage with others and how we work. As diversity, inclusion, and belonging become major influencers of positive organizational outcomes, traversing this path of self-exploration becomes possible with leadership coaching. 

Executive Coaching vs Leadership Coaching: Final Thoughts

Growth and development are the hallmarks of any successful business. As such, both executive and leadership coaching emerge as valuable strategies for organizations that want to help their workforce grow into their own strengths and drive organizational success. 

While it may seem that these forms of coaching are best suited for senior leaders and managers, these are extremely effective tools for developing a healthy, happy, and resilient workforce. Providing executive and leadership coaching across all levels of the organizations helps them develop a robust leadership pipeline and create a culture of continuous learning and development. 

Organizations that focus on developing a coaching culture are ultimately more resilient and can navigate change and disruption more easily. This is because they have the right technical or critical skills to manage the uncertainties of today’s dynamic work environment. These organizations also have more authentic leaders who connect with the workplace demographic, exert influence, and create fair and equitable workplaces. 

Want to learn more about executive and leadership coaching? Connect with us to see how our coaching platform can help your organization elevate your coaching outcomes and influence organizational success.

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