Is coaching for leadership possible? There is a saying that leaders are made not born, but you’ll also hear the phrase, “natural-born leader.” So, what is it – nature or nurture? Can you coach for leadership, or does someone have to have the right genes to become a leader?
Coaching for Leadership – the Book
You can buy a book titled: Coaching for Leadership: How the World’s Greatest Coaches Help Leaders Learn, by Robert Witherspoon. The book is a collection of writings on executive coaching, and provides usable strategies for executive coaching. By looking at the title of this book, you could assume that leaders are made; after all, here’s a book that offers insight and strategies on leadership coaching.
However, since it is geared to executive coaches, who coach executives, it’s actually for people who already have some leadership qualities. Most executives have achieved their positions in life because they have exhibited some leadership qualities – they hire an executive coach merely to improve these qualities.
So, the nature versus nurture question may not have a right or wrong answer – it may be either one or some combination of both.
Can Leaders Be Coached?
A decade or so ago, companies usually hired coaches to fix toxic behavior or communication issues and corrupted systems. However, the executive coaching industry has changed dramatically. Coaching is now much more about developing the capabilities of managers, supervisors, and executives. It’s about coaching for leadership!
The questions are: Does coaching work to develop leaders? Do companies get value from the coaches they hire?
Why Companies Hire Coaches?
A few years ago, the Harvard Business Review did a survey of coaches to find out more about executive coaching, and the results of one question point to where the industry is going.
Question: The top reason coaches are engaged?
The Top 3 Reasons:
- Develop high potentials or facilitate transition: 48%
- Act as a sounding board: 26%
- Address derailing behavior: 12%
One of the most compelling reasons companies are hiring coaching is to develop their managerial and executive talent, and that is not about to change anytime soon as the business world becomes flatter and more competitive.
Life is Lonely at the Top
Another reason, executive coaching will continue to grow in popularity is loneliness. Executives and CEOs often complain that life can be lonely at the top. Of course, no one really feels pity for them when they have vacation homes in the Bahamas, a corporate jet, and eight figures in the bank. But, this feeling of being lonely can be potent motivation to hire a coach.
As Shakespeare said, “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.” This unease motivates leaders to hire a sounding board, a partner who can offer unbiased advice, hold a mirror up to the executive, and provide some straight talk.
Leadership – Nurture Over Nature?
We really haven’t answered the question whether leadership is more nature or nurture. The executive coaching industry appears to be built on the premise that leaders are made not born – coaching for leadership is possible. That’s about as good of an answer we can get at this time – but as long as the demand for leadership is great, the executive coaching industry will continue to boom!
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