What is Leadership Coaching?

February 10, 2016 10:49 am

Judy Garland

Yes, it’s lonely and cold at the top – so says Judy Garland. In Leadership Siberia there is little advice to be sought from others and few examples from which to learn. It’s hard. It’s chilly. And you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

Leadership coaching is how I started the adventure called Condor Coaching. Working in organizational development for many years, I saw marvelous managers who had few sources of advice or understanding, who were lonely and frustrated with no feedback loop from peers or subordinates. Sometimes they were great at their jobs – like the petite, young, energetic pediatrician who loved kids and loved medicine but couldn’t understand why her older male subordinates wouldn’t respond to her requests or attend meetings. Sometimes they were introverts – like the engineer who slammed doors shutting out the constant interruptions and demands that were too much for him to take. For both of these people, daily work was both interesting and daunting for them. They didn’t know about motivation or values or communication. They came from the world of “you do what you’re told” just because that’s the way it is and that was good enough.

But is it really?

Every time the door was slammed in that workplace, those of us in cubicles would roll our eyes with a “there he goes again” look. It always gave us a bit of a shock, but we always felt more pity for that manager than anything else. His boss may have reprimanded him during his annual review, or maybe offered him advice on how to manage his anger, but he was never offered coaching on how to stay his frustrations and really lead the people he managed. One can only imagine what his behavior did to the culture, and ultimately the bottom line, of the company.

So what does leadership coaching have to do with anger management?


Leadership coaching is about managing oneself – self-reflection and clarifying values, beliefs and goals. It’s about looking inside the self for answers about motivation. It’s about personal transformation. The work is about the leader, not the manager and not the subordinates. Anger management (classes or reading assignments) only scratches the surface and offers a Band-Aid where true transformation is needed. Coaching respects that people are multi-faceted – in their behavior and in their goals.

Leadership coaching is the longer, more intense and further-reaching solution to leaders’ needs. Coaching drills down to the center of the onion and then guides the client back out, with a short stay at every layer of their personal onion – a quick break where they decide what to keep and what to jettison.

It’s glorious.

It’s a glorious journey to find out what works and what doesn’t, what to keep and what to let slide away on the way to achieving greater potential. Transformation is real (see HBR’s 2005 article by Rooke and Torbert entitled “Seven Transformations of Leadership”). Change is welcome. And everyone breathes easier as the doors no longer slam shut and there is a gentle warmth that pervades everything.

Give it a go. Coaching sample sessions are free and there is great work to be done!

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