As the coaching industry evolves, many coaches seek to specialize in niches that align with their passion while satisfying a growing market need. A niche that’s increasingly in demand is leadership coaching. Some coaches specialize in leadership coaching as their niche for good reasons. Leadership coaching focuses on helping professionals make better decisions, enhance their soft skills, and ultimately lead teams more effectively.
If you’re a relatively new coach exploring avenues to expand your skills and offerings, this article is your guide to incorporating leadership coaching into your practice.
What Does a Good Leadership Coach Do?
A good leadership coach is a mirror, mentor, and motivator in a leader’s journey. They engage in transformational dialogues to elevate a leader’s thought processes, behavioral patterns, and decision-making skills. Here are a few of the roles and responsibilities of a leadership coach.
1. Identify clients’ leadership style.
One of the first tasks of a leadership coach is to help their clients identify their leadership style. Recognizing their style helps leaders understand their strengths and weaknesses, allowing them to lead more effectively. (See the list below for eight common styles.)
2. Assist clients in navigating workplace dynamics.
A good leadership coach understands that office politics are not a game but a reality that can significantly impact a leader’s effectiveness. They guide their clients in navigating these murky waters, from building alliances to diffusing tensions, allowing them to feel empowered to lead in any setting.
3. Aid in client goal-setting.
Coaches assist their clients in setting ambitious and achievable goals. These goals range from personal milestones like enhancing communication skills to organizational objectives like increasing team productivity. A leadership coach is an accountability partner who encourages clients to meet their goals.
4. Build client confidence.
Self-assurance is a crucial asset for any leader. A good leadership coach employs various techniques, from affirmations to role-playing exercises, to bolster their clients’ confidence. The aim is to ensure the leader is well-equipped to tackle challenges head-on and inspire their team.
5. Provide actionable feedback to leaders.
Feedback is a two-way street in leadership coaching. The coach provides constructive criticism that is specific, timely, and actionable, allowing the leader to improve continually. They also teach leaders how to give and receive feedback within their organizations.
6.Help clients understand the implications and influence of their decisions.
Leadership coaches help clients explore the consequences of their actions to provide a complete understanding of their impact on the team and the organization. They help leaders understand that their actions resonate far beyond the confines of their office, helping them to adopt practices that are both ethical and beneficial to the organization.
8 Leadership Styles That Will Define Your Clients
1. Autocratic Leadership
An autocratic leader sees the decision-making process as a solo mission. They are confident and assertive but often avoid soliciting advice or feedback from team members. This approach leaves little room for collaboration.
This leadership style is particularly effective in high-stakes, time-sensitive scenarios requiring rapid decisions and immediate action. For example, a business coach working with a start-up CEO might advise adopting an autocratic style temporarily to push through the hectic launch phase.
Another scenario could be in crisis management, where a business coach would recommend this style for leaders who must make rapid decisions to navigate the company out of immediate financial or reputational risk.
2. Democratic Leadership
Democratic leaders prioritize the input and opinions of their team members. These leaders often make final decisions only after consulting with their team and incorporating feedback to arrive at a collective solution. This collaborative approach boosts morale and leads to more innovative problem-solving.
For educational coaches working with administrators, focusing on democratic leadership skills will help garner support from teachers, parents, and students. This approach invites different perspectives into the decision-making process, making it more holistic and rooted in the actual needs and conditions of the school community.
3. Transformational Leadership
Transformational leadership is often the go-to style for business coaches specializing in organizational change or growth strategies. These coaches are experienced at helping CEOs, managers, or entire teams align with a shared vision that sparks positive change.
The transformational business coach aids in identifying the potential within the organization and unlocking it, driving both individuals and the company toward unparalleled success. This style is incredibly effective in high-stakes, dynamic sectors where adaptability and forward-thinking are crucial.
4. Transactional Leadership
Transactional leadership best suits performance coaches in sales or athletic training. These coaches often focus short-term goals and specific key performance indicators (KPIs) to drive improvement.
For example, a sales coach could encourage their clients to explore incentives to motivate a team to meet quarterly sales targets. Through a well-defined system of rewards for achieving goals and penalties for falling short, coaches aid clients in creating an environment where performance is continuously measured and adjusted.
5. Laissez-Faire Leadership
In a Laissez-Faire leadership environment, the coaching client typically oversees teams of experts or C-suite leaders. The coaching focus here isn’t on micromanaging each decision or action but on sharpening the client’s skills in strategy, delegation, and empowering their teams. Clients learn to drive productivity and promote innovation without stifling their team’s creativity and autonomy.
6. Servant Leadership
Servant leadership prioritizes the executive and team’s overall well-being and development. The coach provides tools and strategies to help the executive go beyond just meeting KPIs or achieving short-term business objectives. The goal is to nurture a culture rooted in trust, empathy, and mutual respect within the organization.
A coach in this landscape recommends empathetic communication techniques, encourages team development initiatives, or provides resources for self and team improvement.
7. Situational Leadership
The situational leadership style benefits corporate clients who navigate rapidly changing environments, such as startups or crisis management scenarios. With a situational leadership approach, the coach guides the executive in adapting their leadership style to meet the specific needs of their team, the urgency of the task, and the overall company goals.
The key focus here is flexibility — knowing when to direct, when to coach, when to support, and when to delegate. This adaptive model helps executives become agile leaders, capable of adjusting their strategies and tactics to suit the ever-changing dynamics of the business landscape.
8. Charismatic Leadership
Charismatic leadership is ideal for coaching clients in industries where inspiring and rallying a team is crucial, such as startups or advocacy groups. The coach helps these leaders harness their natural charisma to motivate their teams effectively without slipping into manipulation or ego-driven leadership. They focus on enhancing the leader’s emotional intelligence and communication skills to use their charisma ethically and sustainably.
The goal is to equip the executive with the ability to inspire genuine commitment and excellent performance, driving individual and collective success.
3 Impactful Leadership Coaching Exercises
Role-playing exercises help clients step out of their comfort zones and simulate real-world scenarios where they might have to apply their leadership skills. This strategy is a safe and educational ‘sandbox’ where mistakes are encouraged for the sake of learning.
How to Use It
- Identify a challenging situation your client will likely face, such as dealing with a difficult team member or managing a tight deadline.
- Then, act out the roles with your client, with each of you taking turns playing the leader and the subordinate or client.
- Provide immediate, constructive feedback after each role-play session.
- Discuss what went well and what could be improved, then repeat the process to reinforce good habits and correct mistakes.
2. Fishbone Diagram
The Fishbone Diagram method is a structured framework for analytical thinking and problem-solving. It aims at the root causes to offer more sustainable resolutions than surface-level fixes. The action plan step instills a sense of ownership and accountability to equip your client to resolve conflicts effectively. It also opens lines of communication when used within teams and benefits the overall team dynamics.
How to Use It
- Identify an issue causing conflict for your client. Fill it in as the head/effect of the diagram.
- Brainstorm categories of causes for the negative effect.
- Then identify the smaller specific root causes.
- Develop an action plan to target the critical root causes.
3. Eisenhower Box
The Eisenhower Box is a powerful tool that aids leaders in making better decisions about time and task management. By categorizing tasks into four quadrants, the tool helps prioritize activities to maximize efficiency and impact. This is particularly beneficial for busy leaders who face the challenge of balancing short-term demands with long-term goals, allowing them to delegate tasks wisely and focus on what truly matters.
How to Use It
- Help your client identify time-wasters and distractions that may be affecting their productivity.
- Introduce time management techniques like the Eisenhower Box, which helps prioritize tasks.
- Role-play scenarios where the client has to delegate tasks to team members based on urgency and importance.
Leadership Coaching Reference Sheet
Download this free PDF for an easy cheat sheet of the three exercises and eight leadership styles.