Coaching leaders is a privilege and something that I am passionate about. I believe that business leaders are the linchpin to the minds and hearts of their employees and one of the most important positions in our society. All of the great change that the world experiences is caused by great leadership and much of the pain and suffering is the result of poor leadership.
Leadership coaching is something that has become almost a requirement for senior executives to succeed in the last few decades and for good reason. There may be natural-born leaders, but I’ve never seen one. I have, however, worked with a lot of intelligent, curious leaders who wanted to get better—and through our work together, they have!
Coaching senior leaders is not a job for those who may be well-meaning but are inexperienced as senior leaders themselves or in coaching top executives. You need someone who is supportive but will not coddle you. You need a coach who will always speak the truth. You need someone who has deep experience as a leader and can help you avoid the land minds in your path.
I explained my perspective on leadership coaching in my book, “Never Kick a Cow Chip on a Hot Day—Real Lessons for Real CEOs and Those Who Want to Be” so would like to share just a bit of that with you here.
There isn’t a handbook to manufacture great leaders.
There is no mathematical equation or algorithm that predicts leadership success. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t tried and true qualities that strong leaders possess. You can get lucky as a leader. Things can fall your way. But over time, if you lack strong leadership qualities, the truth will eventually surface. While leadership is arguably the most important ingredient for success, there are other ingredients that impact the results of a business.
Timing is important in business. Hit a market on the upswing and you may be very successful, even if you have significant weaknesses in your personal life or business capabilities. You might have been born on third base, thinking you hit a triple, or you might feel like the luckiest person on the planet, but timing (even luck!) can play a big role in success.
Strategy is important in business. Identify how you will distinguish yourself from the competition and you may be very successful. Truthfully, I don’t see well crafted and articulated strategy come from weak leaders very often, but I do have examples of the mercurial, self-absorbed leader who comes up with a great idea that can win the battle—though not usually the war.
Having the right team is important in business. Unless you are an entrepreneur with a small company who relies primarily on your own bag of tricks, you won’t optimize the potential of your business unless you have a strong team. As Jim Collins said, you must have the right people on the bus. If you have a strong team around you, you might succeed for a short while with poor leadership capabilities, but talented people like to work for talented leaders, so your situation is tenuous at best.
While these other factors are worth noting, the thread that ties timing, strategy and teams together is leadership. Whether you are talking about business, a church, the military or your local elementary school, leadership really matters. You can look to your own experience in those institutions and see what a difference a talented leader makes.
I have been fortunate to work with some great leaders, and over the years have identified that they all had some common capabilities. While they all had aptitude for business and were intelligent, they all learned these common capabilities somewhere in their career. Leadership coaching is about exploring those capabilities, setting objectives, choosing options and working your plan. A good leadership coach will stand shoulder to shoulder with you as you work that plan. A good leadership coach has been in your shoes and understands the challenges that you are facing.
Managing is about taming complexity and leading is about driving change. Strong leaders must know how to do both.
If you are interested in working with a high-level coach and becoming the brilliantly successful leader you want to be, let’s have a conversation!