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Executive Coaching Vs. Leadership Coaching: Difference Explained

Andrew Langat
December 12, 2023
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"Executive coaching" and "leadership coaching" are often wrongly used interchangeably, and assumptions can be made that they imply the same thing. This can be confusing, especially for leaders looking for the right professional development program.

Identifying the difference — and which to use —is essential to helping learners make an informed decision to become influential leaders.

So, what makes one different from the other? What aspects make them unique?

Which can you opt for to improve your management skills?

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What is Executive Coaching?

Executive Coaching is a leadership development plan aimed at C-suite executives to make them better leaders. Executive coaching and leadership development is not a sprint and often lasts over six months. Often, the more investment made in this relationship, the easier it becomes to realize meaningful change for individuals and organizations.

Organizations can hire an executive coach to engage with the leaders collaboratively to assess their circumstances, strengths, and weaknesses. After this, a development program can be implemented for development opportunities.

Moreover, individuals can hire leadership coaches to improve their skills and fine-tune them to become better leaders. Executive coaches can help individuals overcome mental barriers, especially regarding decision-making.

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What is Leadership Coaching?

Effective leadership requires conscious effort in developing an individual's talents and competencies through coaching. By doing so, they can become more competent and efficient team leaders.

Leadership coaching helps managers improve their skills. It's suitable for all levels of an organization, including executives. Coaching focuses on effective communication strategies for personal and professional growth.

Unlike executive coaching, leadership coaching focuses on individuals who want to develop leadership skills. The target audience is any leader within the ranks of a company or organization. A leadership coach can double down as executive coaches, depending on who they are training.

A leadership Coach provides their expertise when:

  • Organizations want them to address leadership gaps within their team.
  • A Leader takes up new responsibilities or occupies a new leadership position.
  • A leader wants to learn new skills and improve their leadership capabilities.
  • A leader wants to enhance their core strengths and identify blind spots that may affect the organizational success.

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Executive Coaching Vs. Leadership Coaching: Key Differences

While "executive coaching" and "leadership coaching" empower leaders, they differ in focus and target audience. Executive coaching delves deeper, targeting C-suite executives and high-potential individuals with strategic decision-making and visionary leadership development.

On the other hand, Leadership coaching is broader in scope. It aims to enhance the skills of leaders at all levels, including managers and supervisors, focusing on team management and individual competency development.

Difference between Executive coaching and Leadership coaching

At first glance, executive and leadership coaching sound the same, but some differences exist.

For some context, we will review some key aspects:

1. Target Audience.

Executive Coaching is a professional development plan specifically aimed at senior leaders such as CEOs, CFOs, COOs, and other C-suite executives who want to refine their leadership skills in strategic thinking, executive presence, and change management.

Leadership coaching, on the other hand, assists individuals in leadership positions in developing their leadership skills, including decision-making, strategic thinking, conflict resolution, and improving self-awareness. This can include managers and supervisors, high-potential employees, leaders in transitions, and leaders in Nonprofit organizations.

2. Focus & Scope

Executive coaching can be valuable for navigating complex situations involving stakeholders and competing company interests. It can provide guidance and support to help executives effectively communicate, negotiate, and make decisions that align with their organization's goals and values, for example, in situations such as mergers and acquisitions and managing investor relations.

On the other hand, leadership coaching can assist leaders in enhancing critical leadership skills such as improving communication skills or improving effective team dynamics.

3. Goals & Outcomes

Executive coaching aims to help executive Overcome behaviors that limit personal or organizational success and increase their skills and confidence to handle complex and dynamic business environments. For example, an executive coach works with a Chief Marketing officer(CMO) to learn how to enhance brand awareness and increase conversion.

Leadership coaching, on the other hand, empowers individuals to develop greater self-awareness, have greater emotional intelligence, be more inclusive, and adapt best practices to help them thrive in their leadership roles.

4. Role in a Workplace.

Executive coaching aims to assist with managing large organizations, boards, and shareholder relationships. It can offer guidance, support, and skill development to executives responsible for making important decisions that impact the organization's success.

Working with an executive coach can improve their leadership skills, communication abilities, and decision-making processes. This, in turn, can help enhance the organization's overall performance and success.

Leadership coaching develops skills to navigate evolving demographics, flat organizations, emphasis on soft skills, and a widening leadership talent pool.

5. Duration and Intensity

Executive Coaching: Given the complex challenges senior executives face, executive coaching engagements may be more intensive and longer, often spanning several months or even years.

Leadership Coaching: Leadership coaching engagements are often shorter and more focused, lasting from a few months to a year. They tend to be more task-specific and goal-oriented.

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What are the objectives of Executive Coaching?

Executive Coaching objectives vary depending on the Organization's objectives or the Individual taking up professional coaching. Leaders at the executive level have different expectations compared to mid-level managers; their coaching processes vary.

Executive Coaching has some main objectives:

Developing Self-awareness.

This affects an individual more. Personal development involves identifying one's strengths and weaknesses, and if the objective is to become an effective leader, knowing oneself is the first step.

An executive coach can help unlock mental barriers affecting an individual's ability to make decisions, manage large-scale operations, make meaningful changes, and contribute to team development.

Building Skills.

Organizational goals vary nowadays, especially in today's dynamic business environment. So, building skills is necessary even for senior leaders.

Team dynamics change as more and more generations penetrate the job markets. Therefore, with the help of an executive coach, a leader can get deeper insights into new aspects that can help them communicate effectively, navigate complex challenges, and acquire soft skills that help them make strategic decisions.

For more insights, try this: Executive Goals and Objectives.

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What are the Goals of Leadership Coaching?

The leadership coaching process needs to have an end goal and objective. Coaching strategies brought about by leadership coaches can help organizations create a culture of continued success.

Here are some goals:

1. Succession Planning.

Every company always wants to secure its future, and eyeing long-term success is what aspirations are for, and succession planning can ensure that.

With the leadership coaching process, a leadership development program can be implemented to train and groom future leaders to ensure a smooth transition to leadership positions and maintain the company's legacy.

2. Personal Development.

The development of personal growth and leadership go hand in hand. To ensure continuous improvement, career coaching goals must strive to deepen emotional intelligence, improve self-awareness, and enhance adaptability.

3. Effective Communication.

Communication is one of the most important pillars of success, and having an organizational culture built on communication can guarantee success.

A Leadership coach will help aspiring leaders incorporate communication into their leadership style, and the communication skills they gain can be used to motivate team members to achieve greater heights.

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How unique are these Coaching styles?

You will notice some similarities when you compare the skills taught in an executive coaching program to those in a leadership coaching program. Some examples of these similar skills include communication, strategic thinking, and self-awareness.

A skilled executive must lead the people whom they manage within the organization. Therefore, regarding skill types, an executive coach and a leadership coach might discuss the same skill set.

Executive and business coaching differ in their approach towards the individuals they train. Executive coaches typically work with individuals already at the top of their game and may have less business knowledge than the executives they coach.

On the other hand, business coaches work with individuals seeking to grow their businesses and may need assistance with various aspects of running a business.

Inspiring, isn’t it ? Want to learn more about connecting self-awareness to professional development? Get in touch today.

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To Sum Up: Why You Should Try Highrise Coaching Services

Executive and leadership coaches play a crucial role in developing influential leaders, and they pass on skills they possess through empowerment and training not only to senior leaders but also to middle managers or pretty much everyone aspiring for a leadership role.

At Highrise, we offer leadership development and coaching that embraces the best coaching methodologies geared toward making meaningful changes that will result in career advancement.

Join our program today and face the future with confidence.

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Andrew Langat
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Andrew Langat is an experienced content specialist in Leadership, Productivity, Education, Fintech, and Research. He is an avid reader and loves swimming as a hobby. He believes that quality content should be actionable and helpful.