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Guide on the Side or Sage on the Stage: Leadership Coaching

In the context of life, people are continually changing, and the world in which they live is in endless motion. This process is ongoing, and individuals engaging in it at various stages can determine if pursuing a guide on the side or stage on the stage will be a value add for them during their journey in life. Many view the coaching practice as either, but when done well, coaches are guides on the side that help to unpack what is already there in the client, pushing them to achieve their identified goals. Coaching is a practice that can establish the guided structure needed to support the development of a client. Coaches provide the context in which individuals can participate in a facilitated process designed with them in mind. Research suggests that coaches are instrumental in increasing the effectiveness of their clients' practice as this relationship focuses on helping to identify blind spots, strengthen skills, and working relationships, which lead to an increase in performance (Kombarakaran et al., 2008). Coaching is a value add in any organizational environment, specifically in people's development, when leaders and followers engage in coaching conversations and practices. Many individuals and organizations work aggressively toward their goals while ignoring the process of goal attainment. While the process is vital to maximizing opportunities from learning and growing, coaches support it in a way in which the possibility for maximum growth is accessible. Bottom line coaching can help you navigate transitions well.

Leadership Coaching Guiding in the Past and Now

Navigating transitions well are often an afterthought in the personal and professional lives of individuals and organizations. Coaching ensures that this is not a missed opportunity, and as it continues to grow, many are engaging in this practice. This emerging practice of coaching spans the globe with practitioners in a variety of industries. However, the techniques applied in coaching can be traced back as far as Socrates, as this philosopher took an approach that pushed thinking and practice through probing questions surviving over fifteen centuries (Palmer & Whybrow,2019). Coaching continues to adopt this approach as it is practiced between the coach and client. This relationship is instrumental in reinforcing the accountability necessary for growth. The inception of the modern coaching practice was launched in a traditional management environment (Collins, 2009). Nevertheless, coaching has expanded every type of coaching practice for all phases of professional and personal life journeys. There is a growing need for coaches to help individuals navigate change with a guided process that aligns with the client's desired outcome. As this carefully guided approach to leadership development increases, regulating the industry with standards of accountability and governance becomes vital to strengthening practice. The International Coach Federation (ICF) is one of the many global resources for business and personal practicing coaches among the sea of coaching organizations. There continue to be opportunities for coaching practitioners to broaden their understanding through certifications, training, and degree programs in higher education institutions. The practice of coaching is a growing need for leaders interested in reaching their maximum potential. There are foundational elements of coaching from its inception that support the transformational needs of a client (Stoltzfus, 2005). The support structure for change undergirds the exchange in the coaching relationship key to a growth-centered approach of practice. This practice can motivate the client to establish goals that lead to positive changes in their professional and personal life. In these coaching conversations, listening is also valuable for the coach to fully understand the client's needs.

There are no limits to the extent to which a client can achieve their goals. Individuals can come to their solutions, but they are frequently competing with various priorities that make it a challenge to stay on track. In this context, the coach is best positioned to become an accountability partner, informing and, in some cases, maximizing the client's goal attainment. Different coaching approaches can be practiced based on the need of the client. It is up to the coach to determine the most viable approach to practice with the client, along with the timing and frequency of a particular method. With over 38 psychological approaches such as goal-focused, positive psychology, and mindfulness, coaches can support the coaching journey with the coaches (Palmer & Whybrow, 2019). These coaching approaches can be used to navigate complex situations and inform systemic change through a heightened awareness of needed areas for growth with the clients. For example, with goal-focused coaching, the coach can facilitate the process in which clients can identify goals. Together they work to ensure goal alignment and goal pursuit processes that efficiently support the client in navigating behavioral change that yields positive outcomes. This approach in choosing a goal and action planning to mark progress to targets during the coaching conversations can shift the clients' mindset from deliberative to implementational. The deliberative mindset lingers in the contemplative space, while the implementational mindset is locked into moving into the client's action plan. Coaches are instrumental in drawing out this mindset with a client, which can lead to the type of leadership development needed for a coaching journey.

Are you ready for Leadership Coaching?


Kombarakaran, F. A., Yang, J. A., Baker, M. N., & Fernandes, P. B. (2008). Executive coaching: It works! Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 60(1), 78–90.

Palmer, S., & Whybrow, A. (2019). Handbook of Coaching Psychology: A Guide for Practitioners (2nd). Abingdon Oxon: Routledge

Collins, G. R., (2009). Christian Coaching: Helping Others Turn Potential into Reality 2nd ed. NavPress. Colorado Springs, CO.

Stoltzfus, T. (2005). Leadership Coaching: The Disciplines, Skills and Heart of a Coach. Virginia Beach, VA: TLC


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