Home Leadership Authentic Leadership Growth in Executive Coaching Happens in Three Stages

Authentic Leadership Growth in Executive Coaching Happens in Three Stages

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Drew always seemed to be looking around the corner for what was next. At 60, Drew had reached the top ranks of his corporation, reporting directly to the Chief Executive Officer and frequently interacting with the Board of Directors. Drew rose through his organization’s ranks on the strength of his technical abilities, and the company rewarded him handsomely. Throughout his career, Drew demonstrated and valued excellence; he didn’t suffer fools easily. As Drew reflected on his organization and position, he recognized that he had few role models for leadership; under stress, which seemed increasingly frequent, Drew was not an effective collaborator, particularly among new and unfamiliar faces. After a few egregious blow-ups with talented associates, Drew knew that he had to do better, or he would spend the next years constantly apologizing to others or finding himself outside of the organization.

As the pioneering Swiss psychoanalyst observed, “you are what you do, not what you say you do,” and “we cannot change anything unless we accept it.” An executive who approaches coaching from a developmental perspective arrives at the coaching engagement with enthusiasm, excitement, and some mix of dread. Many have worked so long at perfecting their ambitions to rise that meaningful change is often difficult. And the many challenges executives encounter are resistant to improvement because their behaviors have successfully served their ego and professional pursuits.

Certain events contribute to an executive’s need for coaching. Among those events are significant transitions (e.g., becoming a manager of managers), poor emotional intelligence, failure to collaborate (e.g., “I’m the most competent person in the room), and underdeveloped self-awareness. Many of these can come in combination, and the coach and client must unbundle and unpack the desire to change to reach a desirable outcome.  This article highlights the three forces ­­–– catalyzing, capitalizing, and conditioning ­­­­–– that successful coaches employ to help an executive leader achieve greater congruency between thought and action.


In this stage, the coach and client work to understand and develop a clear, deep, and significant assessment of the forces driving and restraining personal change, growth, and development. Without a trustworthy partner capable of openness and confidentiality, the reinforcing systems for status quo behavior overpower the desire to change. The authentic coach recognizes that the request for help is just one of several steps in catalyzing desire and visualizing successful outcomes. This stage commits the client to a personally meaningful change, not one arising from an organizational mandate. The coach commits in a singular way to the client.

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