Finding a Leadership Coach: The Complete Executive’s Guide

A business executive shakes hands with her leadership coach.

The right guidance can help people managers bring out the best in themselves and their employees

Leadership coaching has existed in some form or other for decades, but the modern workplace brings with it challenges that traditional development methods weren’t necessarily designed to address. Many companies have found themselves looking for leadership coaches in order to help executive and management teams reach their goals and bring about meaningful results.

The right leadership coach can help make your employees more effective, but different teams will have different needs, and executives need to be mindful of that — there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. To make the process easier, we’ve rounded up a comprehensive guide to leadership coaching designed to point executives in the right direction.

What is a leadership coach?

A leadership coach partners with a leader to facilitate their development through a process that leverages, explores, and experiments with the mindsets, behaviors, and capabilities to help them expand and enhance their effectiveness and impact as a leader of others and within their organization.

Simply put, a leadership coach helps employees, typically in management positions, hone their skills while aligning with the company’s culture, values, and business objectives. It sounds easy enough, but successful leadership coaching is a complex process rooted in behavioral science — a far cry from the generic training videos of yore. And while being a leadership coach is often compared to being a mentor, it’s a much more holistic approach, as opposed to just pairing a more experienced manager with a newer one.

Even though coaching is a proven leadership development tool, some executives are hesitant to make the investment. To learn more about the value of leadership coaching, particularly during turbulent and disruptive times, watch our free webinar.

Types of leadership coaching

A leadership coach may conduct sessions in one-on-one or group settings, so it’s up to you to find the best option for your company (or partner with a platform that can help you build a program designed to address your organization’s needs). 

Here are a few of the most common types of leadership coaching styles:

  • One-on-one leadership coaching: Leadership coaching is a highly personalized personal and professional development experience using an action-oriented approach where a leader works in partnership with a coach to increase their self-awareness and uncover insights that can lead to lasting behavior and mindset shifts, hone their leadership style and capabilities, and expand their impact. 
  • Group coaching: Group coaching is an immersive, personalized vertical development experience, in partnership with a coach and peers who are at similar levels in the organization and share similar developmental needs and interests, that expands a leader’s capabilities, capacities, and impact.


For more on modern leadership coaching and how it differs from traditional methods, read the full blog post: What Is Leadership Coaching?

What qualities should one look for in a leadership coach?

In order for leadership coaches to bring out the best in your management teams, they need to have the right set of capabilities. In addition to being committed and empathetic, the right leadership coach should have these critical abilities:

  • Communication: Managers and executives need to be able to effectively communicate with their teams, so you should expect a leadership coach to be able to do the same. Look for a coach well-versed in the three Cs: clarity, conciseness, and consistency.
  • Adaptability: You may have specific long-term plans for your business, but the market always has other ideas. The right leadership coach will be able to roll with the punches, adapting to meet new goals and helping managers do the same.
  • Discretion: Since leadership coaches generally have access to proprietary or confidential company information, you need to be able to trust them not to use this information irresponsibly. You’ll want a coach whose commitments to confidentiality are guaranteed.
  • Conflict resolution: One of the most difficult capabilities to develop, particularly for newer managers, is how to resolve conflicts within their teams fairly and amicably. Leadership coaches can help managers develop conflict-resolution capabilities by mediating difficult situations and conveying the value of leadership.
  • Time management: Leadership programs are typically limited to a predetermined amount of time, and your leadership coach needs to be able to make the most of that time by adhering to a schedule that keeps the program on track — all while remaining flexible when changes occur, of course.


What other qualities should executives look for in a leadership coach? Get more details here: 10 Skills to Look For in Your Leadership Coach.

How does a leadership coach benefit remote employees?

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies switched to a remote or hybrid model, and they appear to be here to stay. That shouldn’t discourage your efforts to help your management teams develop their capabilities, however; a leadership coach doesn’t need to be in the same room as your employees in order to be effective. In fact, because most workers in America prefer the work-from-home model, employing a virtual leadership coach can help keep everyone happy while still being just as effective as in-person coaching, if not more so.

If your workplace has also put a remote or hybrid model into effect, you’ll want to find a leadership coach with experience in fostering strong online relationships. Here are some of the ways online coaching benefits employees:

  • Encouraging accountability: Rather than force accountability with tools like keyloggers — and inevitably generate resentment — leadership coaching can help leaders set expectations and communicate follow-up processes to allow employees to meet deadlines while delivering high-quality work.
  • Improving retention: Employees who feel engaged and inspired stick around for the long haul. Leadership coaches can help managers ensure their direct reports’ efforts are acknowledged and appreciated, helping the off-site staff feel seen.
  • Mastering hybrid management: Managing remote employees is, in itself, a skill that needs to be developed. Leadership coaching can guide managers and help them more effectively run remote and hybrid teams while meeting the unique needs of different employees.
  • Developing online communication skills: Is that smiley-face emoji a good sign or a bad omen? Let’s be honest — sometimes email or Slack conversations lack the subtle cues of in-person communication. Online leadership coaches help managers communicate effectively whether in the office or working remotely, which helps avoid miscommunication and misunderstandings.
  • Fostering positive company culture: Can a company culture even exist if everyone’s not in the same building? Of course! Your team’s online presence is an extension of your company values, and online leadership coaches help develop that culture without sacrificing productivity.


For more ways that online leadership coaching helps managers lead remote teams with confidence, read the full article.

Empowering corporate leaders through coaching

Finding the right leadership coach to match your team’s specific needs isn’t a simple task, but you don’t have to go it alone. Sounding Board’s proven leadership coaching solutions help leaders meet their full potential, while our leadership development software allows executives to scale and measure results. If you’re ready to learn more about how Sounding Board can help improve productivity and make your managers even better, book a demo today!

See Us in Action

See how Sounding Board is revolutionizing leadership development through its coaching platform.

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