Do I need a leadership coach? The evidence base for why and when to invest in coaching.

By Alice Driscoll

Aug 2, 2021

What can leadership coaching help me achieve and who benefits from it most? The answers to these questions and more...

If you’re reading this blog, the chances are you’re already thinking you might benefit from a leadership coaching programme but maybe you aren’t able to articulate why or determine in now is the right time to invest for maximum gains.  So here, in my attempt to outline who would most benefit from leadership coaching, and what they might reasonably look to gain, I go as always, to the research.

So what does it tell us? 

The research tells us that Leadership Coaching (in a wide variety of formats) can contribute to leadership development in the following ways.

Firstly, coaching supports leaders to bring learning from books or the classroom to life at work in a personal and practical way that turns theory into practice and concepts into plans.  

Secondly, coaching enhances critical leadership behavioural and technical skills. Forming new habits is very difficult and coaching can support the formation of new habits in a number of ways.  It can support the initial learning of new skills.  It can support the development of a personalised plan of action for applying these new skills to real life situations, and critically,  coaching can also provide the accountability for you following through with plans to take action (where it goes horribly wrong for many of us), as well as supporting the identification of barriers to taking action and forming strategies for overcoming them.

Thirdly, coaching also supports the development of self-awareness through the generation of new insights and learning, which might come from reviewing past experiences, noticing patterns, reflecting and responding to models or reviewing feedback.  

A fourth benefit of coaching is the increase in intrinsic motivation that occurs as a result of both the structured goal setting, and the confidential space to speak freely about the challenges you are facing as a leader.  Often it is the only space where you can discuss things that are on your mind as a leader  

A fifth outcome from coaching is an increase in confidence is often cited as a key outcome of leadership coaching, a result of personal leadership strength identification, and the formulation of achievable plans to overcome/manage challenges and limiting weaknesses.

And last but by no means least, the research tells us that coaching improves wellbeing by reducing stress, and building both resilience and hope, both of which are proven to contribute to our overall wellbeing.

Knowing all of this is possible, we can consider the impacts of the results that might be possible as a result of these changes in us as leaders. Further research joins the dots for us and found that as a result of coaching, leaders improved their people management and relationships with others, made better prioritisation decisions, were more engaged and productive, and were better communicators.  

How does coaching measure up when compared to other leadership interventions?

So now we know all the proven benefits of coaching for leadership development, how does coaching measure up when compared to other leadership interventions? Well the latest research indicates that coaching is just as effective as training and feedback and that it is unequivocally a significant tool in leadership development.

There is one other thing we can learn from the research and that's that coaching works best when you come to it ready to put both feet in, and ready to take action. Yes, coaching takes place with a coach,  but the real work happens in the space between sessions. Ultimately It's the actions you take or don't take that will determine the value of the coaching you receive, and the progress you make.

I define leadership coaching as a performance-enhancing investment for leaders who want to maximise their impact.

If this sounds like you and you want to find out more about my 1:1 Leadership Programmes get in touch with me here: