Almost every executive coaching issue can be drilled down to one fundamental basic; leadership. Every executive must struggle at one time or another with the issue of leadership.
Many executives rise to their positions of power because of commanding leadership skills, but all too often many leaders climb the rungs of the corporate ladder because of who they know, political favors or technical expertise. Unfortunately, these qualifications do not adequately prepare many executives for the daily challenges of leadership. Contrary to common belief, leadership is not an innate skill once one assumes an executive position. Neither is true leadership solely the power to boss or direct others. However, most people believe that those who boss and direct others are leaders by virtue of their position. So then, are executives leaders? Perhaps.
Some have said, “I can’t tell you what leadership is but I definitely know it when I see it.” What then is it that people see in leaders that is so difficult to define or describe? Is it charisma, character, strength, or decision making abilities? Yes, all of these are important characteristics of effective executive leaders, but the defining attributes that best encompass all of the above plus those hard-to-put-your finger on qualities is the ability to influence and inspire others. It’s that simple and it’s that difficult.
Webster’s says influence is “the act or power of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command.” It follows then that if influence is the defining characteristic of a leader and influence doesn’t require force or coercion, two important conclusions can be made;
Therefore true leadership is not appointed or inherited in an executive position; leadership is earned by learning how to inspire and influence others.
How then can executive coaching help the client develop leadership skills during the coaching sessions? What skills, qualities and insights must the executive coach help the client discover and attain so the executive can influence others and become a truly inspiring leader?
The first step the executive coach must take is to discover the fundamental base of values or beliefs that guide the client’s actions, as they form the foundation from which the executive builds his/her actions, relationships and future with subordinates, co-workers, and superiors. The values and beliefs are as integral to the executive as a seed is to a plant. The seed is where the DNA is stored and determines what the plant will be in the future and so too, the values and beliefs of the executive determine the future of the executive.
The task of the executive coach is to discover, examine, review and explore the values of the executive in order to fully determine, understand and anticipate future actions the executive will take. Important questions that executive coaching can ask include;
The relationships that the executive builds are what determine his/her ability to influence, inspire and lead. And in building relationships the client’s sphere of influence is unlimited, as one can influence and inspire everyone.
Once the executive coach has worked with the executive on his/her values and beliefs, the issues of both management and leadership become easier to navigate because a clear direction has been established. Issues of relationships become clearer, direction for individuals, departments and the organization becomes more apparent. No matter what the issue, though the resolution may not be easy, it will be simpler to sort through if the executive coach began the coaching relationship with a foundation of values and beliefs.
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