Executive and leadership coaching

The difference between an Executive and a Leadership Coach

As a coach, I am often asked, ‘What’s the difference between Executive Coaching and Leadership Coaching?’ We could broaden the question to include life Coaching, Business Coaching, Wellness Coaching, and any other ‘Something’ Coaching.


What does ‘Coaching’ mean?

Let’s start with the beginning. ICF (International Coach Federation) defines coaching as ‘partnering with coachee(s) in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential’.


What are the ICF credentials?

All ICF credential coaches adhere to the elements and principles of ethical conduct: to be competent and integrate ICF Core Competencies effectively in their work. The ICF offers the only globally recognised independent credentialing programme and there are currently over 20,000 ICF credited coaches worldwide in more than 60 countries.

The three credentials are:

Associate Certified Coach (ACC)

Professional Certified Coach (PCC)

Master Certified Coach (MCC)

To claim each credential, a coach must have a minimum number of hours of coaching experience (ACC = at least 100 hours, PCC = at least 500 hours, MCC = at least 2500 hours). The Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA) is the same for all three credentials and is a three-hour online examination with scenarios using multiple choice. Coaches then decide to specialise in their niche depending on their qualification, background, experience, training. If you want heart surgery, you go to a specialist. It is the same for coaching.


What’s my story?

So let’s take my own example: I am ACC and on my way to be PCC soon. I have 20+ years experience in the public sector. I have been a secondary Headteacher twice, managing £multi-million budgets. I am bilingual (French/English).

I have coached teams in all the schools where I have worked (as an educator around the world) and I have also coached students, so this equates to about 25,000 students and 5,000 educators (teachers and non teachers). I have led several workshops in the UK and around the world where I have influenced another 1000 educators.

Last year, I qualified as an Associate CIPD in HR, specialising in talent management, retention, staff engagement and the impact of coaching on the organisational performance. I have used the skills and knowledge I acquired to now work with teams in the public sector and in financial services as an Executive and Leadership Coach. Coaching has been a core part of how I led my teams for 20 years.

This year, I have published over 45 blogs/vlogs online, all practical and ‘how to’ advice that relate to my clients’ questions. How do I know what they are thinking? Well, I have been there myself by experiencing the same fears, issues, concerns or worries and I am listening to my current clients. I am still a teacher (and forever will be) so I educate my readers as well; I help them solve their problems. I have posted high quality content on Twitter and on Linkedin and have daily conversations with my followers. My latest blog How to have a difficult conversation is ranked fifth in Google Search.

I host a Twitter Chat #ManagingTeams on Wednesdays between 9pm and 10pm (BST) to offer Leaders another layer of support with a conversation made of 7 questions and where people from all over the world are welcome to contribute.

I am launching my first online webinar on 10th September between 1.30pm and 2.30pm (BST) on ‘How to have a difficult conversation’. This is as a direct result of many conversations with my clients. If you want to register, please click on this link.

Behind someone’s name, behind their title and behind the acronyms that follow their name, there is a story. I am sharing my story because people might think that it is an overnight success. The truth is that most overnight successes are years in the making. The secret behind my success has been my determination to make a difference no matter what has been in my way, it has been my ambition, my resilience. I have always felt a sense of responsibility and a need to leave a legacy.

I am good at what I do and I love what I do. I totally accept that some clients might not want to work with me because I do not quite match what they are looking for. There are many other coaches out there with equally exciting and impressive stories, and I invite you to look them up too or I am happy to advise. Just to name a few:


Let?s have a chemistry conversation

This is why a chemistry conversation is key between a future coachee (yourself) and a coach so that you can agree that you can work together.

Each coaching engagement begins with a ‘chemistry conversation’. This is the time where the potential client and coach have a conversation to determine and discuss several things which may include:

  • What the client is looking for in the coaching relationship
  • What the coaching relationship is and isn’t
  • The style of the coach and how that resonates with the client
  • Rules of engagement and protocol (Coaching is confidential and the priority is the client, no one else!)
  • The coach’s credentials relative to the client’s needs
  • Timing and logistics of the coaching
  • How success for coaching will be measured
  • Agreement to move forward

Different coaches have different stories and one might appeal to you more than the other ones. Ultimately, my clients are paying for an outcome and for my experience and it would be the same if they chose a different coach. If I find that a client is not a good match for my skills, then I will always be honest and refer them to another coach.

What does the 2016 ICF Coaching study show?

In the 2016 ICF Coaching Study, two in three practitioners said they coach managers, followed by executives, business owners/entrepreneurs, personal clients, team leaders, staff members and miscellaneous others. On average, respondents identified with one of three positions:


The difference between an Executive and a Leadership Coach 1


The analysis between 2011 and 2015 shows that the category where the demand has grown is Executive Coaching:


The difference between an Executive and a Leadership Coach 3


So what is an Executive Coach?

If you look at the above infographic, executives are CEOs and CFOs who interact in a demanding environment leading people in today?s complex, competitive global marketplace. Being offered an Executive Coach is often seen as a perk in most jobs; it?s a sign that an organization is investing in a leaders’ success.


What is a Leadership Coach?

Again if you look at the above infographic, managers and team leaders belong to the ?leadership? level of the organization so tend to be coached by a Leadership Coach.


Why do Executives need Executive Coaching?

  • They have to sustain performance in a VUCA world
  • Being an Executive is a lonely place so they need support and motivation
  • They need challenge to support momentum
  • They might be ‘stuck’ and can’t think of what else to do in order to move the organization forward
  • They are ready to do something different but are not sure what that ‘something’ is


Why do managers/leaders need Leadership Coaching?

According to Diane E. Lewis in ‘Companies are hiring coaches to teach executives how to sharpen management skills and communicate effectively’ (2002), respondents cite the following reasons:

  • To develop the leadership skills of’high-potential individuals (86%)
  • To correct behavioural problems at the management level (70%)
  • To improve the odds that newly promoted managers would be successful (64%)
  • To develop management and leadership skills among their technical people (59%)
  • To help leaders resolve interpersonal conflicts among employees (59%)

Marshall Goldsmith, perhaps the best-known Executive Coach in the USA, wrote a book called What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.’I encourage you to read it as it talks about negative perceptions that can hold any Executive back. One should never make any assumptions about promotion and therefore a Leadership or Executive Coach can make all the difference for you.


This blog on’What is the difference between an Executive and a Leadership Coach’gives you an opportunity to think about if you are a coach or a potential client.?Thank you as ever for stopping by. What do you think of what you’ve read? I hope it?s helpful if you are thinking of looking for an Executive and Leadership Coach who does virtual coaching. Feel free to comment below or Tweet me?@NadinePowrie with any comments or email me at?npowrie@nadinepowrie.com.

It’s good to talk. I’ve just opened up new offers for virtual coaching. This is in response to my current clients’ feedback. You may also be interested in my Masterclasses.





  1. I?m glad you explained the main difference between executive and leadership coaching is that the latter is for members of the organization who are managers and team leaders. I?ve been wanting to invest in some kind of coaching to help me gain the skills to further my career and become more respected. Thanks for discussing the difference between executive and leadership coaching and helping me feel prepared to choose the right program for me

  2. I’m glad you explained the main difference between executive and leadership coaching is that the latter is for members of the organization who are managers and team leaders. I’ve been wanting to invest in some kind of coaching to help me gain the skills to further my career and become more respected. Thanks for discussing the difference between executive and leadership coaching and helping me feel prepared to choose the right program for me!

    • I am glad I was able to clarify the difference for you. Let me know if you have any further questions or if I can help you in any way. What sort of coaching are you interested in?

  3. It’s good to know more about executive leadership coaching and all of this. I like how you defined coaching, and how it’s inspiring someone to maximize their potential. Knowing that, I think all executives and managers should get some coaching. Businesses would do a lot better with that, I think.

    • The best organisations invest in Executive and Leadership Coaching for their leaders and their managers. It works. ICF has done a lot of research on the impact of coaching on team and individual performance. Let me know if I can help.

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