What Is Leadership (Development) Coaching?

Leading is about inspiring others to follow. Leadership development is like an umbrella encompassing many areas, such as creating a shared vision; developing and empowering people; thinking systemically, strategically and globally; building partnerships; refining political savvy; anticipating opportunities and leading change; enhancing skills to manage challenging conversations; handling difficult personalities, interpersonal tensions and conflict snafus; being attune to personal and professional impact; fostering key emotional intelligence competencies, to mention a few areas.

A leadership coach is a certified coach who has additional training in the area of leadership development. Leadership Enhancement and Development (LEAD) coaches engage in an individualized process that cultivates and builds a leader’s tapped and untapped potential to achieve short- and long-term goals for them self, team and the organization.

Many newly arrived and seasoned professionals in leadership roles can have any of the following mindsets:

  • –  “I have taught myself how to lead through the school of hard knocks.”
  • –  “Everything that I am is the result of hard work, sleepless nights, and thinking through tough issues, which has resulted in my success.”
  • –  “I had a great mentor who gave me a solid foundation of knowledge around aspects of leading which I use to this day.”

These mindsets have allowed many leaders to make productive strides in their group or team/organization as a leader. They illustrate how each person learns in multiple ways in leading. All is good!

There are also times when fine tuning is needed like a classical violin or for a Jaguar XF after 120,000 miles. This is when and where leadership refinement (development) coaching steps in and supports, cultivates and refines the leader’s strengths, capabilities and capacity. Results-oriented LEAD coaches find it essential to collaborate with leaders to cultivate awareness and astuteness in

  • –  a leader’s personal and professional growth;
  • –  the growth and direction of team members and or others; and
  • –  the wider world of the leader’s sphere of influence to understand impact and context.

Every leader needs to cultivate this triad of awareness, in abundance and in the proper balance, because a failure to focus inward leaves you rudderless, a failure to focus on others renders you clueless, and a failure to focus outward may leave you blindsided.

— From “The Focused Leader” by Daniel Goleman, December 2013 HBR Issues

Each leader brings a unique DNA to formulating beliefs, perceptions, expectations and to all encounters, communications, relationships and meetings. Leadership coaching is about further sharpening the leader’s critical thinking; shoring-up blind spots which can have a deleterious influence on growth, but may not readily be seen by the leader; helping the leader process their impact internally and externally in their sphere of influence. Further, leadership coaching focuses on what is most important to the leader and stakeholders around the leader. It unearths dormant talents and stretches the leader to surpass supposed limitations. Whether you are an emerging leader or a seasoned leader, many can benefit from leadership refinement (development) coaching.

LEAD coaching and consulting partners with leaders (e.g., physician-leaders, nurse-leaders and administrators, and any one aspiring to lead others), on a journey of excellence to collaboratively determine each leader’s critical success factors in effectively leading self and others in team environments, working in complex health systems.



For more information please visit the Duke Professional and Personal Development Program (PPDP) and Leadership and Enhancement Development (LEAD) Coaching and Consulting Services website or contact Program Director Judith Holder at Judith.Holder@duke.edu or (919) 286-1244.

Articles/Blog posts are written by LEAD experienced certified coaches with behavioral health backgrounds and training in such areas as life span development, emotional and social intelligence, stress resilience, burnout, communication and team dynamics, conflict management, and the neuroscience of leadership.