Binod Shankar

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Why not leadership coaching?

Why not leadership coaching?

Why not leadership coaching?

An analysis of why many don’t avail of coaching to grow their careers?


Why is it that most of those who need help in their career won’t ask for help via career coaching, executive coaching or leadership coaching? That’s exactly what most mid and senior level professionals with leadership aspirations do. It’s also what millions of struggling entrepreneurs who could benefit hugely from business coaching do. I’ve seen this many times and it seems irrational.

What is leadership coaching?

A leadership coach is someone who guides people to become leaders. This is done by first understanding the client (goals, values, traits etc.) and then discussing goals, the reality, the various options and the way forward.

The coach then helps the client develop one or more of the relevant skills and behaviors.

Of course, this completely depends on the individual’s gaps but the typical list of leadership skills and behaviors cover Communication, Confidence, Delegation, Mentoring, Assertiveness, Personal Branding, Critical Thinking, Negotiation, Organizational Politics, Influencing, Motivating and Self-Awareness.

Over and above all this, a leadership coach can help in career strategy and planning. This is important because most people are so busy working with their heads down that they have no time to look up and look at their long-term career prospects.

Why not ask for coaching help?

I am curious by nature especially about the peculiarities of the human condition.

Why don’t people ask for expert help?

I’ve come up with a few reasons. The basic assumption underlying all the below is that affordability for coaching is not an issue.

  1. They don’t think they have a major career problem. This is because they lack self-awareness and have no clue of how others see them.
  2. They know they have a big career problem but they don’t think an executive coach can help. This often comes across when they say “it’s too expensive”, the typical code word for “I don’t see value”.
  3. They know they have a big career problem but they think it’s temporary and will disappear once they change jobs, careers or locations. This may not work all the time because the primary problem was with YOU, not the role, career, employer or location.
  4. They know they have a big career problem but haven’t heard of executing or leadership coaching. Strange as it may seem, the concept of executive coaching hasn’t caught on yet in many countries.
  5. They know they have a big career problem but they believe they can solve it themselves by introspection etc. This is next to impossible because you simply cannot observe and analyze yourself impartially and expertly. Some truths are buried too deep for you to uncover without someone asking you deep questions.
  6. They know that have a big career problem but they think it’s too late to change themselves via leadership coaching. After a certain level, many managers drop their ambitions and prefer to just be safe rather than explore other opportunities. But the reality is that you’ll never know until you try and exploring your potential can be immensely rewarding.

I ran a Survey

But I wanted to get evidence.

Fortunately, I run a large WhatsApp group with many mid and senior level managers and I recently posted a poll.

The question I asked was this:

“Most mid and senior managers I know need career, executive or leadership coaching but they never avail of it and hence waste opportunities. I am curious as to why. Can you tell me the single biggest reason why? The assumption is that they can definitely afford it”

The six options I mentioned in the poll were the same six hypotheses mentioned above.

What did the survey say?

Any guesses as to which was the most popular option?

A full 50% said managers don’t go for leadership coaching because they think they don’t have any big career problems.

That points to a pervasive lack of self-awareness.

Why are so many lacking in Self-awareness?

This is mainly due to Initial and/or subsequent exposure to an environment that focuses
on a black and white, rigid, mostly tangible reward driven, primarily competition driven, obsessively achievement focused, solo recognition seeking way of doing things.

When you think and behave that way the focus is always on the outside world. There’s no time or inclination to look inside

How you may be forced into self-awareness

What I’ve found is that most people need a “shock”- job loss, near death, nasty divorce etc.- to become self-aware and make a big change. That’s when they reach out for help, sometimes in the form of leadership coaching.

But because these disasters are rare, most never change.

Also, it’s far more efficient to gain self-awareness without that expensive, stressful & time consuming (and hence totally unnecessary) shock. Time is your most precious resource. Not money. Time.

How to build self-awareness

You want to be self-aware enough to ask for coaching help. You don’t want to be forced into self-awareness.

So how can someone proactively be more self-aware?

There are several ways:

  • Drop your ego. If your ego is the way you won’t have the humility to hear honest feedback. You may even get defensive and vindictive.
  • Start soliciting honest and unfiltered feedback about yourself from people who meet these three criteria- they know you well, they think impartially and they care about you. Good leadership coaches will meet all three criteria. Listen to them calmly with an open mind without getting offended.
  • Try to visualize yourself as a 3rd person or at the other end of the conversation. For example, if someone says you are short tempered, next time when you get angry understand the other person’s point of view and reflect if you over reacted? This will validate the feedback.
  • Introspect as to why you react or behave repeatedly the way you do in certain situations or with certain people. Why do you get triggered so easily? The root cause can be found through introspection and discussing with the coach.
  • Understand and accept that the universe does not run because of you. Know your place and cut down your self-importance.
  • Realize that your ego gets easily inflated due to the official titles, respect, power and privilege. Understand that all these are temporary and once they are gone (as they will over time) world will treat you very differently.
  • Read. Read. Read. Read good books both fiction and nonfiction. This is a crucial investment that will pay rich dividends in the long term.

90% of the battle is won if you can keep you EGO in check and have the temperament to ask for and listen to feedback.


Leadership coaching is an essential tool if you want to move up the corporate ladder. It will help you build skills, adjust your attitude, build a personal brand, build a network and also craft a career plan.

But before you benefit from all that you should know that you need help. For that you must be self-aware and control your ego.

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