As a leader you make all kind of decisions around organizational problems every day, yet being able to speak openly about your concerns, fears or vulnerabilities, is both difficult, risky and frankly, harder for some to do than making multi-million dollar decisions.

Today many senior leaders with and without the knowledge of their boards are turning to executive coaches to face the pressures of  job performance and indeed job survival. The need for discretion peaks when an executive shares uncensored thoughts and feelings. It’s lonely at the top takes on real-time meaning.

In today’s article…

Leadership competencies include self-awareness that is attuned to emotional health as well as the self-assessment abilities to seek help.Taking those competencies into account, we will look at the benefits of getting the help of an executive coach.

1) Generally, there’s a difference between the senior leaders who are in their 50s and 60s and the younger leaders in their 30s and 40s.The former is used to problem solving on their own and giving orders, while the latter are using a leadership model of getting input through coaching and empowering subordinates.

The executive coaching help may be to promote discussion of how the executive is experiencing the needed shift in leadership style. Sometimes, getting a confidential 360-degree feedback that includes input from direct reports is useful. The opportunity to build upon perceived strengths, identify opportunities for improvement, and regularly follow up with reports to ensure progress helps to make a real difference.

2) Sydney Finkelstein, author of Why Smart Executives Fail  describes the results of a 6-year research project into executive failures, which suggests the following: The failure isn’t due to lack of smarts or experience, rather, it’s predominantly around the unchecked egos, an overconfidence and a lack of emotional intelligence.

The executive coaching help that is often useful is the trust that can be established over time and new perspective development. It’s been said that no one in the organization needs an honest, close and long-term relationship with a trusted advisor more than a CEO.

3) There’s a pedestal that the leader gets placed on by employees and may be encouraged by the senior leader themselves. This supports a resistance to sharing the truth by employees who fear retribution by the work environment or being seen in a negative way.This may be a blindspot the leader isn’t addressing with employees productively.

The executive coaching help that is often useful is just that…providing a safe environment where blind spots can be explored, reduced or eliminated. If 360 assessments are available or the coach observes the executive interacting on the job, valuable feedback around blindspots is dynamic.

4) The enormous stress leaders feel leads to anxiety and physical illness which, due to a wish to be viewed as being capable and strong often is denied. Illness goes untreated and paradoxically, the leader becomes weaker. Premature burnout occurs.

The executive coaching help that is combined with a background in behavioral health can be an added benefit so that screening for additional medical consultations is possible and appropriate referrals considered. The focus on the executive’s issues alone can deintensify the pressure while strategies for increasing overall well-being are planned. 

5) While capable, leaders are often advanced to senior positions prior to completing the needed training. Feedback for the competent, yet new executive, can be hard to get as their supervisors have limited time and generally are satisfied. So, the new executive, wanting to grow isn’t getting the improvement feedback they want that satisfies their strong achievement needs.

The executive coaching help that is often useful for is the acknowledgment of the leader’s frustrations. Providing an objective ear creates the safe, trusted environment needed for honesty. A positive psychology approach which supports strength finding ultimately taps into the resilience of the executive.

The takeaway is…

Senior leaders and executives are tasked with the enormous responsibility for growing an developing their people and organizations.

Help with the emotional trappings and need for a confidant to process thoughts and feelings, explore blindspots and develop more efficient and effective interpersonal relationships, is available through executive coaching.

I’m curious: How do you manage the emotional side of work?


I’d love to have a conversation and learn about your leadership thoughts and challenges.  Sign up for a Love My Work Strategy Session and I’ll call you personally to arrange a complimentary 45 minute session.