What’s the difference between executive and leadership coaching?

April 20, 2023
What's the difference between executive coaching and leadership coaching?

What’s the difference between Executive and Leadership coaching?

HBR has some insightful hints on different types of coaching that can be useful to different situations. But are they very different when the goals can be so similar? Maybe someone suggested that you work on your leadership skills. What does that mean? Or someone says they’re working with an Executive Coach. What does an Executive Coach do? And why do they often come up together? Executive and leadership coaching are both types aimed at improving a person’s leadership abilities, but slight differences depend on context. And sometimes, they can be interchangeable as many people who receive executive coaching may also be suitable for leadership coaching so that the coach can work on both with their client. 

  1. Scope: Executive coaching generally focuses on helping individuals in executive positions, such as CEOs or high-level managers, while leadership coaching can apply to anyone in a leadership role, from middle managers to C-suite executives.
  2. Goals: Executive coaching often focuses on helping individuals develop specific skills related to their job performance, such as strategic planning or financial management. Leadership coaching, on the other hand, may focus on creating more broad-based leadership skills, such as communication or conflict resolution.
  3. Approach: Executive coaching can be more directive, with coaches providing specific advice and guidance based on their experience and expertise. Leadership coaching may be more collaborative, with coaches helping individuals to identify their strengths and weaknesses and develop their strategies for improvement.

While there is some overlap between the two, executive coaching tends to focus more on job performance. In contrast, leadership coaching focuses more on personal development as a leader.

How do you know which one to work on?

This is a question that only you can answer, but talking to a coach is always a helpful first step in deciding where you want to focus your energy. Likely in your career, you will need to focus on one over the other, and most likely both. As we gain experience in our work, it is only natural that our leadership role may need to be strengthened to help others grow in their career as well. But executive coaching and looking at the big picture to help you hone your skills and work towards your goals is something that can almost always be focused on as well.

Interested in this conversation to see what works for you? Feel free to reach out here to schedule a meeting with an Executive and Leadership Coach.