11 Principles of Effective Leadership Coaching


11 Principles of Effective Leadership Coaching

Leadership and executive coaching have transiently produced 788% ROI for a Fortune 500 company, according to statistics. If you are someone who believes in numbers more than word of mouth, chances are that these numbers should be convincing enough to let you know why organizations are leveraging leadership coaching in today’s date.

Even 96% of organizations have reported that they would invest their time, money, and efforts in recurring leadership coaching. However, do you realize what makes leadership coaching such a coveted process? It is the principles of effective leadership coaching that the coaches adhere to in their practice.

All of these principles of leadership coaching reflect in providing maximum impact for the coaching success. However, if you are a beginner life or leadership coach who is tapping into this field, familiarizing yourself with these core leadership coaching principles can make your practice a more lucrative one.

11 Principles of Leadership Coaching

In this article, I will be highlighting the top 11 essential principles of leadership coaching that I have implemented throughout my years of coaching practice.

1. Focus On Coaching The Individual

While the phrase itself can seem misleading, let me clarify it better. As a coach, you need to realize that every client is different and their own person. So, you can’t implement a “standard” set of coaching tools on every client who books a coaching session with you.

Instead, every client needs individual attention. You need to collect their feedback, understand and listen to their problems and obstacles/challenges, and then partner with them with the right coaching techniques.

When you are giving the client’s feedback, some individuals might be receptive to constructive feedback while some might not be. You will also encounter clients who don’t want to engage in futile pleasantries and want to move ahead to discuss the “ways” to implement improvements in one’s life.

Typically, you need to have a clear and open mind when you are having a conversation with a client. One way of coaching doesn’t work and that is the first principle that I want to highlight.

To curate an effective leadership coaching strategy for your executive client, you need to get to know your client better. Ask questions that clarify their Core beliefs, values, personality, the challenges and struggles they are facing, their strengths, and areas of growth and development.

Coaching an individual means coaching your client without focusing on their designation in the company. It's about understanding their highs and lows, helping them discover their aspirations, beliefs, and values. It also involves looking into what the client values and expects out of the session, irrespective of the power they hold in a company.

Focusing on an individual means coaching them as a person of their own and now as the “CEO of a company.” It also involves identifying the blindsides in a person and then working on overcoming them with positive inquiry, observations, and curiosity.

2. Create A Safe and Supportive Environment

None of the clients wants to feel judged in their leadership coach’s presence. So, it goes without saying that the second principle worth considering is building a safe and supportive environment for your client.

When talking about a supportive environment, I am talking about ensuring your client that they have been heard. Never make them feel like they aren’t being paid attention to. You want to reassure them from time to time that their feelings are not just valued but you are actively partaking in the conversation too.

If the client feels safe and welcomed during the session, it fosters a better trust and intimacy between the client-coach relationship and helps the client open up about their struggles and what kind of partnership help they are on the lookout for.

In a supportive environment, the risk-taking feels a lot more rewarding for the client and enables them to entrust the coach with their deepest thoughts and insecurities.

Creating a non-judgmental zone for the client is equally important. As a leadership coach, it is part of your ethical code to have a clear mind about the client. You can’t show signs of bias or even throw in your “personal” and non-professional thoughts into the mixture.

3. Don’t Stick to One Way of Coaching

Life and leadership coaching tools are diverse. While some clients need brainstorming, some clients are looking for a proper layout and structure for the next steps in their careers. Whatever the end goal be, as a coach, you need to support and partner with them towards the right calling.

However, as I mentioned before, every client is different. So, your coaching tools can’t be confined and limited. It isn’t like a math problem that you can solve with the same formula. Typically, you need to have a mixture of formulas in your bag and pick the one that best aligns with your client’s needs.

One-dimensional coaching abilities will only take you so far. As a leadership coach, it is part of your job to consistently learn and upskill your capabilities and knowledge in the process. Not just coaching techniques, you need to master the feedback techniques as well.

Understanding the client’s purpose of seeking coaching often helps deduce the right coaching approach for them. So, implement your deep listening skills in this case. The more you listen to the intricacies of your client’s words, it will be easier for you to understand what the client wants to achieve from the session.

4. Prioritize the Goals of the Client

The primary principle of effective leadership coaching (or any form of coaching) is to encourage self-discovery. As a leadership coach, you need to partner with your client and support them while they discuss the goals that they want to achieve. Typically, a coach needs to build a conversation with active questioning and find what it is that they need support with.

Always keep in mind that the coaching sessions are for your client. They aren’t about you. So, only your client has the free will and complete freedom to decide what their goals are and how they want to achieve them.

In short, you want the client to have complete reign over their decisions, goals, and their way of achieving them. As a coach, your objective is to guide and support them with their journey.

5. Focus on Empowering People

The role of a leadership coach is to bring the clients out of their comfort zone in relation to their goals. Questions and challenges pave the path for change and empowerment. The main objective behind people seeking coaching is because they want to introduce a shift in their lives.

Sometimes, the easiest way to help a client find their truth is by asking questions that challenge their boundaries. This is done because leadership coaches trust the true potential and resourcefulness of their clients.

So, rooting from the new conscious awareness, the client will adapt themselves to different ways to support their goals by stepping out of their comfort zone and widening their horizons. This form of self-empowerment in a client is relayed through a coach’s questioning skills and how they make their clients identify their hidden potential.

As a leadership coach, your task is not to be a “friend” to your client. Your main role is to support your clients and create a trusting partnership surrounded by a safe environment. You need to help your clients identify new empowering habits and ideologies that they have likely never explored within themselves.

6. Encourage Self-Discovery

A good coaching session starts with transparent communication. It is important that you discuss the importance of questioning and why they are necessary to bring an empowering change to the client’s life and visions.

If a client is aware and vocal about their goals, you need to ask them what’s stopping them to administer the changes? 9 out of 10 times, clients fail to realize that the best way to change is from within themselves. The limitations that prevent individuals to be their best version are the ones they perceive or choose to believe in.

The best way to support or encourage self-discovery is with questions. They effectively bridge the gaps in the thoughts of the clients, helping them figure out their current position and what they eventually want to achieve. A leadership coach will challenge their client’s thoughts to help them realize their capabilities to adhere to responsibilities and make the most out of them. Sometimes, that’s all a client needs to successfully achieve their goal - Someone to believe in them.

When you want to bring out the best in your client, settling with appeasing questions won’t help. They won’t intrigue the client’s minds and help them self-reflect. Instead, they will make your clients stick to their comfort zone and prevent them from navigating through uncomfortable emotions and situations that are holding them back.

7. Find the “Elephant in the Room”

It is one of the essential principles of leadership coaching to actively find the cause behind the problems. If your client has come to you saying they aren’t able to manage a team under them, find out why they aren’t able to do it.

Like a standard physical ailment when the doctor looks into the cause to find out what the problem is, the same goes for coaching too. A doctor will never prescribe you a generic medicine for your back problem without identifying what is causing the issue in the first place.

The same goes for coaching too. Whatever the client’s issues are or whatever their goal from the session is, it is crucial for the coach to invest their time in learning what is causing the problems in the first place.

Let’s take one example.

Say, your client has come down for a session to discuss their lack of enthusiasm while working. They are constantly complaining about delaying work, procrastinating, and firing through the last minutes to meet deadlines.

These are the “struggles” or “outcomes” of a situation. As a coach, you need to support your client to find the “why.” Why are they procrastinating? What is preventing them from getting the work done? What would they like to do instead so they aren’t rushing things last minute?

The moment the client has these answers, it becomes easier for them to tackle the shortcomings. Having a clear insight helps push them in the right direction towards achieving their goals.

It is a basic leadership coaching principle to uncover the reasons behind their professional struggles. Humble inquiry helps with that.

So, don’t shy away from asking your clients all the relevant questions that can unload the issues they are struggling with. Even leveraging the skills of self-discovery is considered ideal in this case.

8. Channel your Undivided Attention and Focus

A core principle of leadership coaching is to give your client 100% of your undivided attention during the session. You can’t afford to miss out on even the minute details that they share with you because every detail helps contribute to the coaching success.

It is the coach’s responsibility to be PHYSICALLY and PSYCHOLOGICALLY present during the session. This means that if you have had a bad day or experienced something traumatic that is occupying your mind, don’t book a session with a client.

Your client is paying you for your support and undivided attention. Not being able to give them that will result in poor coaching outcomes. Being present and active is a powerful way to support your client’s growth. When you deeply listen, it becomes easier for you to implement the right questioning skills that mediate self-discovery in your client and help them witness the positive change that they are working for.

The biggest mistake that most of the leadership coaches make is having the attitude thinking “we have heard this before”, “we think we know what their problem is,” etc. Even if the situations are generic, a team member’s thought process won’t be the same.

Everyone experiences situations differently, so being present ensures that you grasp onto their personal thought process so you can coach them accordingly

9. Foster use of Positive Language

The use of positive language in coaching prioritizes using phrases of optimism over pessimism. With affirmations and positive exploration, a coach enables their client to state what they want instead of what they don’t. It has a very powerful effect on the mind and allows individuals to feel welcomed and heard in the situation.

So, one of the core leadership principles is to foster direct communication with the client with positive language and affirmations.

Coaching is a powerful tool that can open restrictive avenues in an individual’s growth. The success of coaching is thus dependent on the coaching partnership.

The positive model of coaching involves inquisitive questioning and deep-level listening that allows the client to reflect on their current situation and their restrictive mindset. A coach’s positive intonation creates a sense of trust and reliability that allows the clients’ to express their thoughts and their ongoing struggles in a more open manner.

A great example of fostering positive language in leadership coaching is switching from, “Why aren’t you able to meet the deadlines?” with, “How can you help yourself to overcome the issues with your deadlines? Is there something you need help with to speed up the process?”

Fostering positive language builds a better client-coach relationship and allows the clients to be open and vulnerable about their shortcomings to get the support they need from the coach.

10. Promote Learning from Experience

Our life is our biggest teacher.

This is a phrase that we have learned growing up. However, what we fail to realize is that life experiences aren’t here to beat us down but to help us rise to our full potential. Learning from our experiences and growing from them is what induces growth and change in one’s life.

ICF’s 7th core competency, Evokes Awareness is a good testament to this specific pointer.

According to the competency, the coach needs to conduct the following during the session to evoke awareness in the client:

  • Ask questions to elicit new insights from the client
  • Share their observations to promote learning
  • Support the client in reflection and reframing

As a leadership coach, you should always make your client reflect on their experiences and what they learned from the situation.

Fostering experiential learning is part of growth and ensures the clients reflect deeper about themselves and their interactions with the environment and create a strategy to deal better with them. Leveraging experience to fuel development reflects well in the future and ensures consistent and sustained growth of the client in real life.

11. Getting Client Agreement

Although I am mentioning this at the end of this article, keep in mind that drawing correct client agreements is part of the coaching process. You need to understand that you can’t expect success from a coaching session if the coachee/client isn’t willingly participating in it.

So, while drafting an agreement, discuss the client’s expectations from the session. Understand what kind of limitations they want to be coached for.

Having a clear agenda with transparent communication ensures both the client and the coach know what to expect along the process.

Creating a client agreement before the session involves explicitly and bilaterally coming to a consensus of what is expected from the coaching session. It also clarifies how the coaching process is defined and how the coach and the client can review it at regular intervals.

An agreement also creates boundaries around the scope of work and builds bridges towards the goals and gives a framework for working towards those set goals.

In the case of stakeholders, an agreement helps maintain confidentiality. It helps the client build better trust in the coaching process, thereby providing psychological protection in the said process.


Leadership coaching fosters growth in the client and the company. So, it isn’t surprising that more and more managers and company executives are talking in favor of coaching as a tool to drive growth and fulfillment in the teams.

A well-managed and well-coached employee has the capability to outperform competitors and their peers. So, given the positive outlook, why not indulge in leadership coaching?

The right guidance can do a lot more than you can imagine. So, let me be the lending hand that supports your growth and fosters better change to your personality that influences your personal and professional growth.

You can contact us via www.coachdrparas.com/contact to book an appointment or reach out to us for further information.