What kind of coach should I be: Leadership Coach, Executive Coach, Life Coach or …?


Naturally there’s plenty of other categories in the field of coaching than these as well. Just about any area of human endeavor you can think of will probably have a specialist coach who works exclusively with it. Yet these three are all quite well represented within the broader coaching profession so let’s have a brief look at what they each might mean.

Just before we do so let’s also bear in mind that all of these are first and foremost coaches and will all have had the same or very similar core training in coaching skills. It’s important to bear this in mind: that all coaches learn how to hold powerful, creative, client-centered conversations that help create new thinking and change.

Life coaches work with their clients to help them optimize their life experience. That can cover a lot of different areas: health, nutrition, exercise, meditation, life purpose, career, relationships, communication, emotional intelligence and so on. It’s not uncommon that a life coach will specialize further in one or more of the subcategories.

Life coaches understandably work to help their clients improve their life and I’ve written previously about how they do this so please read that blog if you’d like more detail. The other two categories differ in that they focus primarily on business and organizational performance and skills building.

While some may disagree with this, in my experience there’s really not much gap between who a Leadership Coach or an Executive Coach works with or what they’re aiming to help their client to achieve. Both work with leaders, aspiring leaders or executives in companies to help them develop further and grow. This might mean working with areas such as communication, strengths development, creative thinking or better decision-making, yet a leadership coach is perhaps more engaged in helping their client to develop themselves into the kind of empathic leader who can inspire their teams and employees to further greatness.

Generally organizational coaches rely heavily on assessments such as 360’s and development models such as strengths, emotional intelligence and personality testing as a base line and leverage point for their coaching, so often some extra training in these beyond the core coaching skills is a helpful supplement to your core coach training program.

If you’re wondering which of one of the many types of coaching you’d like to do or are suited to then perhaps first consider what your own experience and motivations for joining the industry are in the first place. Why are you wanting to focus on the area you’re interested in choosing? Do you have organizational experience? Or experience as a leader?

Finding one’s place—the segment we serve or our niche— is a bit of a journey itself which is why I think it is a good idea to simply concentrate on developing coaching skill before specializing. Even if it’s a knowledge intensive area such as health or nutrition coaching. Knowledge is relatively simple to acquire compared to the nuanced skill of transforming conversations. Once all that’s nailed down, then perhaps begin by working with a community or coaching speciality area with which you have some connection, understanding and compelling reason why you want to serve them in particular. This will infuse your offer and your coaching with a powerful sense of purpose.

While we don’t currently offer any specialized training (assessments etc.) within the Emergent Training, there are definitely some niche specific programs out there that will do. What we do offer is a uniquely powerful methodology which any type of coach can employ to create extraordinary deep sustainable change in their client.

Rod Francis



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