How to Become a Leadership Coach

Want to become a successful and effective leadership coach? Read on to understand the role of a leadership coach, the qualities you need to succeed, and the steps you can take to kickstart your career with confidence.

Step 1: Inform Yourself

Teacher. Mentor. Motivator. Advisor. Confidante. Counselor. A coach goes by many names. And, ultimately, when you take on the mantle of “leadership coach” for yourself, you’ll craft your own, unique definition. But in the meantime, it will help to have a basic understanding of the profession, its opportunities, and its expectations.

What Is Leadership Coaching?

Leadership coaching is a type of professional coaching that focuses on developing the leadership skills and abilities of individuals with the goal of improving their performance, increasing their effectiveness, and empowering them to achieve their personal and professional goals.

Typically, leadership coaching involves a one-on-one relationship between a coach and a leader, but many coaches also work with groups and teams. In every case, the coach works with a leader or leaders to identify areas of strength and growth opportunities, to set goals addressing specific challenges or issues, and to develop a plan to make measurable progress toward those goals.

Characteristics of an Effective Leadership Coach

Coaches of all stripes share some characteristics in common, such as having subject matter expertise, demonstrating authority and trustworthiness, and, perhaps most important, being able to foster a confidential, safe space. Other valuable qualities for effective leadership coaches include:

  • Empathy: Empathy is the capacity to imagine oneself in the circumstances of another. To have empathy is to have the ability to see and relate to the needs, thoughts, emotions, and experiences of others, imagining, if not fully understanding, a situation from another’s perspective.
  • Strong communication skills: Beyond the need to be articulate and clear when expressing your ideas and providing feedback, an effective leadership coach must be an active listener, an interpreter of nonverbal cues, and a great asker of questions.
  • Knowledge and experience: Coaching is personal. Professional training in team management, crisis leadership, or building development plans is valuable, but just as useful is your knowledge of how both business and life work. Don’t be afraid to share relatable stories from your own experience to serve as illustrations and inspiration.

What to Expect as a Leadership Coach

Now that we’ve defined what leadership coaching is and the qualities necessary to be effective in the field, what does it actually look like to become a leadership coach?

There’s a wealth of variety in the day-to-day life of a leadership coach. You may work with private clients on a one-on-one basis or conduct workshops for whole teams or organizations. You may spend a few hours coaching an executive through a company-specific situation on a short-term contract or meet weekly with a leader over time in person or via Zoom or Skype.

Regardless of the type of client you have, you’ll need to carve out time for prep work, such as plan development, solution brainstorming, and probably some amount of reading or listening, whether that’s to keep up on industry news and trends, tune in to inspiring podcasts, or get your creative juices flowing through your favorite Spotify playlist.

If you run your own leadership coaching service, you’ll also need to plan for the business of doing business. This may include intake, processing, and invoicing paperwork; promotional activities, like maintaining a blog or social media accounts; and networking to build your client base through speaking engagements or special events.

Some coaches plan around client calls and coaching sessions, relegating paperwork to the “downtime” in between. Others assign certain tasks to specific days: Client calls on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, with prep work, writing, and social posts on Tuesdays and Fridays. Whatever system you land on, make sure your days as a leadership coach take the shape that works best for you.

Step 2: Gain Education and Experience

To truly become an effective leadership coach, you need education and experience. Though you can just jump in, that’s a difficult path to take. Gaining a strong understanding of the principles and theory behind leadership and leadership styles, in addition to hands-on practice through supervised coaching sessions, will be invaluable to your success.

If you already have training and experience as a coach (even if it’s not specific to leadership), you can still break into the field by becoming a certified practitioner in leadership assessment tools, such as the Leadership Circle Profile (see step 3).

If you don’t have that training and experience, consider pursuing an education path that is accredited by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) to ensure that you are adequately prepared for the complex discipline of coaching.

What is the ICF? (International Coaching Federation)

The International Coaching Federation, commonly known as ICF, is the leading professional organization for coaches and coaching. Dedicated to advancing the coaching profession, the ICF provides independent certification for practitioners and accredits programs that deliver coaching education.

ICF Coaching Credential

Leadership coaches who pursue an ICF coaching credential must meet stringent education and experience requirements and demonstrate a thorough understanding of the coaching competencies that set the standard in the industry. This professional certification lends instant credibility to your coaching practice and signals to your clients and colleagues that you are committed to upholding strong principles of ethical behavior and to growing and developing as a coaching professional.

ICF Coaching Credentials and Requirements:

  • Associate Certified Coach (ACC): Complete 60 hours of coach-specific education and 100 hours of client coaching experience.
  • Professional Certified Coach (PCC): Complete 125 hours of coach-specific education and 500 hours of client coaching experience.
  • Master Certified Coach (MCC): Currently hold or previously held a PCC credential; complete 200 hours of coach-specific education and 2,500 hours of client coaching experience. 

In addition to the education and experience requirements above, the ICF credentialing process  includes:

  • Successful completion of a performance evaluation.
  • Successful completion of the ICF credentialing exam.

To learn more about ICF coaching credentials and the credentialing process, visit the ICF website.

Selecting an ICF-Accredited Coach Training Program

Whether you opt to pursue an ICF coaching credential or another certification path, learning through an ICF-accredited training program will put you on the fast track to achieving your goals as a leadership coach.

ICF-accredited programs go through a rigorous review process to ensure that their curriculum aligns with ICF standards, core competencies, and ethical guidelines. In addition, accredited programs fulfill ICF credentialing requirements.

Because the ICF accredits coaching programs of all types, you’ll want to be sure to select one that specializes in leadership coaching, specifically. Find what you’re looking for with the federation’s Education Search Service (ESS). You can use the tool’s filters to select the appropriate accreditation type, and then narrow your search further by selecting “Leadership” in the Coaching Specialty field in order to find a relevant program to equip you to become a leadership coach.

Step 3: Gain Certification & Earn CCE

Once you’ve completed a leadership coach training program and earned your ICF credential, it’s time to take your know-how and experience to the next level by becoming a certified leadership coach. Though not required to practice, certification can help distinguish you as a knowledgeable and versatile leadership coach and equip you for a successful career. And, if you select the right certification program, you can also earn CCE (continuing coach education) credits—especially helpful for ICF coaches, who are required to complete CCE every three years to maintain their credential.

Leadership Circle can help with this. For example, by becoming certified in the Leadership Circle Profile, you can offer your clients access to the most comprehensive leadership assessment tool available, step up your offerings as a leadership coach, and earn yourself 29.25 CCE in an ICF-accredited program in the process. Everybody wins.

Eligibility Requirements for Leadership Coach Certification 

Leadership Circle’s assessment certifications are designed for individuals who already have a foundation in coaching. Experience in one-on-one coaching and/or education for coaching leadership development or personal development is required to attend our leadership coach certification programs.

Become a Certified Leadership Coach

There are two coaching certification tracks available through Leadership Circle:

Both certification programs utilize the Leadership Circle Profile (LCP) as the core assessment and coaching tool to gain the insight needed to create customized and transformative coaching solutions. Integrating the latest research on leadership, psychological, and adult development, and statistically validated through rigorous, third-party analysis, the LCP is the global standard in assessment methodology.

By becoming certified in the Leadership Circle Profile, you’ll move one step closer to launching your career as a leadership coach. Our certification will equip you with the tools and insight you need to discover the source of your clients’ behavior, identify and address self-limiting beliefs, and increase your clients’ leadership effectiveness.

Step 4: Find Your First Clients

Are you ready to start coaching leaders? Once you’ve launched your practice, you need to let people know that you’re available to help them learn new skills, tackle challenging work issues, and grow into the leaders they’re meant to be. So far, steps 1, 2, and 3 have shown you how to become a leadership coach. Steps 4 and 5 are all about actually being one.

Announce Yourself Online

One of the best ways to spread the word about your new leadership coaching practice is to let your network know that you’re open for business. No recommendation is as effective as one made by word of mouth. Build a simple website or blog, update your social profiles with your business information, and post to your social media accounts to let people know that you’re a leadership coach. Share tips and motivation, insight on current events, and stories from your own experience to showcase your expertise and leadership coaching philosophy.

Volunteer for Panels and Presentations

Raising your visibility in the community can lead to new opportunities and new clients. Speaking engagements, panel presentations, and networking events are excellent ways to reach out to civic and business leaders. Begin by connecting with local groups, such as the Chamber of Commerce, a nearby chapter of Rotary International, or the regional speakers bureau.

Step 5: Grow Your Coaching Business

As you establish your practice and build your reputation as a successful and effective leadership coach, your business will naturally grow. Maximize your potential by tapping into your coaching network and offering your clients tools, methods, and a perspective they can only get from you.

Learn From Your Network

When you become certified in the Leadership Circle Profile, you join a thriving community of more than 10,000 successful coaches and leadership consultants around the world. You’ll have access to customizable informational and marketing templates, networking opportunities with prospective clients, ongoing learning events, best practices forums, resource libraries, and more. Tap into this resource for inspiration and creative solutions.

Develop a Niche

As your practice grows, you’ll want to look for ways to help you stand out from other coaches and attract clients who are looking for someone with your particular expertise. Lean into what you know and love. Consider developing a specialty, such as coaching women executives or leaders in a specific industry. Scale your business by becoming certified in additional practices, such as executive coaching or coaching teams and organizations.

Become a Leadership Circle Certified Coach

Whether you’re beginning the process of becoming a leadership coach or looking to advance your career through certification, Leadership Circle can help pave the way. We equip you with the support and resources you need to succeed as a certified leadership coach.

Leadership Coach Certifications
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