Leadership Coaching

Leadership Coaching

Leadership Coaching can make the difference in a VUCA World!



Coaching leaders is a specific and specialized area within the coaching profession. It involves working with individuals in leadership positions to enhance their skills, effectiveness, and overall performance. The goal of leadership coaching is to help leaders develop and refine their leadership abilities, overcome challenges, and achieve their professional goals. This is even more relevant in today’s VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) World where the leaders worldwide have to be able to anticipate and adapt to changes quickly, as well as driving their teams through those rough waters. This dissertation intends to gather and structure the main gains of providing coaching processes to leaders in the organizations, from all stakeholders perspectives. The main findings are relevant in supporting the thesis that investing resources on coaching processes for leaders is, more than ever, positive from all perspectives and has a direct impact on the outcome and performance of the organization as well as on the attraction and retention of human capital.


Coaches work closely with executives, managers, and other organizational leaders to identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement. They may address various aspects of leadership, including communication skills, decision-making, conflict resolution, emotional intelligence, strategic thinking, and team management.
The coaching process typically involves one-to-one sessions where the coach and the leader collaborate to set goals, create action plans, and reflect on progress. The coach provides a protected environment for the client’s creative thinking, feedback, and support to help the leader navigate complex organizational dynamics and strive on their role.
Leadership coaching is widely recognized as a valuable tool for professional development, and many organizations invest in coaching services to foster the growth and effectiveness of their leaders.
Also the team members feel the impact of being led by someone that has the chance to be supported by a coach in his career. Leaders in organization, specially junior leaders, occupying middle management functions, are typically persons that have very different backgrounds in terms of education and also different experiences gained during their career. It is very common that someone gets to a leadership position without having had specific training to do it. They reach that position because they have distinguished themselves among others mainly in their field of action and not necessarily because they have been recognized by their leadership skills. Partnering with a coach in their early leadership professional lives can be very useful not just for the new promoted leader but also to the team working with them.
In some organizations professional coaching is just provided for top management positions and the middle management or the talents in the pool for becoming managers are not considered. It is discussed in this dissertation the need of addressing all leadership levels in the organization when it comes to providing coach support. The opinion of the several stakeholders has been collected through interviews and the literature review conducted points in that direction and validates the thesis here described.
It is relevant in today’s organization the ability to attract and retain staff and mainly talents. Leaders should be acting in the best way possible in the interest of the company and the staff in order to provide the conditions to maximize the company performance. The correlation of good leadership, satisfied workforce and performance of the company is not a controversial topic. There is consensus on this matter, so good leadership at all levels of the organization is a goal to be pursued to obtain a healthy environment and consequently a profitable and attractive company.
In today’s VUCA – Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity – World organizations need VUCA Leaders – Vision, Understanding, Clarity, Agility – the role of a professional Coach is determinant if not essential for the companies to strive, if not survive.

Research Methodology

In this dissertation both direct and indirect research have been conducted. As indirect research, the literature review intends to give a perspective of the main trends in this area as well as a brief historical overview as the topic has been in huge development in the last two decades. The challenges displayed by the VUCA world (detailed description provided in the appendix – Definition of VUCA and VUCA Prime) reinforce, more than ever, the need of leaders in organizations to have some tools to support their difficult daily work.
As direct research the author interviewed several stakeholders impacted by the practice of providing coaching guidance to the leaders. Several interviews have been conducted with the objective to evaluate the benefits and / or disadvantages of providing coaching to the different leadership levels in a company from various perspectives. The views of CEO, Top Management, Middle Management and Staffs can be analyzed and compared in order to have a broad overview of the topic. The data is a result of interviews that have been conducted in several countries and taking into consideration the cultural background and its influence in the perspective.
The aim of both research methods is to have the opinion on a 360 degrees in order to provide a clearer and precise perspective of the good practice being adopted by an increasing number of companies of providing professional coaching processes to their leadership work force at several levels in the organization.

Literature Review

  • “Leadership in a (Permanent) Crisis” by Ronald Heifetz, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky
    This article published in the Harvard Business Review in July – August 2009 highlights the main challenges Leaders have to face in a world in high speed change. Based on examples it advocates that strategies like Press “Reset” in a company can be the right strategies under the circumstances. The Leadership style must be adapted and the experience from the past learned from the senior managers can no longer assist in the new leadership tasks. Foster adaptation, embrace disequilibrium, generate leadership and taking care of yourself are the new main tasks of today’s leaders and the role of mentor can no longer be attributed to the senior members of the organization. The support and conversation partner or even confidants must be external to the organization and the main criterion on choosing is that “your confidant care more about you than about the issues at stake”
  • “What VUCA really means for You” by Nathan Bennett and G. James Lemoine
    This article was published in the Harvard Business Review in January- February 2014 and distinguishes between the risks and respective possible counter measures associated with each one of the characteristics of the VUCA world. It helps to avoid the idea that there is chaos and nothing can be done. That leads to inaction and the tendency to wait until “things go back to normal”.
  • “Developing Leaders in a VUCA environment” by Kirk Lawrence
    This article was published by UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School in 2013 talks about the focus and methods of leadership development in a VUCA environment. Discuss the “VUCA Prime” which flips the acronym to focus on Vision, Understanding, Clarity and Agility. It identifies the steps that managers can take to bring their companies up to the required level to strive. The first step is to hire Agile and complex thinking Leaders as a task to be performed by HR – Recruiting. The second step is to develop existing leaders to be Agile Leaders. On-the job training, job assignments, coaching and mentoring are the tools proposed to help that development. The third and last step is to foster an organizational culture that rewards VUCA Prime Behaviors and Retains Agile employees. The organizational culture that promotes and rewards agile leaders will begin to perpetuate itself and attract and retain the type of innovative and agile talent that businesses today are seeking. It will also provide businesses a competitive advantage in our ever-changing global marketplace which is the ultimate VUCA environment.


  • The complete Handbook of Coaching” by Elaine Cox, Tatiana Bachkirova and David Clutterbuck
    The Executive and Leadership Coaching chapter by Jon Stokes and Richard Jolly offers the use of coaches to individuals that are demonstrating a poor performance affecting those they dead as not being the primary focus of leadership Coaching. Instead it covers the work with executives from middle management upwards or sometimes even to those in junior roles deemed to have high potential. These two very different focuses being used under the same name created some discomfort with its application within companies. Still today there is a negative “aura” around the topic in certain organizations. If one manager is proposed to undertake a coaching process in order to support his development or overcome a challenge can be misinterpreted as – there is something wrong with my leadership! Instead of a tool to provide help, confidence and growth, it is seen as a punishment. This problem has been worked and is less and less common although still present.
    It distinguishes between management and leadership. The first is more related to the “known” and quantifiable tasks and the later to the “not known”, the future, about emotions rather than facts, people and relationships rather than facts.
  • “Compass – Your Guide for Leadership Development and Coaching” by Peter Scisco, Elaine Birch and Gregor Halleenbeck.
    This book was published in 2017 by the Center for Creative Leadership and provides an exhaustive and detailed analysis of leadership competencies and how they can be developed. It is useful for every leader that recognizes their strengths and weaknesses and can support them in the areas needing improvement. It is also very helpful for coaches that want to progress into de Leadership Coaching.
  • “The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever” by Michael Bungay Stanier
    This book focuses on changing leadership behavior through coaching habits. It provides a framework for asking powerful questions to drive meaningful conversations. The book combines insider information with research based in neuroscience, together with interactive training tools to turn practical advice into practiced habits. In this practical and inspiring book, the author shares seven transformative questions: The Kickstart Question; The Awe Question; The Lazy Question; The Strategic Question; The Focus Question; The Foundation Question; The Learning Question.
    These can make a difference in how we lead and support. And he guides us through the process of how to take this new information and turn it into habits and a daily practice.
  • “Leadership and the New Science:Discovering Order in a a Chaotic World” by Margaret J. Wheatley -Revised edition.
    This book was originally published in 1992 and has a new revised edition published in 1999 that focuses on finding easier ways of leading an organization. The new organizations must be more fluid and organic in order to be able to act as learning organizations, as well as, their leaders.
  • “Leadership and the Art of Struggle: How Great Leaders Grow Through Challenge and Adversity” by Steven Snyder
    This book was published in 2013 and examines the role of struggle in leadership development and provides insights on how coaching can help leaders navigate challenges. Shows that the discussion about leaders’ difficulties, for fear of looking weak and seeming to lack confidence is vital—adversity is precisely what unlocks our greatest potential. He uses several examples of companies like Microsoft coming from his experience of working with Bill Gates in the early years. And the views of schoolers like Bill George professor of Management Practice in Harvard Business School.


Leadership is a complex and demanding role that requires constant growth and development. In an ever-evolving business landscape, and mainly in today’s VUCA world, leaders must have the skills and knowledge to navigate challenges, inspire their teams, and drive organizational success. One powerful tool that has gained significant recognition in recent years is coaching. Leaders can experience various benefits that contribute for their personal and professional growth by partnering with a skilled coach.
Certainly, over the last two decades, coaching for leaders has experienced significant development and progress. Several key trends and advancements have shaped the landscape of leadership coaching during this period. Here are some of the main progressions:

  1. Recognition and Integration in Organization: There has been a growing recognition of the value of coaching in organizational settings. Many companies now integrate coaching into their leadership development programs, viewing it as a crucial tool for enhancing individual and team performance.
  2. Professionalization and Certification: The coaching profession has become more professionalized, with the establishment of coaching standards, ethical guidelines, and certification programs. Organizations like the International Coach Federation (ICF) play a vital role in setting industry standards and providing certification for coaches.
  3. Focus on Leadership Development: Leadership coaching has evolved to specifically target leadership development. Coaches work closely with leaders to enhance their skills, emotional intelligence, and overall effectiveness in leading teams and organizations.
  4. Use of Technology: The use of technology has facilitated the growth of virtual coaching. Online platforms, video conferencing, and coaching apps have enabled coaches to connect with clients globally, making coaching more accessible and convenient.
  5. Diversity and Inclusion: The coaching field has become more attuned to diversity and inclusion. There is a greater emphasis on understanding and addressing the unique challenges faced by leaders from diverse backgrounds, and coaches are encouraged to be culturally competent.
  6. Team Coaching: While individual coaching remains prevalent, there is a growing interest in team coaching. Coaches now work with leadership teams to improve collaboration, communication, and overall team dynamics.
  7. Neuroscience and Coaching: The intersection of neuroscience and coaching has gained attention. Coaches and researchers explore how insights from neuroscience can inform coaching practices and enhance leadership development.
  8. Coaching Supervision: The importance of coaching supervision has been recognized to ensure the quality and ethical practice of coaching. Supervision provides coaches with a space for reflection, learning, and continuous improvement.
  9. Corporate Coaching Cultures: Some organizations are developing coaching cultures, where coaching is not just an external intervention but an integral part of the organization tools for management development.


Coaching provides leaders a safe and confidential space to explore their strengths, weaknesses, and blind spots. Leaders can better understand their emotions, motivations, and behaviors by fostering self-awareness. This enhanced emotional intelligence empowers leaders to make better decisions, manage conflicts effectively, and build stronger team relationships.
To note, as a leader steps into a new role, confidential spaces are important to performance. Enormous pressure comes with a new role. Everyone needs someone to talk to.
A coach helps leaders articulate their goals and aspirations while aligning them with their organization’s vision. By clarifying objectives, leaders can create actionable plans, prioritize tasks, and work towards measurable outcomes. The coach acts as a trusted partner, keeping leaders accountable for their progress and helping them stay focused on their desired results.
Coaching enables leaders to improve their leadership skills by providing personalized guidance and feedback. Allows the leader to identify areas for improvement and provide targeted strategies for development. Whether it is communication, delegation, or strategic thinking, leaders can enhance their capabilities and become more productive. Effective decision-making is a critical skill for leaders, and coaching can significantly enhance this ability. Coaches facilitate a structured approach to decision-making, encouraging leaders to consider various perspectives, analyze potential risks, and weigh alternative solutions. Leaders can make more informed and impactful choices by improving their decision-making skills, even in high-pressure situations.
Leadership can be challenging, and doubts or setbacks can undermine confidence. A coach provides support and encouragement, helping leaders build resilience and overcome obstacles. By exploring limiting beliefs and adopting a growth mindset, leaders develop the confidence to tackle new challenges, take calculated risks, and inspire their teams through uncertain times.
Communication lies at the heart of leadership success, and coaching can play a vital role in developing effective communication and influencing skills. Coaches help leaders understand their communication style, adapt it to different situations, and improve their ability to engage and inspire others. With enhanced communication skills, leaders can foster a culture of transparency, collaboration, and trust within their organizations.
Leaders often face complex interpersonal dynamics and conflicts within their teams. A coach assists leaders in understanding and managing these situations effectively.
Through coaching, leaders learn techniques for conflict resolution, active listening, and building positive relationships. Leaders can improve team performance and achieve better outcomes by fostering a harmonious work environment.
Coaching encourages leaders to think outside the box and embrace innovation. Leaders can unlock their creative potential by challenging their assumptions and expanding their perspectives. Coaches inspire leaders to explore new ideas, experiment with different approaches, and create an environment that fosters innovation.
Leadership responsibilities often lead to an imbalance between work and personal life, resulting in burnout and decreased wellbeing.
Coaches help leaders prioritize their wellbeing, set boundaries, and manage their time effectively by achieving a healthier work-life integration, leaders can maintain their energy, focus, and overall satisfaction, leading to improved leadership performance.
Coaching is a transformative process that fosters continuous growth and development for leaders. Leaders cultivate a mindset of lifelong learning and improvement by working with a coach. The skills and insights gained through coaching are transferable and can be applied to their current roles and future leadership positions.


Becoming a leadership coach involves a combination of education, training, and practical experience. There are steps that should be considered to become a leadership coach:

  • A. Educational Background: obtain a relevant educational background, such as a bachelor’s or master’s degree in fields like psychology, business, organizational development, or a related discipline.
  • B. Coaching Training: enroll in a coaching training program accredited by a recognized coaching organization. Look for programs that focus on leadership coaching and cover core coaching competencies. Popular coaching organizations include the International Coach Federation (ICF), which offers accredited programs.
  • C. Gain Coaching Experience: practice coaching by working with clients. Some coaching programs include supervised coaching sessions as part of the training. Building practical experience is crucial for developing your coaching skills.
  • D. Specialize in Leadership Coaching: consider further specialization in leadership coaching. This might involve additional training or certifications specifically focused on leadership development and coaching for leaders.
  • E. Networking: network with other coaches, attend coaching conferences, and join professional organizations. Networking can provide opportunities for learning, mentorship, and potential clients.


Coaching offers a multitude of benefits for leaders in lady’s organizations. Either to be able to face the challenges that today’s business environment offers, as well as, when seeking for personal and professional growth. Coaching equips leaders with the tools to be successful in their roles, from increased self-awareness and emotional intelligence to improved decision-making and communication skills.
By investing in coaching, it is expected that leaders can unlock their full potential, drive organizational success over all kinds of environments, and inspire their teams to achieve greatness.
I want to embrace the power of coaching and embark on a transformative journey towards becoming an exceptional leadership coach.


I would like to thank the support and enthusiasm of my husband , Paulo, who has been by my side during my journey through this dissertation as part of the process of becoming a professional Coach. He dedicates a part of his time to give me supervision on my pain points, always with constructive corrective feedback as well as reinforcing by best angles on this matter.
My daughter Inês always caught me when I was procrastinating and finding other activities that distracted me from my goal. She gently sent me back to work and was the main driver for my progress.
My mentor Angela was always available to clarify my doubts and recommend the best course of action in order to promote my progress. Putting me in contact with my training mattes and coaching clients to practice. She guided us always with humor in a creative and stress free environment.

Definition of VUCA and VUCA Prime

VUCA Defined

  • The “V” in the VUCA acronym stands for volatility. It means the nature, speed, volume, and magnitude of change that is not in a predictable pattern (Sullivan, 2012 January 16). Volatility is turbulence, a phenomenon that is occurring more frequently than in the past. The BCG study found that half of the most turbulent financial quarters during the past 30 years have occurred since 2002. The study also concluded that financial turbulence has increased in intensity and persists longer than in the past. (Sullivan, 2012 October 22). Other drivers of turbulence in business today include digitization, connectivity, trade liberalization, global competition, and business model innovation (Reeves & Love, 2012).
  • The “U” in the VUCA acronym stands for uncertainty, or the lack of predictability in issues and events (Kinsinger & Walch, 2012). These volatile times make it difficult for leaders to use past issues and events as predictors of future outcomes, making forecasting extremely difficult and decision-making challenging (Sullivan, 2012 January 16).
  • The “C” in VUCA stands for complexity. As HR thought leader John Sullivan notes (2012 January 16), there are often numerous and difficult-to-understand causes and mitigating factors (both inside and outside the organization) involved in a problem. This layer of complexity, added to the turbulence of change and the absence of past predictors, adds to the difficulty of decision making. It also leads to confusion, which can cause ambiguity, the last letter in the acronym.
  • The “A” Ambiguity is the lack of clarity about the meaning of an event (Caron, 2009), or, as Sullivan writes, the “causes and the ‘who, what, where, how, and why’ behind the things that are happening (that) are unclear and hard to ascertain.” (2012 January 16). Col. Eric G. Kail defines ambiguity in the VUCA model as the “inability to accurately conceptualize threats and opportunities before they become lethal.” (Kail, 2010 December 3). A symptom of organizational ambiguity, according to Kail, is the frustration that results when compartmentalized accomplishments fail to add up to a comprehensive or enduring success.

The VUCA Prime

The VUCA model identifies the internal and external conditions affecting organizations today. The VUCA Prime was developed by Bob Johansen, distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future and the author of Leaders Make the Future: Ten New Leadership Skills for an Uncertain World. Johansen proposes that the best VUCA leaders are characterized by vision, understanding, clarity, and agility – the “flips” to the VUCA model.

The VUCA Prime can be seen as the continuum of skills leaders can develop to help make sense of leading in a VUCA world. HR and talent management professionals can use the VUCA Prime as a “skills and abilities” blueprint when creating leadership development plans.
In the VUCA Prime, volatility can be countered with vision because vision is even more vital in turbulent times. Leaders with a clear vision of where they want their organizations to be in three to five years can better weather volatile environmental changes such as economic downturns or new competition in their markets, for example, by making business decisions to counter the turbulence while keeping the organization’s vision in mind.
Uncertainty can be countered with understanding, the ability of a leader to stop, look, and listen. To be effective in a VUCA environment, leaders must learn to look and listen beyond their functional areas of expertise to make sense of the volatility and to lead with vision. This requires leaders to communicate with all levels of employees in their organization, and to develop and demonstrate teamwork and collaboration skills.

Complexity can be countered with clarity, the deliberative process to make sense of the chaos. In a VUCA world, chaos comes swift and hard. Leaders, who can quickly and clearly tune into all of the minutiae associated with the chaos, can make better, more informed business decisions.
Finally, ambiguity can be countered with agility, the ability to communicate across the organization and to move quickly to apply solutions (Kinsinger and Walch, 2012). Vision, understanding, clarity, and agility are not mutually exclusive in the VUCA prime. Rather, they are intertwined elements that help managers become stronger VUCA leaders.

VUCA leaders must have foresight to see where they are going but must also remain flexible about how they get there (Apollo Research Institute staff, 2012). They must be self-aware about their strengths and weaknesses as leaders, adaptable, open to change, and, according to the Center for Creative Leadership, knowledgeable about their organization beyond their function (Management Education Group staff, 2011). Finally, they must work collaboratively and be excellent communicators to thrive in a complex VUCA environment (Kail, 2010 December 3). Above all, VUCA learners must be able to learn fast because change is constant.
These skills and abilities are a far cry from the more function-specific skills and abilities leaders needed in the past to succeed. HR and talent management professionals must refocus their leadership development efforts to hone these more strategic, complex critical-thinking skills.

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