Leaders’ jobs are confusing, and pretty much impossible. They must do them anyway, and do them with apparent confidence.
What makes leadership so hard? Consider the job description.
Wanted: Leader who can
- Align people who have different ideas and skills to a common purpose.
- Select the right people, and put them in the right positions, so that they can accomplish that purpose.
- Catch people being successful.
- Have difficult conversations when things go wrong.
- Build relationships that engage followers.
- Understand how organizations work.
- Understand their business and all its component parts.
- Manage the myriad emotions that followers bring, arising from followers’ experiences with past leaders.
- Have self-awareness regarding their own emotions, and how they impact others.
- Have enough resilience to bounce back from mistakes and unfair criticisms.
There is more, but you get the picture. Leaders need you, and it’s no wonder!
But let’s be clear about what they do and don’t need from you. They don’t need you to tell them how to run their business. You are not like a football coach who tells players what plays to run and how to run them. Leaders have lots of people who can help them with business “plays.”
With that in mind, what do they need from you? Here’s your job description.
Wanted: Executive Coach who can
- Build a trustable relationship, i.e., one where the leader’s needs come before the coach’s.
- Be an empathic and effective listener as the leader sorts through incredible complexity in order to create manageable simplicity.
- Ask insightful and challenging questions that help leaders expand their thinking.
- Provide emotional support for the courage a leader must have.
- Expand leaders’ understanding of human behavior – their own, their followers, their peers, their customers.
- Assess the leader’s leadership skills to establish a focus for coaching.
- Provide constructive feedback based on those assessments, that both supports and challenges.
- Help leaders maintain personal ethics in the midst of an onslaught of temptations.
- Help leaders understand the nature of organizations, and the impact of organizations on the people who lead and work within them.
- Be a trusted advisor. (Yes, you sometimes will give advice, but only from areas that are truly within your areas of expertise.)
There’s more but, again, you get the idea.
Are you intimidated yet? If not, you may not be paying attention. Effective executive coaches can have a major impact on the wellbeing of their clients, and on all of the people their clients impact. Such responsibility should scare us just a bit.
And yet it should not scare us so much that our reptile brains get activated. That would lead us to freeze and avoid. Remember, our clients need us. But we should be intimidated enough to commit ourselves to ongoing curiosity, skill development, and lifelong learning about our craft.