Richard Levin

Richard Levin

Senior Advisor and Coaching Practice Founder

It has been almost 40 years since executive coaching began as a profession. Though there is adequate evidence that practitioners were doing some form of coaching earlier than that, the profession didn’t begin to take shape until the mid-1980s. The goal of executive coaching has remained fundamentally the same since it began: to help high-potential executives become more motivating, inspiring, high-performance leaders. That goal is still the same, although coaches have added a few tweaks along the way, like clearly communicating expectations (in fact, clearly communicating altogether), helping executives create their personal brand, and helping the people coached develop authentic executive presence. 

Having the privilege of being one of the shapers of the profession, I have long believed that executive coaches are primarily thought partners for the people we coach. We guide, and most importantly, we listen. We help our clients find answers within themselves, we are trusted advisors, and we provide hopefully wise counsel — all without being judgmental.

I have occasionally bumped up against certification programs that teach coaches not to offer opinions, judgments, or too much counsel. I disagree with that. Although many of us started our careers as psychotherapists, coaches are not therapists and are not bound by the same policies and procedures, except for confidentiality — THE bedrock of successful coaching. The one exception, in my view, is that we are mandated to break confidentiality when we discover someone we are coaching is of potential danger to themselves or others.

Significantly, we don’t work in a vacuum; we work within living, breathing organizations that bring with them their own cultural quirks and successes. So what is different today, and where is executive coaching heading?

  1. Increased Accessibility

With advancements in technology, executive coaching is now more accessible to a broader range of leaders, including those in remote or underserved regions and organizations that operate globally or cross-regionally. Virtual coaching sessions are now commonplace, allowing for more flexibility, global reach, and reduced costs. 

  1. Focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

This is high on my priority list. Executive coaching is increasingly incorporating race, diversity, equity, and inclusion principles among coaches. From that springboard, executive coaches are helping leaders create more inclusive, respectful environments that value diverse perspectives and a diverse workforce.

  1. Emphasis on Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a critical component of effective leadership. Coaches are focusing more on developing leaders’ EQ, including self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, and social skills.

  1. Integration with Technology

The use of AI and data analytics in executive coaching is on the rise. These technologies can provide personalized insights and feedback, enhancing the coaching experience and outcomes without replacing the magic of in-person relationships. Watch for AI and its variants to have a key role in one of the cornerstones of executive coaching: 360-degree feedback. Products like Leadership Reality Check automate the 360 feedback process, using quantitative methodologies and applying them to qualitative feedback, saving clients and coaches both time and expense.

  1. Chemistry

Assuring that teams have the best “fit” to work seamlessly together toward a common goal, assessment processes like those offered by the Predictive Index, DiSC, and the Hogan Personality Inventory (among many others; every coach has a favorite) have become core facets of executive coaching.

  1. Sustainability and Social Responsibility

As organizations face pressure to be more socially responsible and create or utilize products that are environmentally sustainable, executive coaches are helping leaders integrate these values into their strategies and operations, ensuring long-term business success and, simultaneously, a positive impact on society. Businesses are not separate from the communities in which their employees live and work.

  1. Holistic Approach

This is one of the changes I am focusing on most. It began in the 1980s when I helped create work/family awareness in the workplace and later work/life policies in all organizations. Employees don’t check themselves at the door when they enter the workplace, whether they work together in a physical space or have a hybrid work arrangement (which requires greater discipline on the work/life front). Coaches have to bring to themselves and to the people they coach a sense of wholeness: awareness of nutrition, sleep, exercise, mental health, spirituality, healthcare, and other components that make us “whole people” who can live in the moment. This is not the “soft side” of business. It is most definitely the hard stuff, creating seamlessness between the professional and personal well-being of leaders and their coaches.

  1. Future Skills Development

As the business landscape evolves, so do the skills required for effective leadership. Coaches are preparing leaders for the future by focusing on skills such as adaptability, digital literacy, and innovation.

  1. Team Coaching and Coach Networks

The future of executive coaching will see the formation of more coaching communities where coaches can learn from each other’s experiences and insights in a collaborative environment. This has been a core tenet at CFAR, where I created the firm’s executive coaching practice. The same collaborative possibilities are true among leaders: coaches may gather leaders they coach or other business executives into educational or collaborative learning environments (webinars, offsites, etc.). I include in this category opportunities for organizations to have their entire leadership team coached by a team of coaches who may meet behind the scenes, not to share personal information about the people they coach but to identify themes that may apply to the entire organization and can be shared, without attribution, with senior leadership. The goal is to help strengthen the organization and its culture.

Executive coaching will continue to adapt and evolve, playing a pivotal role in developing the next generation of leaders who are better equipped to navigate the complexities of our rapidly changing world. If you’re interested in learning more about executive coaching or finding resources, please be in touch. How can our team of executive coaches best support your personal and professional development?