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  • Writer's pictureStefano Calvetti

What on earth is leadership coaching?

I have realized that since I started writing this blog I have missed a fundamental topic, namely explaining what leadership coaching is and what it is for.

Leadership coaching definition

My interpretation is that leadership coaching is a specialized conversation in which a unique and empowering relationship is established between the coach and the leader. Within this dynamic, the coach supports the leader in defining and achieving his or her leadership goals. Throughout the meetings, little by little a pathway emerges along which the coach guides and the leader reflects, learns, and acts. This process fosters the leader's ability to effectively lead, inspire, and influence his or her team or organization, promoting personal growth and collective success.

Two white callouts on a pink background, representing a conversation
Coaching is fundamentally a conversation

There are many elements to highlight in this definition:

  • conversation, which is the main pillar of coaching, and the relationships that are established through coaching itself. In this, the coach is a facilitator, an attentive and curious listener who merely facilitates deep reflection in the leader, stimulating new perspectives or prompting explorations into aspects that the client has not yet considered;

  • the unique relationship that is established between the coach and the coachee. Relationships are based on mutual trust, honesty, respect, total confidentiality, and the absence of any judgment about what emerges during the conversation. No two relationships are the same, believe me;

  • the empowering environment that is formed as the coach creates a safe and supportive space vis-à-vis the leader so that the exploration of one's thoughts and feelings comfortably takes place. The automatic and personal development of possible solutions is based on these assumptions;

  • the path that unfolds gradually, not only during sessions but also between one session and the next. The pace that is kept on this path is moderate-never rushed-to allow the leader to assimilate the discoveries and introduce new habits that will enable him or her to arrive at the destination;

  • reflection and action that sums up the duality of every human being, torn between being and doing. Coaching starts from the premise that one cannot only act while leaving out feelings otherwise one risks denaturing oneself. Likewise, focusing only on emotions without taking action leads us to consume ourselves, like candles, without moving a step toward our goal;

  • personal growth and collective success mark another dichotomy encapsulated in the term leadership. That is, we cannot expect to lead others successfully unless we first learn to lead ourselves. In other words, leadership and personal leadership are two almost completely overlapping concepts.

Coach Stefano Calvetti is intent on an online conversation. He is seated and a microphone is visible- His right hand is moving with his index finger extended upward.
Coaching in action

What is the purpose of leadership coaching?

What, then, is the purpose of coaching in leadership?

There are a multitude of studies that highlight the return on investment (ROI) of coaching. At the end of this post, you can find some useful references if you want to explore further. In general, the benefits can be valued from three dimensions:

  • Quantitative: a study conducted by Metrix Global found that coaching has a return on investment of 788%. So if you spend 1 euro, coaching returns 7.88 euro in terms of increased productivity and employee retention. Not bad, right?

  • Qualitative: the return on investment, in this case, is measured in terms of increased skills, improved behavior, increased confidence and satisfaction, etc. According to the International Coaching Foundation, the return on investment, in this case, is around 70 percent.

  • Intangible: this perspective considers the impact of coaching on aspects that are difficult to measure or quantify, such as organizational culture, employee engagement, leadership style, innovation, etc. There are no measurable metrics here, but Forbes reports how 87 percent of leaders are convinced of the excellent outcome of coaching.

In general, coaching can help to achieve results in areas such as:

  1. Self-awareness: as I have already written, you cannot lead others if you are unable to lead yourself. Personal leadership starts with self-awareness, which is the conscious and introspective understanding of oneself, including one's thoughts, emotions, behaviors, strengths, weaknesses, values, beliefs, and more. It is about being in tune with our own experiences and their impact on ourselves and others. Self-awareness helps people make informed decisions, manage emotions, build relationships, and align their actions with their core values.

  2. Strategic thinking and decision-making: coaches often work with leaders on their strategic decision-making processes, helping them to move beyond the immediate and short-term vision. This can include setting clear goals, identifying potential obstacles, and implementing strategies that align with the company's goals.

  3. Communication style and executive presence: communication is a vital aspect of leadership-but not only. Leaders need to develop excellent communication skills, including listening, giving and receiving feedback, delivering clear messages, and handling difficult conversations. Included in this concept is executive presence, which is about how entirely personal and personalized-a leader presents himself or herself to others and the world.

  4. Intentional listening: by following up on what has been written about communication, honing one's listening skills, and tuning in to others, leaders can unlock a wide range of potential benefits for themselves and their teams.

  5. Emotional intelligence: this topic includes understanding and managing one's emotions and empathizing with others. Emotional intelligence is crucial as it affects interpersonal relationships, group dynamics, and overall effectiveness. In this regard, I invite you to read what is considered the cornerstone on the subject, namely the book "emotional intelligence" written by Daniel Goleman.

  6. Conflict resolution: conflicts are inevitable, both among team members and with other stakeholders. Managing them while maintaining a "healthy" environment becomes, therefore, an unavoidable task for those in positions of responsibility.

  7. Leadership styles and adaptability: those in positions of responsibility need to know how to adopt leadership styles that are most appropriate to the situation at the time.

  8. Time and stress management: leading an organization or team can be very challenging, and strategies for managing workload, delegating effectively, and balancing work and personal life to mitigate stress are necessary to avoid burnout.

  9. Team development and talent management: talent development and management, as well as rostering and turnover planning, diversity, and inclusion, are topics that have a significant impact on teamwork.

  10. Change management: organizational change is a constant in today's world, especially given the speed with which innovations are coming to market. Just think of AI. Being able to stay ahead of the curve can ensure that a company thrives, ensuring smooth transitions and minimizing disruptions.

  11. Growth-oriented mindset: a growth-oriented mindset allows obstacles to be turned into opportunities, not something to be feared. Approaches geared toward developing resilience and anti-fragility make a difference.

If you have any other questions about coaching, please feel free to contact me

And remember: whether you are an executive aiming for the next big thing, a manager trying to motivate a diverse team, or an individual seeking balance, I am available to help you find the right course as you navigate the turbulent waters of personal and professional life.

Written "leadership" in white on a black background, as if it were chalk on a blackboard
Leadership. The word is enough.

Here are the links I used in this post to elaborate on the ROI of coaching:

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