Colin, a successful high-flying corporate leader, will soon take over as the country-wide head of sales for his company. The organization decides to hire a professional coach to prepare Colin for his new role. They have one dilemma – should they go for an executive coaching program or leadership coaching program?

Colin’s company isn’t the only one in this predicament. Most executives, leaders, and their organizations are confused about executive coaching and leadership coaching, and which one to choose. Getting clarity on what are executive coaching and leadership coaching, and what distinguishes them would help organizations and leaders choose what type of coaching would best suit their needs.

What Is Coaching?

The International Coaching Federation (ICF)  defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.

The scope of coaching has expanded over the last few decades. New niches have developed within the coaching space to cater to the varied needs, goals, and professions of the coachee. Executive coaching and leadership coaching are two such niches in demand in the corporate world. However, people tend to get confused between the two. 

Executive Coaching vs. Leadership Coaching – Same or Different?

Many clients and coaches consider executive coaching and leadership coaching to be the same. However, in reality, executive coaching and leadership coaching are not the same, although they are very similar. In fact, they largely overlap

Executive Coaching vs. Leadership Coaching

How Do Executive Coaching and Leadership Coaching Overlap?

In executive coaching and leadership coaching, the coach partners with a client to identify and root out limiting beliefs and behaviours and replace them with empowering beliefs and habits. Both executive coaching and leadership coaching coach the ‘who’ rather than the ‘what’. Since every client is unique, the goals, approach, and solutions of executive coaching and leadership coaching are very individualistic and tailor-made to suit the client’s needs.

Both executive coaches and leadership coaches provide much-needed ‘safe space.’ They can be an accountability partner, cheerleader, philosopher, sounding boards, mirrors, etc. as per the need of the client. The duration of both executive coaching and professional coaching is anywhere between 6 to 12 months.

How Do Executive Coaching and Leadership Coaching Differ?

Every Executive MUST be a Leader, but every Leader need not be an Executive ~ Regal Unlimited

The differences between executive coaching and leadership coaching are so nuanced they blur during the practical application of these two. But in our coaching experience, we have found that leadership coaching and executive coaching cater to different needs and clientele. Knowing these differences and then choosing executive coaching or leadership coaching accordingly would help you get the maximum RoI of coaching from your program.

What Is Leadership Coaching?

Leadership coaching focuses on creating mindful, compassionate, competent leaders who can inspire and motivate employees and teams. In leadership coaching, a leadership coach works with the client to develop skills, abilities, and competencies to help them perform better as leaders.  Leadership coaching identifies and resolves weaknesses and blind spots. It also builds upon a leader’s strengths, all to enhance performance and increase effectiveness. So there is more focus on personal development, unlike executive coaching.

Who Can Benefit From Leadership Coaching?

Anyone can benefit from leadership coaching program. 

Contrary to executive coaching program, leadership coaching program are not exclusive to the leadership role or the corporate scenario. Anyone who wishes to equip themselves with leadership skills, or enhance existing skills, can take up a leadership coaching program.

They could be doctors, engineers, teachers, or administrators; they could be deans of universities or public servants. We have had a wide range of professionals from varied backgrounds opting for our leadership coaching, including a young astrologer looking to improve his communication skills. Of late, young politicians are looking for coaching to step up their leadership persona. Executive coaching program is less generic.

In the corporate sector, leadership coaching can be taken up by

➤ High-value employees about to take up a leadership role

➤ Functional & Departmental Heads

➤ Middle-Level Managers 

➤ Team leads

➤ Project Heads/Managers

➤ Leaders looking to get promotions or raise

➤ C-suite leaders such as CEOs, COOs, CFOs, etc

Focus Areas of Leadership Coaching

Some of the common areas where leadership coaching can benefit leaders and organizations are:

  Sangeeta Sumesh, a prominent business and leadership coach believes that organizations can avail of leadership coaching to groom high-performing individuals for new leadership roles. Leaders can use leadership coaching for personal development

✤  Leadership coaching helps create motivated leaders who can, in turn, motivate and inspire employees

✤  Leaders can enhance their decision-making capabilities through leadership coaching.

✤  Leadership coaching can equip leaders to effectively lead and manage teams with diverse personalities, abilities, and talents.

✤  Leaders can use leadership coaching to refine communication skills

✤  Leadership coaching can help build emotional intelligence in leaders

✤  Organizations can use leadership coaching to turn around dysfunctional leaders, thus reducing attrition and the cost of finding and training replacements.

✤  Leaders see leadership coaching as an advantageous addition to the resume that would help earn raises and promotions.

✤  Leadership coaching can help develop leaders’ deeper self-awareness and tap into their intuition. Future leaders will depend on intuition, beyond the date. At Regal Unlimited, we call it #IQ2EQ2SQ. 

P K Narayanan, an eminent CEO coach, goes a step further and works with Leaders in enhancing Leadership Presence – enhancing their ability to Inspire, Influence and Impact. 

What Is Executive Coaching?

Executive coaching is specifically meant for senior executives who steer large teams or organizations in the corporate world. They are highly competent individuals who have typically spent 10 – 15 years honing their skills to climb the professional ladder. Leadership coaching is not always relevant to them at this stage. 

Executives bear a larger share of responsibilities than other leaders also, more stress. Hence executives benefit most from executive coaching as it is a niche area that focuses on the specific needs and challenges executives face due to their role, responsibilities, and stage of professional development. Executive coaching, while holistic, tilts more towards professional goals and objectives.

 Executives coaches are generally individuals who have been experienced leaders or executives themselves before taking up coaching as a career. Hence executive coaches better resonate with the needs of an executive than a generic leadership coach. Although an ICF Coach need not be a subject matter expert, clients certainly relate better to an executive coach  from the same industry & niche.

Who Can Benefit From Executive Coaching?

Any executive or leader can opt for an executive coaching program. Seasoned executives or aspiring executives who have already attained a certain level of experience and seniority in their organization would benefit most from an executive coaching program.

Executive clientele usually are –

  1. practising C-suite leaders, VPs, and Presidents
  2. transitioning executives
  3. new or aspiring executives
  4. successors to family-owned businesses
  5. founders and entrepreneurs
  6. leaders stepping into executive roles

Focus Areas of Executive Coaching

Executives typically opt for executive coaching for the following reasons:

Support: It can get lonely at the top. Many leaders take executive coaching because an executive coach can function as a friend and equal with whom the executive can share thoughts and bounce off ideas without fear of judgment.

Strategic thinking: Executive coaches can enable executives to enhance strategic thinking and decision-making at the macro level. An executive coach can help envision the bigger picture, understand strategic nuances, and enlarge the canvas for the executive.

Enhance executive presence: Executive coaching can help build personas that can inspire, motivate and exert influence over others. 

Executive coaching also helps with executive branding, grooming, building gravitas, holding a boardroom, and so on. To command a Board room requires a different presence.

Develop 360-degree vision: The executive coach can provide different perspectives to widen the outlook. A coach can help develop a global mindset which is especially important for executives who need to integrate into different cultures of other countries.

Role transition: New executives can transition to their new roles more smoothly and effectively with executive coaching. It can also help new executives successfully chart out their first 100 days.

Life after retirement: Executive coaching can help retiring executives plan for the next stage in their lives. Many organizations enable their executives to avail of executive coaching for the same. A pan India battery manufacturing company engaged Regal Unlimited to groom their executives for post-retirement careers.

Executive Coaching and Leadership Coaching – A Hybrid Approach

Many coaches and coaching firms go for the hybrid model. Here elements of executive coaching and leadership coaching are included in the coaching model as per the client’s needs. Sangeeta Sumesh, business and leadership coach mentions the case of a CFO who came to her for coaching. Though his primary goal was to maximize business growth, equal focus was given to personal goals, thus making it a holistic combination of both.

To know how leadership and executive coaching can benefit organizations, read our blog Top Organisational Benefits of Leadership Coaching.

Executive Coaching and Leadership Coaching at Regal Unlimited

The Regal Model believes in coaching the whole person rather than the Problem. The resolution of the problem is the corollary! Therefore our executive coaching and leadership coaching programs contain the best practices from both coaching segments customized to the client’s specific needs and objectives, thus empowering the client. We have coached over 1000 executives and leaders through our programs.

We have a host of coaches proficient in both domains (Executive Coaching and Leadership Coaching). Feel free to get in touch and explore the right fit. All Regal Coaches are ICF credentialed, trained, and experienced. You could check out their profiles here

To know more about the executive coaching program, read our blog –

6 Key Elements in Executive Coaching for a Successful Future

How to Hire the Best Executive Coach or Leadership Coach?

Many coaches and coaching firms claim to provide the best executive coaching and leadership coaching experience. But are they qualified, credentialed, and experienced? Which of them would give you the best RoI for coaching? It is necessary to research diligently and then choose the best executive coach or leadership coach. 

Here are some steps to help you streamline your research and selection process.

Steps to Select the Right Executive & Leadership Coach:

Step 1: Identify whether you/your leader needs executive coaching or leadership coaching. You can crosscheck your/your leader’s specific needs to the indicators for leadership coaching and executive coaching to decide which would benefit you/your leader.

Step 2: Identity promising coaches/coaching firms in your location and check out their credentials. Are they ICF-approved and certified? What are their credentials?

Step 3: Review client testimonials and stories. You could also ask the coaches to refer you to leaders or executives they’ve coached and hear their experiences first-hand.

Step 4: Once you’ve shortlisted the most promising executive or leadership coach/firm, find out the RoI they provide and whether it is worth your while and penny. An easy way to do this is to find out what goals/focus areas they have coached the executives/leaders in earlier. Do these goals align with yours?

Step 5: Choose the right executive coach or leadership coach for yourself through a chemistry session.

Getting back to  Colin, the soon-to-be sales head, what do you think his company would go with? Executive coaching? Or leadership coaching? Or a combination of both? We are sure Colin’s company can make an informed, enlightened decision now, regardless of what it be!

Should you be looking for executive coaching, leadership coaching, or a customized mix of both executive coaching & leadership coaching, rest assured we have the experience and expertise to deliver what you seek.

Become a walking power of unassuming influence and charisma through the best executive coaching programs with Regal Unlimited.  Connect with Master Certified Coach, C V Subash 

Become an inspirational and transformational leader through Regal’s leadership programs. For more information, write to us at

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