Recently, on a train ride from Pune to Mumbai, the man sitting next to me asked me what I do for a living.  When I told him I am a Leadership Coach, he looked at me sheepishly and asked: What does a Leadership Coach do?  At first, I was taken aback by his question – then I realized that he has asked the question that many are afraid to ask.  Actually, there are three questions wrapped in one – Who is a Leadership Coach? And what is Leadership Coaching?  Most importantly, how can it benefit me?  So I decided to spend some time framing an answer to these questions – and to my delight, this quest has brought me renewed clarity about my work.  I share what I discovered to help you decide whether a coach is someone you need, how you can best utilize a coach and most of all, what you can and must expect from coaching. One caveat before I begin:  this is strictly about Leadership Coaching, a service optimal for those working in organizations vis a vis solopreneurs or others working by themselves.

What is Leadership Coaching?

Leadership Coaching is a one-to-one intense engagement with a professional in a leadership role that can bring transformational results in three areas:

  1. understanding what it takes to be the most effective leader in your situation and then becoming that leader
  2. optimal development and deployment of all your resources especially your people resources 
  3. extension of your Leadership qualities and skills to find fulfillment in all areas of your life

To better explain this process, it is also important to understand that coaching is not giving advice, fixing your problems for you or taking over part or all of your responsibilities.  In fact, it is the opposite:  it gives you the tools, the skills and the clarity to identify your own problems, your areas of development and then work towards resolving or bettering them.  Leadership Coaching begins with you taking responsibility for your life and asking the Coach to support your journey, to ensure that you don’t get disheartened or stop short of your goal.  This brings me to the second question..

Who is a Leadership Coach?

A Leadership Coach is a person who motivates and supports your growth as a Leader.  She provides a sounding board, acts as an “outer compass” to keep you on your decided path and does not let you stop till your cross the finish line.  A Leadership Coach pays special attention to the organization’s vision, mission and goals and supports alignment of your individual goals with them.  This focus is unique to Leadership Coaching because typically the organization hires the services of the coach for its Leaders to ensure this alignment.  It helps to have a Leadership Coach who understands how your business works because it makes the coaching engagement more practical.  Once again, a coach does not give you advice, judgements or fix your problems – she makes suggestions and encourages you to experiment with different ideas to see what sticks.  A coach seldom if ever uses words like “should”, “must”, “have to” and “or else”.

And finally, the question that must interest you the most:  How can Leadership Coaching benefit me?

The first step in the coaching process that you undertake with your coach is setting goals or expectations (very measurable and concrete) for the program – what do I want from this coaching engagement?  In my experience, just thinking about and writing down these goals is very powerful.  You immediately have clarity about the gaps in your own skills and the gaps in what you want from your life and what is actually happening.  Once the coaching process is underway, you will experience the following:

  • almost instant clarity about personal and professional priorities
  • constraints of time lessening and even disappearing – you are not rushed anymore!
  • how you delegate and make decisions becomes sharper
  • how you host and participate in meetings and brainstorming sessions transforms
  • planning and implementing to plan becomes a habit
  • happier and more productive co-workers, family, friends and stakeholders – it seems like you are pleasing yourself and others at the same time!

As I wrote that last sentence, I started smiling – I was instantly transported to those moments when my clients find that happiness and effectiveness.  And I felt so blessed to be part of this amazing process that allows me to witness personal and organizational transformation on a daily basis.  So what are you waiting for now?  Happy coaching!


I recently enrolled into a three year PhD program – my research area will be around Leadership and specifically focussed on India and the Indian Leader.  One of the reactions I got when I shared my news with a friend was a very confused: Why a Phd?  I made some flippant response to end that conversation – it got me thinking once I got home though about my reasons for signing up.  Anyone who has ever done research especially towards a PhD will already know that this is not an executive learning program.  This is also not a “show up and you will get your degree” exercise.  It is a huge effort of reading, sorting out reams of information, interviewing people, endless report writing, coming up with original concepts and testing them and then of course, the mammoth task of writing and defending your thesis.  As a business owner with an established brand and client base, why would I voluntarily take on so much additional work and invest so much time in something that will not directly translate into any commercial or brand-building benefits.

And my answer is simple:  I am doing a PhD because I am interested in validating what I have concluded about Leadership – to be exact, how Leadership can be learned by Indians – through my own coaching work.  I want to utilize the academic rigor of a Phd to make sure that my hypothesis holds true.  Is it more than “professional vanity” and can it translate into a learning model that can be replicated to produce results – in this case, produce Leaders – in India, for India?  That’s it.

There has been one other, totally unintended, benefit:  I am blissed out.  I love coming back to academia.  And this time it is by choice – there is no pressure of performance or a need to hurtle towards the job market.  So, I am savoring it.  I am able to connect the dots, have my own AHA moments and most of all I get to collaborate with other bright minds and have super conversations everyday.

The real takeaway from this inquiry – Why the PhD? – has been two-fold.  One, we live in an age where learning, unlearning and relearning must be a continuous process of our lives.  Two, it is really important to ask “why” sometimes, it is equally important not to worry about the “why” at other times, and most of all, to know what falls in which category.

One final thought:  Did you know that research on Leadership began only as late as the 1940s?

PS Be prepared, my friends, coachees and clients, to hear from me soon – you are the center of my work and the protagonists of my PhD thesis!