Executive Coach vs. Leadership Consultant

executive coach vs. leadership consultant

Executive Coach vs. Leadership Consultant

Periodically I’m asked if I’m an executive coach or leadership consultant.   Hmmmm…. Executive Coach vs. Leadership Consultant?  This is actually a sophisticated question.

First, I’ll give you a hint…

Is there a problem of knowing, or a problem of doing?

If it’s a problem of knowing what to do, the consultant is needed.
If it’s a problem of doing what one knows, the coach is needed.

  • Coaching is all about helping someone discover their capabilities, motivations, desires, and passions. Through greater self awareness, people can change their perspective as well as their career and life trajectory. Of course, they often become more effective leaders. Essentially, executive coaching is exploratory first, and then action-oriented next.
  • Consulting, on the other hand, emphasizes “telling” or “showing” first, after some analysis of the situation.  While there’s an exploratory component for sure, it’s primarily a explanatory endeavor.  That is, most consultants have expertise to share. They tell others what they need to do differently to be more effective, based upon their analyses and experiences.

So, basically, an executive coach helps someone self-discover strengths and developmental targets, challenges them to grow, and supports their development. The focus is on the executive.

Leadership consultants, on the other hand, generally focus explaining leadership best practices and articulating what great leadership is. They also help set up leadership development programs. The focus is more on the organization’s need for leaders.

Theory Versus Practice

While the difference between executive coaching and leadership consulting makes sense in theory, the reality is there are overlapping aspects to both. And as Yogi Berra so eloquently stated…

 “In theory, there should be no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.”

 So in my daily work as an executive coach and leadership consultant, I do blend the two concepts together. I am both an executive leadership coach and a leadership consultant. I lean toward coaching, and aim to keep the ownership for development with the person I’m working with. Their growth should be mostly in their “locus of control”.

The reason I’m comfortable merging the two disciplines is because there are times where I am trying to help someone uncover their purpose, tap into their passions, understand their reasons for leading people, and help them identify their areas for growth…but they get stuck.

They need plain ol’ direction. In those moments of being stuck, they don’t need a coach; they need a consultant. So I switch gears. As a coach, you’re never really supposed to tell someone what to do. You are supposed to help them self-discover…figure it out. This builds their problem-solving skills and sense of ownership.

But there’s a myth, a very common myth, that if people know what to do they will do it. So not knowing what to do appears to be the problem. In reality, the problem is often not one of not knowing (excuse the double negatives).

Many times executives know they should be communicating more clearly, guiding people, inspiring people, etc. They need a coach.


About Curt Buermeyer

I am the founder and president of LeadPeople. I hope you enjoyed this post and encourage you to subscribe to receive these in your inbox. Thanks for visiting!

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