I recently finished reading a book entitled “De-Railed” by Tim Irwin. In this book, he profiles 6 CEOs who once had a thriving reputation and had been enjoying success, yet came to a point where they de-railed – they were fired from their CEO role. Some of those profiled included Bob Nardelli (former CEO of Home Depot), Carly Fiorina (former CEO of Hewlett Packard) and Dick Fuld (former CEO of Lehman Bros.)

One of the key points that Irwin makes to avoid de-railing is to be aware of self and others. Yet, it is apparent that one needs to be more than willing to be open to criticism; leaders need to be highly self aware of not only their strengths and weaknesses, but also how they are perceived by others, especially those they are leading. Hence, I believe that every executive needs a leadership coach. Those who are reading this who know me may be saying, “Well come on Bill, this is what you do for a living, so you are just being self-promotional here” and to that I would respond, “Yes, but…” Consider the following statements:

“You may be good. You may even be better than everyone else. But without a coach you will never be as good as you could be.” This is from Andy Stanley, the highly regarded Senior Pastor from North Point Church in Atlanta, arguably one of the fastest growing churches in American today with over 16,000 people attending each Sunday.

“As a leader, you can’t afford to not have a coach.” This is from Michael Hyatt, the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing.

Here are my top five reasons that every executive needs a leadership coach:

  1. Leaders need to have people around them that will be completely honest with them. Oftentimes, leaders have people around them who, for a variety of reasons, just don’t share the honest truth with the leader. The leader then develops a false awareness about his or her effectiveness. One of the values of a coach is that they will provide you with complete honesty, if they are worth their salt.
  2. As a leader, you need to continue growing if you want your people to grow underneath you. One of the most effective ways to grow is to seek feedback from others and utilize the services of a leadership coach to help you process and integrate that feedback. Additionally, a well qualified coach can suggest growing opportunities that have been successful with other leaders and be able to recommend the best such opportunities for you, given your style, personality and “leadership stage” of life.
  3. Coaching by a professional in the field will help ensure the leader remains open to hearing feedback and has a process to do something with it. It has been proven over and over that effective leaders are open to learning new information about themselves as well as their plans.
  4. A proverb says, “Fools think their own way is right but the wise listen to others.” Leaders who think their own way is right, without consulting others who are not yes-men, are nothing more than fools. Fools are never successful, nor are they going to ever maximize their effectiveness as a leader.
  5. Another proverb says, “A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understand will acquire wise counsel.” Breaking this down, a wise leader is one who is open to hearing what others have to say so that their learning can increase. A person of understanding does not become that way on their own – they rely on obtaining wise counsel. One of the elements of wise counsel for an executive is a leadership coach.

They say that it is lonely at the top. I say that the people at the top can choose to be lonely or not. Executives need to have at least one person they can consult with who will be candid, open and honest about the leader’s behavior.

What would you add to this list of reasons? Your comments and dialogue are most welcome.