In 2017, I worked with business and leadership consulting firm BlewMinds to host the very first leadership coaching program of its type in Delhi.

My time in Delhi motivated me to continue pursuing excellence, and I like to think the other participants benefited too.

It was an illuminating experience for me, and I think it’s safe to say that all the participants (including myself) learned a great deal. While I was there, I participated in an interview with BlewMinds partner Shivani Singh, where we talked about the importance of self-awareness in coaching. I invite you to watch our discussion below.

One theme you’ll notice comes up repeatedly is that of self-awareness, of knowing and understanding our innermost tendencies and strengths. You would think that every CEO is well-tuned to that inner core, but it is not as common as you may think.

Your Inner Core May Be Outside Your Comfort Zone

Self-awareness is insight into your own innermost attributes: your beliefs, emotions, character, and values. Self-awareness is remarkably empowering, because knowing yourself honestly and deeply helps you make the best choices. Yet self-awareness isn’t easy for many people. They may be hamstrung by what they think they should believe or feel, and they may try to build an entire identity around beliefs and values that don’t match up with what’s actually inside their soul. At best, it hinders leadership, and at worst, it can lead to burnout and breakdown.

The truth is, many people’s innermost character remains an unexplored territory, and this is a shame. Knowing oneself thoroughly and honestly is actually the key to building true and unique leadership – leadership that is rock-solid and can withstand the winds of change that are constantly blowing in our world today.

Unleashing Sustainable Leadership Requires Looking Within

Identifying our innermost character requires temporarily tuning out the many distractions of modern life.

One thing I comment on in my interview with Ms. Singh is the tendency of many of today’s leadership development programs to focus on things like planning and decision-making. Of course, these “nuts and bolts” aspects of leadership are important, and executive coaches work on them with clients all the time.

But what’s missing is attention to each person’s innermost core character, which is as unique as their DNA. The executive coach who takes the time to help clients look within, identify their core strengths and values and learn how to use them to lead helps unleash leadership that is both effective and sustainable long term. One book that does an outstanding job of exploring this phenomenon is Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and if you haven’t read it, you should.

Ultimately, Executive Coaches Make Themselves Unnecessary, by Design

If you have ever seen a pair of killdeer plover raising their hatchlings, you may have noticed how closely they hover around their young when they make their first trips out of the nest. The parent birds will go so far as to fake injury to lure potential predators away from their chicks. But as the chicks grow, they gradually pull back, giving them greater range, until the day they realize their offspring are prepared to be independent.

Similarly, the executive coach works very closely with their clients at first, offering helpful tools and helping them look within to discover their strengths and learn how to put them to use. I’ve noticed that around the third or fourth month of a nine-month executive coaching engagement, something changes. It’s not exactly an “Aha!” moment, but a general sense that the client has tapped into their core strengths and is ready to start using them in leadership.

As executive coaching clients make progress, the coach is able to step back, offering guidance as needed, but ultimately helping their client discover they can “fly” on their own. In other words, the executive coach makes him- or herself unnecessary, and that’s by design.

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