Power Parity: executive coaching is key to women’s executive leadership success

Executive coaching is coaching and advisory support for senior managers and executive leaders, whether in the public or private, corporate, or not-for-profit sector. File image.

Executive coaching is coaching and advisory support for senior managers and executive leaders, whether in the public or private, corporate, or not-for-profit sector. File image.

Published Jun 23, 2024


My superpower as a Women’s Coach is to support women leaders at senior and executive level to build self-awareness, self-compassion (and compassion for others), and self-leadership as the foundation for being an effective and impactful executive leader.

I also see myself as a thinking partner for my clients, which allows them to have support for problem solving and dealing with inner conflict.

This experience has made me realise that executive coaching is a very distinct form of coaching, that is responsive to the individual and leadership needs of clients at this level.

What is Executive Coaching?

Executive coaching is coaching and advisory support for senior managers and executive leaders, whether in the public or private, corporate, or not-for-profit sector.

Leading any organisation presents challenging leadership, organisational, political, interpersonal, and strategic challenges.

Succeeding—or even surviving—in such situations requires a lot more than simply showing up as a technically competent leader.

Executive coaching is distinct from other forms of coaching, such as life coaching or career coaching. It focuses specifically on the development of leadership skills, strategic thinking, effective decision-making, and in my opinion, building a strong foundation of wellbeing and self-awareness. An executive coach works closely with the leader to identify areas for improvement, set goals, and develop a personalised plan to achieve them.

For women leaders, executive coaching offers a safe and supportive environment to address gender-specific challenges and using tools that have worked in the past.

Building on this, I would add that executive coaching for women leaders requires a deep understanding of the systemic, political and social barriers and biases that place unrealistic pressure on, and undermine women’s contributions at home, in family, in society and at work.

The consequence of this is that women are conditioned to believe they must work harder, and give and do more to receive recognition.

This shows up as lack of self-confidence (questioning your abilities) and feeling unworthy even when you have worked hard.

The executive coaching journey with women must, of necessity, focus extensively on inner work to challenge and break down these internalised beliefs.

The Benefits Of Executive Coaching

The core of executive coaching lies in its personalised approach of working one-on-one to identify and leverage strengths while also addressing areas that need improvement.

How Executive Coaching Supports Women Leaders:


At the executive level women are technically competent but may be challenged with how to lead; engage and bring the best of self and others. An executive coach supports clients to know themselves deeply; see themselves holistically and with self-compassion; and be open to the challenge of transforming “this is who I am” to building a level of self-awareness that opens up possibilities for a whole and meaningful life. In my coaching practice, this is a significant challenge for women leaders.

●Breaking Biases:

Executive coaches can help women identify these biases, develop strategies to navigate them, and project confidence in their abilities.

●Building Confidence:

This empowers them to approach challenges with greater confidence and assertiveness.

●Work-Life Balance:

Women often juggle demanding work schedules with personal responsibilities. Executive coaches can help them create strategies for achieving work-life balance and managing stress.

This is always a concern for my executive clients.

●Leadership Development:

Executive coaches work with women leaders to refine their communication skills, hone their decision-making process, and develop a leadership style that authentically suits them.

How to Find the Right Executive Coach

Executive coaching is a costly and intensive process. It therefore requires an investment of time to find the right coach for you.

If you want an impactful coaching experience, you must be willing to fully commit to the process.

This includes making the time for sessions and “homework”; thinking deeply about what you want to achieve on this journey; being clear and vulnerable with your coach when you feel something is not working; and continuing the journey beyond the coaching.

Progress only happens when we are consistent. While others tend to see executive coaching as supporting executive leaders to be more effective in the workplace: my view is that executive coaching must support women’s whole life because women often struggle to take care of their health and wellbeing; can be overwhelmed by their multiple roles; and have to navigate bias and stereotypes.

Ultimately, if it all comes together, executive coaching will be the best investment you (or your company) can make.

Shireen Motara is an African Feminist and Thought Leader on Women’s Leadership and Wellbeing. She is a certified Coach that specialises in working with women leaders. Shireen is also the Founder CEO of Tara Transform, a social change coaching and consulting practice; and Founder CEO of The Next Chapter which is a platform and community that supports women’s life transitions and brings visibility to the lived experience of women in midlife.