21st Century Leadership

Executive coaching: Get help with key global trends affecting your business

Executive coaching: Get help with key global trends affecting your business

This article first appeared in Smart CEO Magazine.

Executive coaching is no longer a trend, but a viable tool in talent and performance management for organizations. Sixty percent of organizations with strong coaching cultures report that their revenue is above average in their peer group, according to a study conducted by the Human Capital Institute and the International Coach Federation.

Clearly coaching has an impact on an organization’s financial performance. Additionally, coaching can help with employee engagement: 65 percent of employees from companies with strong coaching cultures rated themselves as highly engaged.

Just as athletes have coaches who provide feedback, encouragement and performance assessment, many executives and entrepreneurs hire coaches to help them become more effective leaders. Everyone has blind spots, behaviors and patterns of thought that they cannot see for themselves. Leaders need someone to point out the behaviors that keep limiting their potential. Coaches serve that purpose, and can also act as thinking partners for executives who don’t often have someone they can confidentially share feelings, ideas and concerns with.

Future trends affecting leaders

Another advantage of coaching is that it can help executives take advantage of key societal and global trends, including:

Remote workers: I have several clients who manage teams not only in other countries, but also here in the U.S. Teams are dispersed in different states and often work out of collaborative work spaces or the home. Team leaders are challenged with maintaining cohesion in their teams and communicating effectively and quickly. Information-sharing platforms become extremely important. Coaches can help their clients hone their message and create new delivery models for that communication.

The need for resilient leaders: Resiliency is built before a crisis hits so that the leader can manage emerging situations decisively and thoughtfully. Tired leaders are ineffective leaders. Coaches are challenged to encourage, if not push, leaders to maintain health and well-being. Mindfulness, exercise, nutrition and sleep are essential elements to maintaining resiliency, yet often those are the first things to be sacrificed in a fast-paced environment.

Global cultures, language and values: Many of our clients work in global organizations and either reside abroad or are managing teams that reside abroad. Leaders underestimate the need to be careful about language. Behind the words is a set of cultural values that may not match the American one, and must be learned and considered for leaders to be effective globally. Executive coaches provide an alternative perspective that challenges our cultural assumptions.

The generational see-saw. Leaders will be faced with the challenge of how to manage a millennial generation of workers who are breaking all the rules of traditional work, yet have so much to contribute through their ingenuity and optimism. Second, they will have to decide how to recover the organizational wisdom and tacit knowledge held by the boomers now leaving the workforce. A greater emphasis on mentorship programs that can build bridges between the generations and their experience will help retain this wisdom, while encouraging diligence and intention in a younger generation that can at times be impulsive.

Leadership by authenticity: In his book Authentic Leadership, Bill George persuasively demonstrates that authentic leaders of mission-driven companies will create far greater shareholder value than financially oriented companies. He speaks about five essential dimensions of authentic leaders — purpose, values, heart, relationships and self-discipline. People are tired of listening to false promises and glamorized spins. They are looking for leaders who demonstrate courage and humanity in their leadership, with a focus on people.

Retiring workers: About 44 million people in the U.S. are now 65 years or older. By 2050, the Census Bureau expects that figure to double, as the largest generation in American history lives longer than any before it. A handful of companies and institutions, such as the National Institutes of Health, offer ways of letting older workers return on a part-time basis after retirement. This takes advantage of their expertise, while easing them into their post-employment lives. Teaching coaching skills to these older workers will help them coach newer managers to build skill sets appropriate to the organization.

Hi Tech combined with Hi Touch: We are living in a time that requires organizations to marry purpose and profit. New technology drives the fast pace of innovation but cannot continue without a nod to social endeavors that sustain a healthier planet. Companies such as Worldreader (helping low literacy in emergent countries), Samasource (addressing global economic equality through the power of technology) and CareMessage (focuses on enhancing patients’ ability to self-manage their health, expanding health literacy, and improving care in general in under-served populations primarily through text messaging) are fueling social entrepreneurship. Successful social entrepreneurs work with mature coaches who have a business mindset and share their insight into the value of social impact.

The 21st Executive Coach

What do these trends mean for those of us who coach leaders facing these kinds of challenges? The 21st-century coach is a global citizen, knowledgeable about cultural differences and experienced in living or traveling in other countries. This gives the coach enough perspective to challenge the assumptions on which leaders build a vision and direction for their organizations.  As coaches we need to develop our own capacity for global perspective to best serve our clients.


Alicia M. Rodriguez is founder of Sophia Associates Inc., an international executive and leadership coaching practice. www.sophia-associates.com. We work with visionary leaders, executive women, social and creative entrepreneurs and change agents.

Contact Alicia at alicia@sophia-associates.com or @aliciarod on Twitter

Women as Integrative Leaders

Evolution has been defined as: “the process by which an organism becomes more sophisticated over time and in response to its environment”. As I consider the future CEO I wonder about that definition. Leadership has evolved as global challenges grow more complex and critical than ever before. More significant than what a leader does or why she does it is the “who” behind the leader moniker.

What does it take for a leader to evolve the capacity to respond to an ever-changing environment? What traits or skills might be found in a next generation leader? First we have to consider what the emerging future may look like. Without clairvoyance the imagination may be the best vehicle for considering what the future holds. We can imagine a world that needs high-integrity leaders that build bridges between cultures, between technologies and between industries. This approach to leadership is deeply rooted in a transformational worldview that is transcends self-interest for the collective good of the organization, its stakeholders and the larger community.

What are the skills and attitudes required to meet our emerging future? We need leaders who balance the feminine and masculine aspects of ourselves as humans with an integrated awakened leadership.

What is needed is a recalibration that values feminine leadership styles that incorporate:

      Shared leadership


      Focus on relationships

      Intuition and data

      Community builders



      Power with vs. Power Over

Women are now poised to bring traits and ways of leading into the future that can impact global solutions, merging doing business and doing good in the world. Both are required now. 

In his book Awakened Leadership: Beyond Self Mastery, author Alan Shelton writes,

The corporate landscape is teeming with the demand for offerings in personal development and consciously responsible leadership. Where these are made available, you will find today’s best executives. These men and women have developed a keen ear for identifying opportunities to expand through their own personal journey and at the same time developing traits that will facilitate successful outcomes in business. Much like I do, they live and relish every corporate moment. They do not want the lifeblood of their passion marginalized or diluted as though it were of a lesser value.”

Alan has discovered the shift in what many of us in the leadership development field might refer to as Evolutionary Leadership or Awakened Leadership or Integrative Leadership. The core of this shift is the emphasis on the development of the individual leader expanding her level of self-awareness and her ability to challenge herself to evolve in ways that include a unitive perspective.

I believe that women as the next evolutionary leaders bring to their leadership the feminine archetypal qualities that are required to meet the future. Yet I also believe that most women are unaware of how to best leverage this leadership style.

A Builder. She must imagine beyond what is visible to her now and she must hold that vision lightly in order to maintain an agility and nimbleness to respond in the moment. She must be able to create from nothing without a reliance on past models of success.

A Conversationalist. She must be adept at convening bold conversations, conversations that matter and illuminate essential principles which drive her business. She must listen deeply to what matters to others and engage people in conversations that generate mutual prosperity.

An Ethicist. The world is looking for leaders with impeccable integrity and transparency. We need leaders who ask difficult questions and can engage controversial discourse from an ethical perspective without becoming moralistic.

A Meaning-Maker. Evolutionary leaders support followers in their search for increased meaning in their lives whether it is through a business or a cause. Our fragmented lives can lead to a deep disconnect which in business translates to stress, dysfunction and apathy. Nothing can be created from that.

A Steward. The green movement has brought attention to the damage in over-consumption of resources and the need to find alternatives to past practices. The evolutionary leader is a steward of the environment and of her global community.

A Collaborator. She must create systems that support collaboration across cultures, within teams and with strategic alliances. These collaborations are based on mutual respect, honesty, humility and an attitude of abundance.

A Strategist. Without strategic acumen the vision of the evolutionary leader may remain a wish or dream. The evolutionary leader builds her own strategic skills and cultivates those skills in others.

A Mentor. A mentor requires a relationship with the future. The purposeful mentoring of a next generation of leaders focuses on what may be required to meet that future. If ideas are the currency of the future, she must provide forums for learning and mentoring opportunities that generate innovation and intrinsic motivation.

An Alchemist. The future is full of paradox. The ability to see beyond polarities and be able to understand the creative value of paradox is essential to the Integrative Leader. She is only one person and can only see as far as her personal horizon. By embracing multiple perspectives in her vision and strategy she taps the collective wisdom, expertise and brilliance of many to accomplish much. This is a leader that gives voice to those who may not be in power but can contribute to creating the future. She can discern the inter-relationship and patterns of what may be disparate elements and she can bring them together without diminishing any of them.

More than any of these, the Integrative Leader must be authentic, awake, aware and alive, participating in the creation of the emergent future from a place of integrity, energy, principle and presence. The ability to reflect on her thinking and to maintain self-awareness allows her to challenge her own assumptions so she can continue to evolve herself and those around her. A desire to be masterful in reaching her potential translates into a focus on developing mastery in others.

The greatest surprise will be that many who hold the seeds of the Integrative Leader will not be found in the MBA programs or traditional systems. They will be the rogue thinkers, the artists, the people who put their creativity, their heart and their mind to work to make a real difference. Those are the people I will be looking for to lead in the next evolution of leadership.

© 2015. Alicia M. Rodriguez, Sophia Associates, Inc. www.sophia-associates.com

View our two minute video on Awakening Leadership Within to learn more about Leadership Development for the 21st Century.