Skip to content

6 Important Trends in Executive Coaching

4 min read
Executive Coaching Trends 2021 - Top 6 Trends in Leadership Development.

Executive coaching has been, and continues to be, a pivotal support and developmental lever for leadership. Coming out of the past 12 months, post-pandemic, Ariel set out to understand how the coaching industry has changed through these turbulent times and to identify what’s new and different in leadership coaching for 2021. Here is what we see as the top trends in Executive Coaching in 2021.

#1  Demand for Executive Coaching is growing … with new areas of focus.

In the Conference Board’s C-Suite Challenge™ 2021, CEOs reported seeing coaching as a main focus of their human capital management strategies. Newer areas of increased focus include:

  • Driving alignment on shifting strategies.
  • Senior team development.
  • Building an adaptable and agile culture.
  • Building bench and leader succession, and
  • Coaching the whole person, including self-care and self-awareness.

#2  Executive coaching is more closely aligned with specific leadership competency needs.

Global impacts of the past 12 months have brought new challenges requiring enhanced leadership skills across a number of critical competencies including:

  • Resilience and agility.
  • Trust and safety.
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Empathy and compassion.
  • Communications and virtual presence, and innovation and change.

For example, in The Conference Board’s C-Suite Challenge™ 2021, CEOs identified a significant leadership challenge as the ability of leaders to demonstrate empathy and compassion across virtual platforms. “For organizations to be successful in the post COVID-19 world, leaders need to know how to communicate with and lead their teams while demonstrating empathy, compassion, and self-awareness. Coaching can help leaders quickly develop and enhance social-emotional skills by offering targeted, personalized, and focused development in these areas.”

#3  Executive coaching combined with executive mentoring is a powerful, hybrid coaching model growing both in need and demand, in particular at the C-Suite level.

A skillful integration of both a coach and a mentor accelerates success by providing both leadership and business expertise.

The executive coach enhances the inner game of leadership with additional emphasis on shifting limiting thinking patterns that drive leadership effectiveness behaviors.The executive mentor provides subject matter expertise through direct experience of having sat in the chair.

“With our Executive Partners program, we are seeing tremendous growth in the executive coach/mentor hybrid model,” states Kathy Green, President at Ariel Group. “The key to success is a seamless integration between our executive coach and executive partner, working in tandem to help leaders optimize both their inner game and build competencies in parts of their new roles that are new for them.”

#4  Executive coaching is expanding across more levels within organizations.

“Previously coaching was considered a luxury available only to senior leaders. Now, it has transformed into being perceived as a significant contribution to the success of an organization, in which all stakeholders can participate.” (ICF Info 2019, Executive Coaching Survey)

While coaching has traditionally been more for seniors leaders, companies are increasingly recognizing the need to develop leaders deeper into their organizations. A sentiment echoed by Susan Madonia, Ariel SVP of Global Clients. “As leaders are developed to be more effective in new or current roles, and certainly as they are developed in line with succession planning needs, we are seeing across many of our client companies, that we are being asked to provide both leadership and team coaching much deeper into the organization, from CEOs to EVPs/Group Presidents, to VPs/GMs, and even to Directors and Managers for many of our larger global clients.”

#5  More organizations are building in-house coaching capabilities.

As the need for coaching expands to address more leadership levels, organizations are realizing the benefits of building internal coaching teams. The key to success is working with a strong, strategic coaching firm that:

  • Has demonstrated success in training and developing internal coaches;
  • Can expertly assist in identifying and selecting strong internal coach candidates;
  • Can design and help implement a comprehensive training program including key checkpoints to monitor and assess internal coach effectiveness; and,
  • Can design and oversee an internal coaching development certification program, if needed.


Cassandra Mitchell, Ariel VP of Solution Strategy, has been designing and overseeing train-the-trainer programs for over 15 years. “Responsiveness to client needs throughout the entire process is paramount. While customized program design sets the requisite strong foundation, keeping a close watch on how leaders are actually developing their coaching capabilities through measured checkpoints, and the ability to provide additional real time training, makes all the difference in the long-term success of the program.”

#6  Companies are requiring more from their executive coaching partners.

As companies seek to develop leaders across new competencies and at levels deeper into the organization, Talent and HR leaders are demanding more from external coaching partners, including coaching partners that demonstrate measurable value by:

  • Understanding their culture and broader talent strategy;
  • Understanding their changing business and leadership challenges;
  • Aligning with their geography, competencies, culture, and industry;
  • Offering strong choices of high quality coaches
    • Coaching-specific credentials, including certifications, training, and demonstrated areas of expertise
    • Alignment with needs of each leader, in both coaching and business experience

Providing aggregate insights from coaching engagements to share back key findings and strategies; and,
Seeking to assess on outcomes and ROI.

Executive coaching is an investment in human capital at key levels in your organization. And through these transformative, complex, and still uncertain times, leaders need supports now more than ever, to amplify their leadership, to motivate and inspire their organizations, and to drive business success.

*Executive Coaching Connections LLC was acquired by Ariel Group in 2022. They are a global people and organizational development advisory firm that has successfully supported the biggest companies, public, private, and family-owned, and their most senior executives for more than 20 years. They are best known for their proprietary, 8-step coaching methodology which incorporates a holistic approach proven to drive desired results.


Virtual Presence Guide: How to Help Virtual Teams Create Authentic Connections

Download this guide to discover tips and best practices to help your teams be productive and engaged when working virtually.

View Resource