Still learning: CEOs want coaching on leadership

Two-thirds of North American chief executives are getting no coaching or leadership training from outside sources, according to a new survey report.

That’s not due to a lack of interest in coaching. Nearly 100% of CEOs said they are receptive to making changes based on feedback and coaching they receive, and 96% of CEOs said they enjoy getting coaching and leadership advice.

“There is a real opportunity for companies to fill in that gap,” said David Larcker, director of the Center for Leadership Development and Research at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, which conducted the survey in partnership with Stanford University’s Rock Center for Corporate Governance, and talent development consultancy The Miles Group.

Seventy-nine per cent of board directors said their CEO is open to changes recommended through coaching or feedback. Board directors said the top two areas their CEOs need to work on are “mentoring skills/developing internal talent” and “sharing leadership/delegation skills.” This demonstrates that board members recognise the need to develop talent and skills that has been a significant focus among companies worldwide in recent years.

CEOs ranked conflict management as their top area of concern for their personal development.

While CEOs may not always be getting the coaching they desire, spending on leadership development programmes overall is expected to rise over the next 12 months, according to a survey by The Conference Board and consultancy Right Management.

Almost two in five (39%) HR execs expect to increase spending on leadership development, while just 10% expect to spend less on such training, according to the global survey of senior human resources executives at more than 600 organisations. Forty-seven per cent said their leadership development spending will stay the same.

Increased leadership training was expected most frequently by HR executives in Asia (46%), while respondents in North America (37%) and Europe (34%) were less likely to expect a rise in leadership development spending.

The Stanford survey shows that CEOs crave such training. Although 78% of CEOs said they receive informal coaching and leadership advice from members of the board of directors, CEOs overwhelmingly indicated a desire for coaching from outside sources, too.

“Given how vitally important it is for the CEO to be getting the best possible counsel, independent of their board, in order to maintain the health of the corporation, it’s concerning that so many of them are ‘going it alone,’ ” Miles Group CEO Stephen Miles said in a news release. “Even the best-of-the-best CEOs have their blind spots and can dramatically improve their performance with an outside perspective.”

Ken Tysiac ( is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.