Alfred Depew
triptych  

What is Political Leadership Coaching?

 

by Donna Zajonc ©2005

I am often asked to explain what a political leadership coach is and why it is an emerging specialty within the coaching profession. The practice and art of political leadership coaching is born out of the need to support public leaders as they traverse the highly challenging issues during these polarizing and partisan times.

Political coaches are not pollsters, consultants or strategists zeroing in on the next election plan. Rather, nonpartisan political coaches have a one-on-one relationship with a political candidate or elected official that equips them with the personal tools and knowledge to clarify and manifest their vision for their time in public office.

Political coaches do not comment on their client's political opinions or espouse their own positions - quite the contrary. The coach may be the only person who does not want something from the political leader and therefore can provide honest reflective listening.

Political coaches help:

  • focus on developing and enhancing the politician's personal leadership style
  • develop the art of collaborative leadership including building alliance across old political boundaries and fostering genuine relationships with others
  • create a confidential relationship that allows the politician to freely discuss concerns they might not otherwise feel comfortable sharing with others
  • provide tools for managing their anxiety and stress in difficult situations
  • discover new possibilities in the midst of entrenched political views
  • to fully develop their vision for public office far beyond just winning their next election
  • keep their vision for public office alive in the midst of struggle and defeat.

 

When is the right time to seek a political leadership coach? Here are just a few situations where coaching is especially helpful:

  • When considering running for office, especially for the first time or running again following a defeat
  • After winning an election in order to help set their agenda for the first few months in office
  • When considering running for another office or wondering if it is time to retire
  • When the demands of public and private life become imbalanced
  • During challenging times when vision, purpose, and passion are a blur rather than a daily source of inspiration and energy.

 

Political coaches support a politician by developing their awareness of gaps between their intentions and actions, and challenging unconscious assumptions that create inconsistencies from their client's stated values and their behavior. At the same time, a professional coach helps the public leader tap into their humanity which is vital to renewing the nobility of political service.

The fast paced world of power politics places political leaders under immense pressure to do and say things they might not ordinarily do. Holding the political leader to their commitments so they speak and act in alignment with higher motives is a roll uniquely played by the political coach.

Working within in a highly confidential relationship is distinctive to political coaching. Unlike political consultants and pollsters who boast of their client's winning ways and often feel their future is tied to the outcome of the election, a political coach does not reveal their relationship with their political client unless the politician chooses to do so.

A political coach can help clients make sense of and integrate the various advice they receive from others. Not by proposing a solution, but by helping them sort through what they are hearing, how they feel about it and what possibilities they want to choose.

Political leaders are under constant pressure from a wide variety of interests and may become discouraged and lose sight of why they ran for office. The political coach supports them in such confusing times and helps keep their original vision for public service alive.

The result of working with a political leadership coach is a more authentic and courageous political leader willing to boldly lead from higher ground.