July 15th, 2022

Effective leadership requires an individual to project confidence and inspire those around them to work toward a common goal. 

Unfortunately, women often face different challenges on their journey to leadership than their male counterparts. Athena helps women leaders sharpen their skills as they rise into the C-suite. Every Athena membership includes two hours with our executive coaches—experts on board and executive selection and search, voice and presentation, personal branding, go-to-market, and more. 

Through executive coaching, women can learn the skills they need to prepare for executive leadership and succeed when they get there. Below, learn the benefits of executive coaching—from gaining self-awareness of your strengths and weaknesses to increasing your leadership impact.

Why Is Coaching Women Leaders Important?

While women make up more than half of the workforce and are well represented in lower-level positions, there is still a significant gap in the percentage of women who reach the management level. For every 100 men promoted to manager, only 86 women are promoted. And when we turn to the boardroom, women hold just 20% of corporate board seats globally. These discrepancies often leave women with additional barriers, a lack of confidence, and a sense of imposter syndrome when they do reach executive positions. 

Coaching women leaders is an effective way to increase their confidence and impact as leaders while addressing gender inequality in upper management. Executive coaching designed for women leaders has been proven to reduce stress, increase motivation, and improve coping skills.

Benefits of Having an Executive Coach

Coaches help leaders identify gaps in their leadership and gain the skills they need to be more effective leaders and create a positive impact in their organizations.

1. Gain Deeper Self-Awareness and Self-Regulation

If you’ve ever felt like you know another person better than they know themselves, it’s clear that self-awareness can be challenging to achieve. Most people don’t see themselves very clearly. Leaders who know who they are and how others see them are more effective and confident. 

Many women are confident enough in their abilities that they rate themselves highly on leadership skills but are shortsighted when evaluating the confidence they project. For instance, women are more likely to apologize before offering a contradictory term and use phrases like “I’m not sure,” “I think,” or “I believe.” Executive coaches are excellent at pointing out such discrepancies and helping individuals build skills to see themselves more clearly.

Athena Coach Rachel Rodriguez specializes in leadership development, helping leaders gain self-awareness to achieve greater leadership impact. She believes leading effective teams starts at the top. Rachel’s executive training strategy includes authentic self-reflection and skill-building to help leaders, their teams, and their organizations thrive.

2. Master Your Strengths, Embrace Your Weaknesses

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, including executive leaders in the workplace. Yet women leaders are more likely to ruminate over their actions and strive for perfectionism. Knowing your strengths helps you understand why you are the best person for your role. 

Athena Coach Kate Purmal helps leaders amplify their strengths by acting from their authentic way of being. Her coaching encourages self-reflection and discovery of breakthrough professional opportunities and the creation of an actionable plan for change.

With this knowledge, you can develop your existing strengths to mastery. By acknowledging and embracing your weaknesses (instead of beating yourself up), you can determine what talents and skills are best utilized and better align your work with your core strengths.

3. Understanding Your Unique Value as a Leader

When you become more self-aware and embrace your most authentic leadership strengths, you can pinpoint your unique value as a leader. The most effective leaders draw from more than skills and education. 

As Athena Coach Tissa Richards explains “I help leaders cut through the noise about themselves to answer ‘So, what?’ That is what gets results. When you can answer the ‘so what?’ about your work, people understand ‘why you’. They understand why to hire you for a role, why to select you for a corporate board, why to compensate you at a certain level, why to listen to you, why to respect you—and a whole lot more.”

4. Build Stronger Relationships

Leaders dramatically limit their effectiveness by only building relationships they think will succeed. Leaders often close themselves off by building relationships with team members most like themselves. For newly promoted women leaders, it can be easy to make assumptions about how others perceive your promotion—some even hold preconceived notions that men will be reluctant to “take orders” from a woman.  An effective executive coach can help you recognize the interactions you’re avoiding and provide tools to work against those behaviors.

Athena Coach Julianna Hynes helps members shift into a more intentional mindset in everything from relationship-building to their reputation and career path. She’s skilled at simplifying complex issues and creating actionable solutions that empowers leaders to feel more confident and equipped to manage any challenge that comes their way.

5. See Your Blind Spots

Professional growth is essential to move upward in your career and reach the executive realm. While you may think you’re aware of your strengths and weaknesses, you likely have blind spots that prevent you from succeeding. According to the organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry, nearly 80% of leaders have blind spots in their skills. While failing to recognize your weaknesses can result in ineffective leadership, failing to acknowledge your strengths can prevent you from taking on challenges that help you grow. Women may be less likely to identify opportunities for career growth as they arise due to such blind spots. Executive coaches are great mirrors and see the things individuals fail to see in themselves.  

Athena Coach Deb Elbaum excels in this area, helping members lead from their values and purpose to develop internal awareness and increase their external impact. She helps members identify the blind spots holding them back to shift behaviors and cultivate their authentic leadership.

6. Achieve Your Goals

Reaching the C-suite isn’t the end of the journey as you strive to become an effective leader. Many people seek to attain an executive role without understanding what they hope to achieve once they get there. As a woman leader, it can be easy to get caught up in other people’s ideas of success and lose sight of your personal career goals as a leader. Investigating how to get more women into the C-suite and boardroom makes it clear that women leaders need additional support and sponsorship. A qualified executive coach can help you clarify your goals to set a path to achieve them. As a neutral third party, a coach can be honest with you about your goals, your performance, and your best way to get there. 

Athena Coach Cate Goethals helps members bring their goals to reality by listening deeply to understand not only your goals and challenges, but also the story beneath the story—who you are as a person, a professional, and a leader.

7. Increase Your Impact

Unconscious bias often means women have to work harder to be impactful leaders. For example, a woman may be perceived as less capable than her male colleagues even when she has more skills and experience. Adding fuel to the fire, when women exhibit leadership qualities that are applauded in men (like directness and self-assurance), they are often seen as abrasive. Unfortunately, imposter syndrome can add to these biases, resulting in self-diminishing behavior that undermines your authority. These behaviors generally include body language that makes you seem smaller (like crossing legs and arms or hunching) and vocal cues that make you seem less confident (like using interjections like “I’m not sure…” or uptalk, the tendency to end phrases to make them sound like a question).

Lee Epting, Athena Coach and co-author of the book Composure: The Art of Executive Presence, helps members explore and resolve their impostor behaviors, like rejection sensitivity, perfectionism, lack of confidence, depressed entitlement, and feeling like a fraud. “I work with you to set a positive intention for what you would like,” she explains. “Then I help you to set measurable outcomes for your intention and an action plan to make it a reality.” 

Women face unique challenges as leaders. Executive coaching can help all leaders recognize areas for improvement and keep up with the demand of executive roles. Executive coaching for women leaders can empower women to succeed in new roles and serve as role models for future company leaders.

Athena’s Executive Development program empowers women leaders to elevate their impact as overarching stewards of business. Learn more about how we can help executive women advance and excel at the highest levels of leadership. And, learn how Athena helps companies empower their top women leaders through curated learning and development.



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