Lonely at the top? Don’t let it be so

As a CEO or a C-level executive, do you ever feel you are on your own? Do you feel that everyone relies on you to have the right answer, do the right thing, be the right ‘boss’, foresee and smooth out the speed bumps and more? By Grace Thomas Victorian Branch President of the International Coach Federation (ICF).

If your answer is “yes”, you are not alone. Most of the CEOs and C-level executive clients I work

with lament about this. The term ‘together alone’ rings so true for senior leaders.

As the CEO or C-level executive, you are mainly concerned with performance and growth – individually and collectively.

You work hard to navigate the ever-increasing demands and expectations from shareholders, customers, employees, your family and friends, and from yourself. That is a heavy weight of responsibility on you.


Is this your story? There is a common saying “your story is just a story – fiction”. How do you know where the truth to your story lies?

Someone you know and respect suggests you get yourself an executive or leadership coach. “I don’t need a coach. I am doing just fine” you think, indignantly.

Secretly, you wonder if this may be good advice.

You’ve met a few people who call themselves coaches – some have approached you to offer their services. They might sound the same, yet appear to be very different. You might think – don’t coaches work on ‘fixing’ people?


How important is it to you and to your company for you to be the best version of yourself as a leader? What would it mean if you can create a positive ripple through the company and beyond, inspiring others to be part of building performance and growth – meeting and exceeding expectations?


  • The 2009 International Coach Federation (ICF) Global Coaching Client Study reported a median coaching ROI (return on investment) to be 700%.
  • The 2003 MetrixGlobal study of executive coaching “Coaching for Increased Profitability: How to Deliver and Demonstrate Tangible Results to the Bottom Line” reported an ROI from coaching of 788%
  • The Manchester Review 2001 reported that executive coaching yields a return on investment of almost six times its


Let’s provide some insights to help clear any misconceptions about what coaching is and what it is not. Isn’t coaching the same as mentoring, consulting, training, counselling, managing?


This illustration provides an overview of the differences between coaching and other interventions. Leading cuts across all quadrants showing the complexity of leading well.


The International Coach Federation (ICF), the world’s largest coach credentialing body defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential”.

This common yet powerful formula applies equally to your personal performance and to the performance of your company.


Coaches don’t tell. Coaches don’t prescribe. Coaches don’t do the heavy lifting for you. The best coaches challenge you to explore deeply, bringing awareness to the fore, enabling you to make conscious choices to build new habits and mindsets that move you towards your potential.

The fundamental premise of coaching is that the answers are within you. The coach helps you uncover, sometimes excavate, the strengths that propel you forward and what’s holding you back from being the absolute best you can be with less effort. Heard of getting more from less?


One of the frameworks many coaches use to explore interferences is the Integral Model developed by Ken Wilber. This is an effective way of looking at both strengths that support you and the things that impede your performance and growth.

Interferences can come from one or more, and often from all, quadrants. We have incorporated some of the ways we might explore these in the illustration below.


From this exploration, new awareness and insights emerge, creating conscious choice to experiment with new and helpful behaviours that develop into helpful habits. The result? Long term change towards the best version of yourself as  a  leader and being able to influence your teams to meet and exceed expectations – yes, those heavy expectations!

Getting the most from a coaching relationship means building a relationship of unwavering trust, quickly. Without trust at the highest level, exploration stays at a superficial level and change is limited, potential remains an unrealised dream. However, as a CEO or C-level executive, if you have a trusted partner sit beside you, walk alongside you, and who is not attached to any other agenda except to help you be the best you can be, you won’t feel so alone and can focus on what really matters, performance and growth.

 Contact president.victoria@ icfaustralasia.com and we will direct you to the best person on our team to answers any questions you may have.

Grace Thomas is the Victorian Branch President of the International Coach Federation (ICF). Globally, ICF has over 31,000 members, of whom 80% are credentialed, in 149 countries.

Her capacity to work with senior leaders bringing ‘heat and heart’ to all her relationships builds on a strong foundation in corporate leadership roles in Australia and Asia-Pacific. 

International Coach Federation (ICF) is the leading global organisation dedicated to advancing the coaching profession by setting high standards, providing independent certification and building a worldwide network of trained coaching professionals.

Business First is a peer-to-peer magazine: written by CEOs and other high level executives, with interviews with some of the country’s best leaders.

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