Leadership Coaching: Why Some Executives Resist Change

Some executives over-estimate their leadership effectiveness. Other executives are not ready to change.

 Over-Estimation of Leadership Effectiveness

 There is evidence that the more an executive over-estimates their leadership effectiveness compared to the ratings of others, the less likely they will improve with coaching. This is supported by the research literature.

 For example Atwater and Yammarino (1992) found a negative correlation between over-estimators and predicted leadership improvement outcomes. It is suggested that over-estimators use the information to reinforce their opinion that he or she is doing well and no changes are needed.

 In my coaching practice, using 360º Leadership Feedback, I have found that when a leader’s effectiveness self-rating is significantly higher compared to the ratings of others, there is often only minimal improvement made by the leader. In extreme cases the leader’s self-perception of their effectiveness will border on delusional thinking. As a result the leader will not see the need for change and is not motivated to change.

 Readiness for Change

 A second area of resistance centers on an executive’s readiness for change.

 The Transtheoretical Model of Change (Grant 2006) sets out the stages of change as:

 Precontemplation: The leader has no intention to change in the foreseeable future.

  1. Contemplation: The leader is considering making changes, but have not yet made any changes.
  2. Preparation: Increased commitment to change , intend to change in the near future, and are making small changes.
  3. Action: The leader is practicing new behaviours, but has only been doing for a short period of time, say six months.
  4. Maintenance: Consistent practice of new leadership behaviours for at least six months.
  5. Relaps: often there is a return to ineffective leadership behaviours.

 It is very important for the Leadership coach to quickly determine at what stage the leader is at in their development. If it is the Precontemplation stage then a key strategy for the coach is to broaden the leader’s self-awareness of their actual leadership effectiveness. My experience is that the best way to do this is through 360º leadership feedback. In my opinion the best researched, most valid and reliable instrument for this purpose is the Multi-Factor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ).

 It is a waste of time and money if the coach attempts to facilitate a leadership development program if the executive is not ready for change.


 A leader’s over-estimation of their leadership effectiveness, particularly if it is significant, will reduce or prevent the leader moving from Precontemplation through the stages to Maintenance. The challenge for the coach is to find ways to broaden the leader’s perception about their effectiveness.

 If you would like to read further about how leaders can deceive themselves click Organization Renewal Online Store (see Blogroll) and read the reviews for:

 “Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box: Published by The Arbinger Institute.”

 I also recommend:

 Evidence Based Coaching Handbook: Putting Best Practice to Work for Your Clients; See below for reference – This book can also be purchased through our Organization Renewal Online Store


 Does self-Other agreement On leadership Perceptions Moderate The Validity Of leadership and Performance Predictions?: Personnel Psychology 1992, 45; Leanne E. Atwater, Francis J. Yammarion.

 An Integrative Goal-Focused Approach to Executive Coaching in Evidence Based Coaching Handbook – Putting best Practices to Work for Your Clients; Dianne R.Stober and Anthony M. Grant; 2006; John Wiley & Sons.

Dallas Burgess


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