Why Executive Coaching Works in Higher Education

“When a leader gets better, everyone wins!”

July 5, 2022 by Dr. Candace Goodwin – Although every industry has undergone significant changes over the past several years, higher education has been impacted more profoundly. When the pandemic hit, traditional colleges and universities were abruptly forced to adapt their mindset and move toward thinking differently, scrambling to transform standard brick-and-mortar programs into online or hybrid delivery modalities. Colleges and universities that already had successful online programs could pivot quickly and sustain student enrollment. Universities unable to make these changes rapidly faced many challenges.

High education leadership teams were confronted with workforce challenges they had not faced before. The changes in the economy, staffing shortages, healthcare concerns, loss of international students, diversity, equity, and inclusion were all simultaneously impacting higher education. College leadership focused on enrollment as their highest priority and lost sight of how the pandemic influenced staff and shaped their expectations and preferences. Employees were seeking out empathy, remote work, and flexible work hours and wanted to feel more connected than ever.

As the environment of higher education leadership becomes more complicated by outside events and shifting employee motivations, the benefits of executive coaching only increase. High- quality executive coaching balances organizational priorities like enrollment with the leadership development and insight required to move those priorities forward. Executive coaching is an essential problem-solving tool for higher education executives seeking support balancing leadership challenges and understanding the higher education landscape from both the 30,000 ft elevation and the 100 ft elevation.

The top three reasons why higher education executive coaching works:

1. Executive coaching activates and animates wisdom.

Many executives and aspiring higher education leaders lean most heavily on their level of intelligence. Clayton (1982) defined intelligence as the ability to think logically, conceptualize, and abstract from reality. Intelligence focuses on how to do. It helps leaders accomplish and achieve.

By contrast, Clayton defines wisdom as the ability to grasp human nature, which is paradoxical, contradictory, and subject to continual change. Wisdom provokes a person to consider the consequences of their actions on themselves and the effects on others.

Wisdom helps people decide whether to pursue a course of action. Higher education executives work in concert with many others. It is incumbent on all higher education leaders to work with their wisdom.

The difference between intelligence and wisdom can be described as knowing what vs. knowing how. According to Stenberg (2005), knowing how adds creativity and experience to our knowledge. While an executive has proven intelligence, the wisdom gained by learning from various experiences provides multiple points of view at their disposal to solve problems creatively.

It is no longer sufficient to only have intelligence and management skills to make high- level and far-reaching leadership decisions. Wisdom is a crucial component of good leadership. Staudinger, Lopez, and Baltes (1997) found that individuals who discussed life problems with another person and reflected on the conversation before responding out-performed others. Executive coaching can make the difference in that kind of wisdom and more.

An executive coach for higher education helps college and university executives activate and animate their wisdom. Executive coaches guide leaders to go beyond reporting metrics and learn ways to increase their wisdom through natural reciprocity, investing in their team, and developing new leadership traits. The result is a higher education leader able to make more creative and cultured decisions that are the best for university and college leadership, staff, and students.

2. Executive coaching galvanizes conscious and intentional conversations.

There are two conversations we have every day. One is with other people—and one is in our heads. Having conversations with other people can feel fraught in this increasingly complicated world. Higher education executives need to ensure their conversations are conscious and intentional. Executive coaching can help!

Conscious conversations encourage connection and overcoming differences. The basis is hearing and understanding instead of judging as right or wrong. Participants in a conversation of this nature must be fully present, listen fully and respectfully, keep an open mind, and be patient. It is important to understand that conversations of this kind are a skill to be learned and built upon. There is always room to improve communication as a leader.

Intentional conversations are purposeful and planned. Being intentional means being strategic in how to communicate, what to communicate, and to whom. Intentional conversations can make staff members feel valued and ensure that conversations are productive.

With an executive coach, higher education executives can build confidence in their ability to have conscious and intentional conversations.

3. Executive coaching stimulates creativity.

With the landscape for higher education rapidly changing, a successful higher education executive needs to move beyond the same old, same old. It is time for creativity in all aspects of leadership. Nothing helps creativity like the collaboration that comes from partnering with an executive coach.

Most executives could benefit from switching things up and taking their leadership off auto pilot. A significant outcome could be developing a flexible mindset and considering new ways to get things done. A lack of creativity could result in missing opportunities for innovation and growth. Working with an executive coach helps open the door to explore innovative ideas and getting excited by new, creative possibilities.

Bonus 4th reason higher education executive coaching works:

4. Executive coaching creates “emotional safety.”

Having emotional safety means feeling secure enough to be your most authentic self, and isn’t that the ideal for all employee-leader scenarios? Who wouldn’t want to bring their real selves to work? Well, that takes work. Emotional safety is an important aspect of having a satisfying connection. Connection is increasingly vital to today’s workforce. It is worth the investment.

Higher education executive coaching cultivates emotional safety so executives can get the most out of their experience. Our brains constantly detect whether a situation is safe or dangerous. When people experience safety, they are better listeners, able to collaborate more, innovative, creative, and able to connect with others. Emotional safety has positive effects that flow to others.

Emotional safety encourages freedom of expression and increased compassion. A skilled executive coach can help guide you to understanding and increasing emotional safety.

Executives and leaders in higher education benefit from the investment in high-quality executive coaching. Coaching is transformative—helping leaders leverage their best selves. An executive coach empowers creativity, impact, connection, and influence. Great leaders have great coaches—everyone can use that kind of support! Especially leaders working in higher education.


Aides, Kim. “Six Reasons to Hire an Executive Coach.” Frame of Mind Coaching, 16, Nov. 2021, https://www.frameofmindcoaching.com/blog/reasons-to-hire-an-executive-coach.

Boeder, E. “Emotional Safety is Necessary for Emotional Connection” The Gottman Institute. https://www.gottman.com/blog/emotional-safety-is-necessary-for-emotional-connection/

Clayton V. (1982). Wisdom and intelligence: the nature and function of knowledge in the later years.

International journal of aging & human development, 15(4), 315–321. https://doi.org/10.2190/17tq-bw3y-p8j4-tg40 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7183572/

Drake, David and Webb, Peter (2018).” Coaching for Wisdom: Enabling Wise Decisions.” Research Gate, February 2018, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/323257694_Coaching_for_Wisdom_Enabling_Wise_D ecisions

Levine, Arthur and Pelt, S. “The Future of Higher Education is Occurring at the Margins.” Inside Higher Education, 4, Oct. 2021, https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2021/10/04/higher-education- should-prepare-five-new-realities-opinion

Staudinger, U.M., Lopez, D. F., and Baltes, P. B. (1997). The psychometric location of wisdom-related performance: Intelligence, personality and more. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23(11). 1200-1214,

Sternberg, R. J. (2005). WICS: A model of leadership. The Psychologist- Manager Journal, 8(1), 20-43.

Sternberg, R. J. (2005a). WICS: A model of leadership. The Psychologist-Manager Journal, 8(1), 20–43

Dr. Candace Goodwin a member of the Edu Alliance Group Advisory Council is a culture strategist and the CEO of Organizational Leadership Partners, an organization that helps leaders achieve exceptional results through the alignment of organizational priorities and culture. Candace’s expertise in culture, employee engagement, emotional intelligence, and leadership development provides guidance to leaders who desire to create an environment where people can do their best work.

Dr. Goodwin has a Doctorate in Organizational Leadership, an MBA in Human Resources, and a Bachelor’s degree in Finance.

Edu Alliance Group, Inc. (EAG) is an education consulting firm located in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, and Bloomington, Indiana, USA. We assist higher education institutions worldwide on a variety of mission-critical projects. Our consultants have accomplished university/college leaders who share the benefit of their experience to diagnose and solve challenges.

EAG has provided consulting and successful solutions for higher education institutions in Australia, Egypt, Georgia, India, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Nigeria, Uganda,  United Arab Emirates, and the United States.

Edu Alliance offers higher education institutions consulting services worldwide. If you like to know more about how Edu Alliance can best serve you, please contact Dean Hoke at dean.hoke@edualliancegroup.com 

Edu Alliance Group Announces a Coaching Program Dedicated to Higher Education Leaders

By Dean Hoke, December 2, 2019Edu Alliance announces a new coaching program service dedicated to Higher Education Leaders. Your personal and confidential coach will be selected from a team of highly experienced higher education professional coaches who will work closely with you to bring about the outcomes you have identified.

Why Does a Person Engage an Executive Coach?

older female executive shutterstock 2mbTo engage a coach is a highly personal decision. It is a one-to-one experience that is built on trust and honest communication. To commit to a safe working relationship with a coach is a bit like committing to going to the gym every day – starting to eat a healthy diet – and bringing your life into focus relatively free of stress.

The first step is to recognize that your current professional situation is not working for you and your staff.  Some people immediately consider hiring a big-four consulting firm. However, they are very expensive, and the person assigned is usually a bright, fresh-faced graduate who has little or no practical experience in higher education administration. When you feel you need a coach, you should have a person who has gone through similar experiences.

Finding a coach is very personal. It needs to be carefully and fully researched. You will share, in complete confidence, with your coach, your successes, and your failures. Your coach will know your professional personality and your working skills. Your coach needs to have extensive experience in the area of higher education administration and have their own set of successful experiences as well as failures. The coach brings to your situation a view that allows them to see your work from a new perspective and provide guidance and suggestions that will lead to building confidence and success all in total confidentiality.

Coaching has numerous meanings for people. Edu Alliance coaches will create a series of outcomes designed around your specific situation and needs.

Outcomes may include:

  • Defining your personal leadership qualities
  • Improving communications
  • Building confidence in yourself and reducing stress
  • Building skills to recognize you and your staff’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Improving time management and the ability to delegate
  • Learning to recognize what upsets you and how to control it

Where to Begin?

After contacting Edu Alliance, we will arrange an initial confidential session at no charge with a coach to discuss why you contacted us and your objective. We will then outline a program and strategy that best fits your needs.

Programs and Rates

Personal Coaching – Our coaching program will depend on the nature of your goals, how many goals you have, your availability, and your level of commitment. Edu Alliance is project-driven and, therefore, will offer a solution with a fixed number of sessions over a defined period of time in the range of 3 -12 months.  For a person who has a time-sensitive issue that needs resolution, it may be 12 sessions over a two or three month period.  If you are looking for a year-long program that focuses on improving and enhancing your skills and leadership it may be 24-30 sessions.

Training Events – Edu Alliance has a wide array of experienced senior university advisors and coaches who will come to your campus to conduct a one to three-day specialized training session. Examples are:

  • Fundamentals of leadership in higher education
  • Team Building
  • Strategies for developing New Academic programs
  • Managing Difficult Faculty
  • Alumni Cultivation
  • Branding and Reputation
  • Strategies to Improve Your Rankings
  • Strategies for Developing and Implementing a Diversity Plan
  • Crisis Management Preparation
  • Retention Strategies

Knowledgeable and Experienced Consultants

We have assembled a team of highly experienced higher education leaders to serve as coaches.

davisson tom-1

Tom Davisson, Partner Edu Alliance Group. Tom has worked in higher education for 45 years before recently retiring after 20 years from The Sullivan University System, where he served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. He has coached and developed training for young university executives as well as establishing college programs for Conflict Management and Dale Carnegie Leadership Training.

candace goodwin-oct.-2018v2Dr. Candace Goodwin, Edu Alliance Group Advisory Council Member. Candace is an Executive Coach and consultant with over 30 years of higher education executive leadership experience. She has designed and delivered workshops in areas such as: Coaching Skills for Leaders, Growth Mindset,  Powerful Communication, Emotional Intelligence, Strategic Planning and Goal Setting, and Employee Engagement.

Steven JonesDr. Steve Jones, Edu Alliance Group Advisory Council Member. Steve has served in a variety of positions in higher education, starting as an instructor to President of four universities. He has coached and mentored many educators during his 35-year career in higher education. He has recently conducted a Leadership workshop at KIMEP University in Almaty Kazakhstan.


161_Dan_King__1-1-12_Dr. Dan King, Edu Alliance Group Advisory Council Member. Dan is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Association of University Administrators, a non-profit professional organization for higher education leaders and administrative personnel. He has been a faculty member, dean, provost/academic vice president throughout his 40-year career.  He has a private consultant, served on several coaching assignments and led numerous training program for academic department chairs

How do I find out more?

For additional information, call 502-257-1063 or email either Tom Davisson or Dean Hoke. After our initial conversation a proposal will be submitted to you, which will detail Edu Alliance’s plan of action, including timeline, expectations, outcomes, and a proposed price.


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