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The Invisible Backpack: Coaching the CEO Within to Unlock Your Leadership Potential

As a leadership development coach, I often work with executives at various levels, focusing on honing their leadership capabilities to create a tangible impact on their teams and the organization. Usually, these high-achieving, ambitious leaders are crucial cogs in the bigger system, driving business strategy and transformation. Sometimes the coach-client system will hit a ceiling with always ‘doing more with less’ within the realm of performance coaching. There comes a point where we need to delve deeper, beyond the observable and into the “invisible” — the leader’s inner landscape.

This shift takes us into the realm of Executive Mindset Coaching or vertical development cliché of raising one’s level of consciousness. Here, the focus is on developing the self-awareness that is the bedrock of effective leadership. One of the most challenging yet rewarding aspects of this coaching is revealing the leader’s “unconscious woundedness.”

Challenging Assumptions, Unearthing Potential

This process involves questioning the leader’s existing frameworks, assumptions, and perspectives about their impact. We move beyond the standard 360-degree feedback and delve into the “why” behind their actions. We explore and challenge their belief systems, conditioning from childhood, and ingrained patterns of thinking. This is truly transformative work, as it unlocks a deeper level of self-awareness that traditional transactional coaching may not reach.

The Liberating Act: Coaching the Chiron Within

This exploration of the leader’s “mental constructs” is what I call the most liberating act in the coaching process. It allows leaders to break free from self-limiting patterns and unleash their true potential. However, this is also one of the most challenging skills for a coach to master. We are venturing into the intangible — the leadership mindset that shapes the organization’s success.

The Wounded Healer: A Metaphor for Growth

Many leaders, unknowingly, carry emotional baggage from past experiences. This “wounded self” can manifest as self-doubt, fear of failure, a relentless drive to prove yourself, a struggle to delegate or the need for constant validation.

Imagine carrying an invisible backpack filled with childhood experiences, both positive and negative. Some might hold trophies and praise, while others might harbour the weight of unmet expectations or parental disapproval. These experiences shape our self-perception and leadership style, often unconsciously.

Take, for example, a startup CEO I recently coached. He exuded confidence, yet struggled to delegate, micromanaging his team. Through coaching, we discovered a childhood marked by a critical father who instilled a fear of failure. This fear manifested as the need for absolute control, hindering trust in his team.

Interestingly, this scenario resonates with the archetype of Chiron in Greek mythology as per the pic above generated by generative AI.

Chiron, the centaur, was a skilled healer despite his own incurable wound. He embodied the concept of the “wounded healer,” using his own experiences to guide and heal others. Similarly, as coaches, we guide leaders through their “wounds” to unlock their wisdom and leadership potential.

The Power of Coaching: A Systemic Lens

This is where leadership development coaching comes in. Imagine a trusted guide, a coach who utilizes a “systemic lens.” They see beyond the immediate issue and delve into the family dynamics that might have shaped your leadership style.

Unpacking the Parental Wound

Let’s revisit the Startup CEO. Through coaching, he might discover how his father’s constant criticism fuelled his need for external validation. This “parental wound” became a driving force, propelling him to success, but also hindering his ability to trust himself and delegate effectively.

The Key to Transformation: Healing the Wound

By acknowledging and working through these inner wounds, leaders can transform. They can move from patterns that limit them to a place of self-awareness and strength. This, in turn, fosters a more supportive and collaborative environment within the organization.

The Takeaway: Coaching Beyond the Surface and it’s Not for the Weak😊

Leadership development coaching goes beyond the technical skills and capabilities. It’s about unlocking the leader’s full potential by addressing the “invisible” — the inner landscape that shapes their impact. This journey of healing the “wounded self” can be the key to unleashing a leader’s true power and driving organizational transformation.

By embracing the wisdom within, leaders can become the Chirons of their organizations, leading with purpose and creating lasting positive change.

Are you ready to heal your leadership wound and write your next chapter?

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PS: for the astrologers here, we’ll experience a New Moon Total Solar Eclipse in Aries, tightly conjunct Chiron and the North Node (19°23 Aries) on April 8th, which triggered this article as it’s a power day when it comes to our healing journey.


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