There is tale of a yogi, who had spent years in a Himalayan cave on retreat. He was meditating for a long time. One day a traveller came by and, seeing the yogi, asked him what he was doing. “I am meditating on patience,” the yogi said.

“In that case” replied the traveller, “you can go to hell!”

To which the yogi angrily retorted, “you can go to hell!”[1]

Coming back to Leadership Development, we can see similarity in the behaviour of the yogi and a leader.

Let us assume that during the leadership development process leader and coach identify an area to improve the leadership effectiveness, namely listening. Coach works with the leader. Coach and leader meet from time to time. Leader learns a lot of tools and techniques, increases awareness on what to do and what not to do to listen carefully.

Following the coaching sessions, when the leader interrupts the conversation partner during a meeting.

Leader will realize that she was not listening. Furthermore people working with her will say, “She still doesn’t know how to listen”.

In fact: leader did not improve her listening skills.

This is what people around the leader (Stakeholders) see and perceive.

Perception is reality.

As long as the leader is not able to demonstrate improved skills within the environmentwhere she is acting, there will be hardly a leadership growth.

Leader may believe that she has improved, but in reality she did not.

The leader changes behaviors and perceptions through execution on the job.

Why to involve stakeholders in coaching process?

  • Stakeholders experience day to day the „behavior“, „leadership style“ of the leader.
  • Stakeholders want leader to be successful, so that they can succeed too.
  • Stakeholders want to help leader; they want to contribute in leadership effectiveness.

How to involve stakeholders in coaching process?

  • Use 360° assessments and conduct interviews with key stakeholders.
  • Work with stakeholders who want to see and believe in improvement in leader’s behavior.
  • Use Feed Forward with stakeholders developed by Marshall Goldsmith.

The test of the real improvement in leadership effectiveness is the life, the real environment itself where the leader acts daily, not in isolated coaching sessions. This is done best when we involve stakeholders.

What do you think? As you learn from me, I learn from you.


Leading Through Listening is the foundation based on which Ilker Demirel provides top executives and teams with effective business solutions and practical leadership applications that deliver measurable results for their specific organizational challenges. Ilker Demirel is an Executive Coach, Certified at Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching (MGSCC).

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[1] I have taken this tale from the fantastic book about how meditation changes our body, mind and brain “Altering Traits” by Daniel Goleman and Richard J. Davidson.