The difference between life coaching and executive coaching | FAQs

CAREER ADVICE, EXECUTIVE EDUCATION   |   2 minutes  |   December 6, 2016

Wondering about the difference between life coaching and executive coaching?

Often, the same methodologies are applied in both cases, but executive coaching serves a much more specific purpose in the context of the workplace.

In life coaching, the emphasis is on the well-being of the individual, one step removed from organisational objectives. In executive coaching, there is the added dimension of a business stake intrinsic to the coaching relationship and outcomes:

“In both cases, the coach facilitates the client’s process, but in executive coaching he also helps the client hold the agenda of the business with explicit recognition of the business systems, organizational culture, image as well as those elements internal to the client such as personal values, developmental level, etc.”¹

Dale Williams, Head Tutor on the University of Cape Town Foundations of Executive Coaching online short course, gives some more insight into the difference between life coaching and executive coaching in this short video.

Want to apply executive coaching to maximise the engagement of your workforce and enhance organisational efficiency?


Life coaching is a very general term to cover any coaching with an individual, and executive coaching has a very specific context which is that it operates within a business. What that means is that the coach needs to take the business into account. They need to think about the system in which the person works. That might mean that in addition to having conversations with the person that you’re coaching, you might need to engage with many more people – the boss, the HR person, the person who sponsored the coaching, as well as perhaps people in the person’s team who you’re coaching.

This engagement and more broader engagement is what defines executive coaching as opposed to life coaching which is really just a one-on-one relationship.

¹ Patrick Goonan