Monday, April 11, 2011

Coaching’s knowledge base: who needs it?

Posted on Monday, April 11, 2011 by International Coach Federation

Leni Wildflower, PhD, PCC
As an academic and the designer of an evidence-based coaching program, I’ve given a lot of the thought to the coaching component we call “the knowledge base”—the rich body of theoretical material on which coaching is built, the fields of study out of which it has grown—theories of psychology, adult learning, change, leadership, culture and gender, to name a few. Over the years, I’ve invested a great deal of time in studying this body of knowledge, and I have an attachment to it. There’s a lot of intellectual pleasure to be had from exploring its various dimensions and interconnections, and as a practitioner I like to know where I stand in relation to an extensive field of theory and research.

But is it important? What if we don’t need this theoretical background? What if we just invent creative coaching protocols on the basis of personal insight and experience? Some of us have done this already – and with interesting and positive results. What if we simply rely on a capacity for self-reflection, an openness to others, an individual gift for listening, intuiting, creating space for the client’s self-discovery? Some individuals simply have a gift for coaching. So why bother with learning the knowledge base? I would love to know your thoughts!

Leni Wildflower Consulting
The handbook of knowledge-based coaching: From theory to practice.
Edited by Leni Wildflower and Diane Brennan
Jossey Bass, 2011.


  1. If we ignore and disrespect the knowledge base that brought us here, we have no way of distinguishing our selves from practitioners who claim to coach but do something else.

  2. I come from an academic background. In academia, the validity and “truth” of a practice comes from the ability of the practitioner to “stand on the shoulders of the giants who came before”. So I look at coaching through a lens that attaches verified theories from related disciplines to the practice of coaching. If, however, I were a creative artist, then the “validity” of my work would depend on the creative depth of my coaching.

    It is all in the lens through which you view the world. I want coaching to become an academic discipline in universities because I believe it will help make the profession more “kosher”…. But maybe I am only saying this because of my academic lens……

    Your thoughts…...

    Leni Wildflower
    Fielding Graduate University


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