Leadership Coaching vs. Mentoring: Which is Best for You?

Certified Leadership Coach Chris March discusses the differences between coaching vs. a mentoring when it comes to setting and achieving career goals. 

One of the most frequent questions I am asked as a leadership coach is, what is the difference between coaching and mentoring? 

It is as important a question as it is common, so I am here to weigh in so you can make an informed decision about working with a coach vs. a mentor. 

During my 20+ year corporate career, I was fortunate to have trusted mentors to ask for professional advice. As a manager, I felt just as lucky to mentor employees seeking guidance, which inspired me to be a certified leadership coach.

Are you trying to figure out the differences between a leadership coach and a mentor? Read on, I hope this helps you. 

Why do you need a coach or mentor? 

Firstly, you might be asking yourself if coaching or mentoring will help you, and that is why you are here (and I thank you for that). If you have already read about me, you will know my colleagues affected by pandemic-incited job losses inspired me to become a coach.  

As a company leader, I felt a calling and responsibility to help peers who:

  • were at a total loss of what to do next
  • still had jobs, yet knew they needed to move on, but how?
  • had an idea of a new career path but were uncertain how to build or leverage the necessary skills
  • were unsure how to transfer their skills into a new role
  • could not identify their short-term and long-term professional goals
  • had been launched into a new role but felt they could not fulfill or keep up with the demands

Do any of these concerns resonate with you? If yes, then a coach or mentor could be beneficial to you. 

Leadership Coaching Vs. Mentoring 

Here are my basic definitions of a leadership coach and a mentor:

two-people-shaking-hands-one-older-one-younger-coach-mentor-yellow-backgroundLeadership coach

A coach is hired to help professionals dive into their strengths and desired areas of growth through active listening by the coach. It is our responsibility to uncover our coachee’s self awareness and encourage them to understand their potential and overcome obstacles in getting where they wish to be. The goal is to bring about lasting, sustainable change to help the coachee achieve higher levels of professional growth and success. This takes place within a fixed amount of time. The coach does not have to be in the same field or industry as the coachee, but has a grasp of organizational structure and the workplace through their own professional experience.


A mentor, unlike a coach, is usually acquainted with the mentee through their personal or professional networks. The mentor has depth of experience in the area in which the mentee is working, and serves as a trusted advisor. They do not have to meet regularly like coaching. The relationship is not as much as a business transaction and more like a friendship. Meetings can be fluid and flexible with no fixed amount of time (in fact they may mentor for years).

Key differences between a leadership coach and a mentor

A coach and a mentor offer value to up-and-coming leaders and executives alike. Both provide trusted support and ultimately wish to see the success of the individual seeking their assistance. I speak more on the benefits of coaching here.

Here are the key differences between coaching and mentoring:

  • Coaching is provided by a certified expert to an individual or team seeking greater professional growth vs. mentoring, which involves an experienced advisor helping a less experienced person.
  • Coaching is task-oriented and results-driven vs. mentoring which is relationship-driven.
  • Coaching follows a fixed schedule and is short-term vs. mentoring, which is flexible in time and long-term.
  • Coaching is structured and more formal vs. mentoring is more fluid and informal.
  • Coaching empowers the coachee to come up with their own answers vs. a mentor who gives advice and guidance.
  • Coaches are experts trained in specific methods to elevate the client vs. mentors counsel with experience-based knowledge.
  • Coaching aims at improving performance through accountability and self-actualization vs. mentoring which helps an individual’s all-round professional growth.

Personally, I think we can never stop learning and both a leadership coach and mentor are valuable to one’s professional development.

Are you ready to continue your professional development journey with the support of a coach? I would love to work with you. Contact me at info@chris-march.com.

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