DrPH Executive Coaching

Executive coaching is an integral element of the DrPH students’ leadership development. The DrPH coaching model meets the students where they are in their leadership development. Coaches work with the students to identify the student’s growth edge and leadership development goals. Coaches provide support and challenge throughout the year within executive coaching sessions. The executive coaching sessions build on the students’ academic and field placement work. The students identify their areas of leadership development growth and design a personal learning agenda within the executive coaching sessions. The individualized learning agendas are guided by previous work experiences, experiences in the DrPH program, and personal preference. With the coaches, the students design and debrief “personal learning experiments” to advance progress on their designated leadership goals.

Executive coaches develop tailored growth programming for each student. The coach meets with each student a minimum of six times over the academic year. Coaching sessions are strategically timed in coordination with classroom and fieldwork to maximize student development.

The executive coach qualifications include health care or public service executive coaching experience with training in Constructive-Developmental Theory or related leadership development theories. The Harvard Chan Director of Leadership Development supervises the coaches.

Executive Coaching Desired Learning Objectives

  • Foster students’ intrapersonal and interpersonal leadership capabilities.
  • Deepen students’ ability to identify their own leadership competency gaps and to take ownership of their personal development.
  • Develop students’ ability to hold uncertainty and complexity productively on behalf of their own and others’ personal leadership, organizational goals, and improving public health.
  • Advance students’ functioning in group and team dynamics, including: how to understand, engage, and support and challenge others within group work.

DrPH Coaching Programmatic Framework for Executive and Peer Leadership Development Coaching:

Year 1: One on One Executive Leadership Coaching
Year 2: Peer Coaching Training and Practice
Year 3: Peer Coaching in the Field

Year 1: One on One Leadership Coaching

Goal: Develop individual students’ leadership skills, especially those needed to meet the adaptive elements of public health leadership. Coaches provide support and challenge throughout the year, including at least six personal coaching sessions per student through the academic year.

Year 2: Peer Coaching Training and Practice

Goal: Further develop students’ self-knowledge of strengths, vulnerabilities, and their ability to understand, engage and effectively support and challenge others as they engage in complex work. In DrPH year two, the focus shifts to a peer-coaching model guided by workshops with an executive coach instructor. Students establish competency in professional development tools and coaching for themselves, for team members, and for their organizations. Students form peer coaching pairs and groups within the cohort to put their competencies into practice.

Year 3: Peer Coaching in the Field

Goal: Refine students’ capacity to support the leadership development of others. Students work with peers to grapple with systemic problems, set new directions, lead change and learn quickly from mistakes made in the process. While students are engaged in their Doctoral Project, they participate in their existing, self-managed, peer coaching pairs and groups. The peer coaching pairs and groups provide a safe space for problem solving and encouragement that is grounded in the leadership development theory acquired in DrPH years one and two.

What is (and isn’t) Executive Coaching?

 A very quick read from Harvard Management Update on “What an Executive Coach Can Do for You”:  http://hbswk.hbs.edu/archive/4853.html

The table below outlines the differences between Coaching and other forms of engagement with a client to help him/her achieve the results s/he desires.

Coach (Executive, Leadership, etc.) Has no personal agenda. Focuses on moving the client forward.  Acts as a trusted partner who provides a confidential and safe environment for client to explore his/her issues and concerns.  Sees Client as the “expert” in his/her own life.  Through empowering questions, helps to peel back the onion to identify key issues and desired results the client wishes to achieve.  Accountability approach to action. Helps client figure out “how”. Focuses on creating win/win scenarios to achieve success. Embraces a collaborative effort in an objective and nonjudgmental manner with the client.


Consultant Has an agenda and possible answers to bring to the client around specified issues.  Experts in their field.  Promotes self as the expert and does not participate in a relationship with client, per se, leaving the client to implement actions on his/her own.


Mentor Acts as role model who has “been there, done that” and offers own experience as a model of success for the client.


Therapist Focuses on the client’s past as a learning tool.  Typically works with client to fix problems, overcome issues and sometimes manage mental illness.  Helps client figure out “why”.


Sports Coach Based more upon competition and win/lose scenario.  Directive and prescriptive approach to action.


Friend Has her own agenda for client’s “well being”. May want to spare client’s feelings by not pointing out various issues to explore or address.