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Coaching Real Leaders

Author: HBR Presents / Muriel Wilkins

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We all want to get to the next level of our career, but so many of us get stuck. Longtime leadership coach Muriel Wilkins takes you inside real-life leadership coaching sessions with high performers working to overcome professional challenges and grow as leaders. Listen in on real conversations and leave with new insights and practical guidance for your own career.

The views expressed on this podcast are those of its hosts, guests, and callers, and not those of Harvard Business Review.
20 Episodes
No matter how hard you work and how good you are at executing tasks, there are always less tangible reasons people get tapped for more senior roles. Executive presence matters, as does finding the right sponsors. Host Muriel Wilkins speaks with a rising leader who understands the importance of sponsorship but doesn’t know how to get there – starting with learning to tell her own story.
There are all different kinds of leadership styles, but it’s hard to know what is authentic to you, or how much you should try to adapt to your environment. In this episode, host Muriel Wilkins speaks with a senior leader who is having trouble drawing a line between what is expected of her, and what feels true to her core.
We check in with three guests from Season 1 to see what they took with them from their coaching meetings and where they are now.
She's recently been promoted to a senior role, after working her way up in the industry from an entry level position. But she’s become a leader at a time when there's also a lot of change. Now she's the legacy person on her new team, and she feels constantly questioned and defensive about the way things work and the culture she helped build. Host Muriel Wilkins coaches this leader on how to figure out what to keep from the past and what to let go of, so she can be effective.
He’s moving up a level to take on a new leadership role at his company. Now he’s managing other managers for the first time and realizing that it’s a big leap to go from managing individual contributors to managing other managers. Host Muriel Wilkins helps this leader understand how to approach his new role and what new skills he must develop in order to succeed.
She made it to a coveted senior role, but she isn’t feeling excited about her future career path. And now she’s wondering how to balance all the competing commitments in her life – children, spouse, elderly parents, and work – while still pursuing what she really cares about. Host Muriel Wilkins coaches this leader through discovering what’s important to her, so that she can figure out what’s next.
He’s a senior leader in a hospital, who has long seen himself as an advocate for equality for his female colleagues. But in the past few years, he’s faced a few instances where women he works with have been offended by exchanges with him. Host Muriel Wilkins coaches this leader toward a stronger understanding of his own assumptions and how he can manage across differences.
She’s a C-suite-level executive with 20 years of experience working in corporate finance. Earlier in her career, she stayed at companies for long periods of time. But in her last few roles, she’s been jumping ship as soon as the going gets tough. Is she leaving too quickly, or has she not yet found the right role? Host Muriel Wilkins coaches this leader through her discomfort and toward strategies that can help her see her role through to a successful conclusion.
Coming Soon: Season 2

Coming Soon: Season 2


Coaching Real Leaders returns October 6 to tackle new leadership challenges – from when to quit your job to communicating across differences, navigating imposter syndrome, and more. Listen in on coaching sessions with real leaders from all walks of life, as they work out the challenges they face at work, with host and longtime executive coach Muriel Wilkins.
She’s worked her way up from an administrative assistant to a leadership position. But she still struggles to come across as confident, especially in high-level management meetings. Host Muriel Wilkins coaches this leader on how to communicate more effectively.
She’s relatively new to the organization and more junior than most of her stakeholders. But her success hinges on her ability to lead initiatives cross-functionally. Host Muriel Wilkins coaches this emerging leader through how to cultivate strategic relationships and increase her influence without the formal power of a senior title or position.
He’s spent much of his career successfully being a problem solver. Now, as he works his way up, he’s realizing that always trying to fix everything won’t let him focus on leading – or help his team succeed. How can he adapt his approach to lead more effectively?
As a leader, she has always tried to find a balance between being directive and collaborative. But she has also struggled to bridge the gap between how she sees herself – and how her team experienced her as a leader. Now she’s building her own start-up and wants to make sure she is seen as a strong, effective leader in that new venture.
He’s been successful in his industry but feels like he’s been typecast in his role. Now he’s hoping for a change and wants to make sure his next position helps him redirect his career. Host Muriel Wilkins coaches this leader through figuring out what he really wants before he commits to a new company.
She’s demonstrated her leadership ability throughout her career, advancing to some of the most senior leadership roles. But her C-suite peers haven’t always valued what she brings to the table. Host Muriel Wilkins coaches this leader through how to demonstrate her value as an executive as she joins a new organization.
She’s ambitious and has always leaned into opportunities to lead. But in her current leadership role, her responsibilities just keep growing, which makes her feel like she can’t keep up. If this is what leadership is all about, she questions whether she even wants to lead anymore. Host Muriel Wilkins coaches this leader through her burnout toward strategies she can take to focus her energy and scale up her leadership.
He’s a senior executive leading a division made up of professionals who are much younger than him and come from different racial backgrounds. He’s committed to helping his team members grow professionally, while generating positive results for the company. But he’s struggling with how to engage and motivate them. Host Muriel Wilkins coaches this leader through bridging those generational and racial differences, so that he can learn how to better support his team.
Caught in the Middle

Caught in the Middle


Her boss is white. Her staff are people of color. She’s been walking a tightrope between addressing her boss’s microaggressions and making her team feel safe. But so far, it’s not working. Host Muriel Wilkins coaches this leader through this tension toward the actions she can take to improve the situation and build a healthier culture at her organization.
Am I C-Suite Material?

Am I C-Suite Material?


Her out-of-the-box approach to solving business problems has made her successful in her current role, but she’s been passed over for a promotion that would put her on track to the C-suite. Host Muriel Wilkins talks this leader through how she can reposition herself for a top leadership role at her company and what steps she can take to get there.
New from the HBR Presents podcast network: a show that takes you inside real-life coaching sessions with leaders working to overcome professional challenges. Host Muriel Wilkins is a longtime executive coach who has helped highly successful professionals – from team leaders to CEOs – get unstuck and grow as leaders. That work is often done behind closed doors, but on this show she opens that door to everyone. Join us this season, and gain new insights and practical guidance to take your own career to the next level.
Comments (2)

Audra Martin

Great show, insightful coach. This guest is 100% me. Thanks for the free coaching session.

Oct 21st


Thanks for thesse rich interviews! That’s really helpful for everyone who looks for getting to the next level of the career. 🙂

May 17th
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