Institute for Transformational Leadership

History of Leadership Coaching

A Leadership Coaching Program with Many Firsts

Georgetown University has been a pioneer in the field of leadership and leadership coaching. See our timeline >> 

History of the Institute for Transformational Leadership

To understand the genesis, design and evolution of the Georgetown University Institute for Transformational Leadership, one must look at the founding story of the original leadership coaching program, which involves not just the mind, but also the heart and spirit.

In the late 1990s, Chris Wahl served as director of the Georgetown University Organizational Development program, where she became increasingly interested in the nascent field of executive coaching. Wahl believed that part of helping organizations be better involved helping leaders be better.

Her vision was two-fold:

  • Shape how the still-emerging field of coaching was defined.
  • Bridge the gap between coaching programs without any organizational development focus and the need to support leaders to effect change within organizations.

A Multidisciplinary Approach

Wahl attracted the initial designers of the program from the fields of human resources, organizational development, counseling, teaching and coaching. The team brought solid business acumen and a deep creative power, energy and willingness to trust in the vision. 

The founders of the first program intentionally built the program as a learning community of leaders in thought and practice, not a "guru-based" program, as so many others were and still are in this relatively nascent industry. The founders placed priority on relationships and bringing together leading perspectives from multiple fields of expertise which are priorities that remain today.

Growth from the Start

The first leadership classes began the fall of 2000, making Georgetown University the first university in the United States to offer a leadership program. From the beginning, the philosophical underpinnings of the program drew from many fields, including sociology, psychology, leadership, spirituality, systems, organizational development and the discipline of language.

In 2003, the program was certified by the International Coach Federation (ICF) and the reputation of the program grew as did the number of classes and participants. Since that time, we have grown from more than 100 participant graduates to more than 1,000 graduates today.

The Transformational Leadership Experience

Our growth is attributable to our unique emphasis on helping students find their authentic selves, increase their awareness and recognize the power of coaching and leadership work, which is in service to something bigger than oneself. Today, the Georgetown University Institute for Transformational Leadership is stronger than ever, attracting diverse participants from myriad professional backgrounds and from throughout the United States and abroad. All are making a difference to the people they touch, lead and coach in today's complex world.

We are thankful to the program's founders who believed in a multidisciplinary, community-based approach to developing leaders and leadership coaches. It all began with a conversation and a commitment to offering something special that makes a difference.

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