Despite the hundreds of millions of dollars spent by corporations each year on executive education, it transpires that those at the top are being left out.

Nearly two-thirds of US chief executives do not receive coaching or leadership advice from external consultants, research published this week reveals.

The joint study conducted by the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Miles Group, a consultancy, surveyed more than 200 chief executives, board directors and senior executives of private and public North American companies.

For Stephen Miles, chief executive of the Miles Group, it is a concern that so many business chiefs are leading without training. “Even the best-of-the-best [chief executives] have their blind spots and can dramatically improve their performance with an outside perspective weighing in,” he says.

However, the research indicates that the widespread absence of coaching is not a case of leaders avoiding the classroom.

“What’s interesting is that nearly 100 per cent of [chief executives] in the survey responded that they actually enjoy the process of receiving coaching,” says David Larcker, a professor of accounting at Stanford who led the research.

The research indicates that chief executives are themselves seeking training opportunities. The vast majority – 78 per cent – of those who have been coached report that it was their idea.

Of areas for personal development identified by chief executives, the most widely cited is conflict management skills, identified by 43 per cent of those polled. For board directors, mentoring and delegation were reported to be the top two areas in which leaders of their business need to improve through training.

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