The Golden Age of Coaching: a reflection by David Goldsmith

  • by WBECS Team
  • Nov 11, 2019

As the ICF approaches its silver anniversary, we find ourselves in the golden age of coaching. During the last few weeks, I’ve spoken with many coaching pioneers and reflected on our industry’s history.

25 years ago, coaching began getting significant news coverage; yet, the industry was still in its infancy. People began calling themselves coaches and sought opportunities for formal training. Thomas Leonard’s Coach U provided some of those opportunities. At the time, I was Coach U’s President. Thomas and I spoke about the growing need for coaches to associate. We recognized a strong need for an organization to set standards and provide coaches a home. We incorporated the organization, set up the first website, and encouraged fellow coaches to join the first board and host chapters.  

We realized that for coaching to grow, the association needed to be independent, and global. We also sought to include a wide range of coaching theories and practices. We felt that because we represented a training organization,  it would be a conflict of interest for us to take a more active role in the association. So, we turned over the creation of ICF to its board and volunteers. Over the last 25 years, these pioneers have really brought the ICF organization to life!

Madeleine Homan (who served on the first board) and I were reminiscing just last week about the beginning of ICF and were so thrilled to see how coaching has grown to a $15 billion industry. We are proud of the pivotal role the ICF has played in this growth.  It’s a stunning achievement that in just 25 years, the ICF has become such a global force. Thomas would be thrilled to see what’s happened to the Coach Federation.

When I recently visited with Magda Mook, ICF’s long serving executive director, I was surprised to learn how large and complex the ICF has become. It’s an influential and substantial global association. ICF has benefited from her long tenure and her leadership. I don’t know whether the ICF would have become the premier organization it is without her.

While Thomas and I founded ICF, that was really just the spark to ignite the growing flame. The real creation work was done by the many board members, volunteers, chapter hosts, assessors and staff. I’m proud of how our industry has grown. Credit for this growth belongs in large part to the heavy lifting that so many have done to get us here. All of these people deserve a great deal of acknowledgement. 

I’m grateful to those who took the framework and built  this amazing organization. We have a lot to celebrate!!


Learn directly from David Goldsmith and Head of Coaching at Google David Peterson, by registering for the Foundations of Great Coaching course! Accelerate your                coaching journey and become the great coach your clients need, FASTER than you ever thought possible. Visit

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