The Gold Standard in Coaching | ICF - Organization History
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History of ICF

Professional Coach Thomas Leonard started the International Coach Federation (ICF) in 1995 as a nonprofit organization for fellow coaches to support each other and grow the profession. The following year, a president was appointed and a board of directors established. The first ICF Chapter was established, and by May 1996, there were more than 60 ICF Chapters worldwide.


1995: Thomas Leonard, with support of others, founds the International Coach Federation (ICF) in the United States for the purpose of having a space for all coaches to support one another and help grow the profession.

1996: A president is appointed and a board of directors is established. The first issue of ICF Coaching News is sent to more than 400 subscribers. The first ICF Chapter is established and by May there are more than 60 chapters worldwide.

1997: Discussions around credentialing begin and a Coach Referral Service (CRS) is promoted.

1998: ICF merges with the Professional and Personal Coaches Association (PPCA), founded by Laura Whitworth, to strengthen the voice and credibility of professional coaching. The first ICF Credentials are awarded at ICF’s conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, USA, and membership dues are approved.

1999: ICF begins to accredit coach-training programs. The Association hires an executive director and selects a management company to run daily operations. Membership exceeds 2,100 and more than 200 coaches hold an ICF Credential.

2000: ICF grows an average of 130 new members per month, many of whom join from Australia, Asia and Europe. The 2000 Annual Conference is held in Canada, the first ICF event held outside of the United States.

2001: ICF hosts a 24-hour “Round-the-clock, Round-the-world” ICF Member conversation. The call is hosted by ICF Board Members.

2002: ICF coaches host conferences in Australasia and Europe. The ICF Regulatory Committee is appointed to protect and preserve the integrity of the coaching profession.

2003: ICF forms a Past Presidents’ Advisory Council to support the advancement of the Association and its mission.

2004: The ICF Board goes through a strategic review with an outside consultant to evaluate practices and facilitate growth. Membership reaches 7,900-plus members.

2005: ICF revises membership levels and credential categories to raise professional standards. The Association presents the first International Prism Award, recognizing businesses and organizations with impactful coaching programs. ICF transitions to its present management company with staff offices headquartered in Lexington, Kentucky, USA.

2006: The Board begins work on the ICF Strategic Plan to establish a solid strategic direction for several years. ICF sponsors a global summit in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

2007: ICF and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP release results from the inaugural Global Coaching Study.

2008: Regional Service Centres open for Asia-Pacific and Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

2009: Results from the 2009 ICF Global Coaching Client Study are released. The Chapter Leader Pilot Program is launched, offering Chapter Leaders around the globe an opportunity to participate in a coaching and mentoring relationship.

2010: ICF celebrates its 15th anniversary with more than 17,000 members and 6,900 ICF Credential-holders.

2011: The Latin American Regional Service Centre opens and ICF’s first-ever Brand Identity Manual is released to support the creation of a unified global voice for ICF and professional coaching.

2012: A Regional Service Centre opens for North America. ICF and PwC release results from the 2012 ICF Global Coaching Study. More than 900 coaching professionals convene in London, United Kingdom, for a sold-out ICF Global Conference—the first to be held outside North America.

2013: ICF exceeds 10,000 Credential-holders. The inaugural ICF Advance event is held in Washington, D.C., USA, delivering high-level, cutting-edge education around cultural competence to an in-person and virtual audience.

2014: Regional Service Centres open in Kuala Lumpur and Russia. ICF exceeds 15,000 Credential-holders and 25,000 Members. The association adds a full-time staff position to support the growth of ICF Chapters worldwide. Coaches gather in Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Malmo, Sweden; and Rio de Janeiro for networking and education at three regionally hosted ICF Global Conferences.

2015: ICF celebrates 20 years of advancing professional coaching. The Association launches an enhanced Research Portal and a new online resource for prospective coaches. ICF Chapter Leaders from every Chapter worldwide gather for the first time ever for the 2015 ICF Global Leaders Forum in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

2016: ICF and PwC release results from the 2016 ICF Global Coaching Study. ICF launches a new regional support structure to better serve and remain connected to a growing global coaching community and the Association exceeds 20,000 Credential-holders.

2017: ICF hosts first-ever Converge event, drawing more than 1,600 attendees from 61 countries. The new, unveiled in December, reaches 713,118 page views within the first month.

2018: ICF exceeds 25,000 credential-holders and 1,000 Master Certified Coaches. The Association celebrates inaugural classes of Young Leader Award winners and Circle of Distinction inductees.

2019: At the Global Leaders Forum in Dublin, Ireland, ICF’s CEO and 2019 Global Board Chair announce plans for ICF’s expansion. Coaches from 75 countries gather in Prague, Czech Republic, for ICF Converge 2019. After a rigorous job analysis process, ICF unveils revised competency model. The 2019 Global Coaching Survey yields 22,457 responses from 161 countries.

2020: In its 25th anniversary year, ICF becomes the International Coaching Federation and transitions from a single organization to a federation of six family organizations: ICF Coaching in Organizations, ICF Coach Training, ICF Credentials and Standards, ICF Foundation, ICF Professional Coaches and ICF Thought Leadership.

2021: Following its 25th anniversary, ICF took a bold step forward into the future of coaching. A new brand identity brought the organization into alignment with its structure, reflecting six unique family organizations that were created to serve the wants, needs and desires of the coaching community. Learn more about the ICF ecosystem here.

  • Past Chairs

    2020: Sara Smith, MCC (USA)

    2019: Jean-Francois Cousin, MCC (Thailand)

    2018: Tracy Sinclair, PCC (United Kingdom)

    2017: Hilary Oliver, PCC (United Kingdom)

    2016: Leda Turai Petrauskiene, MCC (Lithuania)

    2015: Dave Wondra, PCC (USA)

    2013–2014: Damian Goldvarg, Ph.D., MCC (Argentina/USA)

    2012: Janet M. Harvey, MCC (USA)

    2011: Ed Modell, PCC (USA)

    2010: Giovanna D’Alessio, MCC (Italy)

    2009: Karen Tweedie, PCC (Australia)

    2008: Diane Brennan, MBA, MCC (USA)

    2007: Kay Cannon, MBA, MCC (USA)

    2006: Pam Richarde, MCC (USA)

    2005: Steve Mitten, MCC (Canada)

    2004: Dr. Barbara Walton, MCC (USA)

    2003: Judy Feld, MCC (USA)

    2002: Bobette Reeder, MCC (USA)

    2001: Darelyn “DJ” Mitsch, MCC (USA)

    2000: Dr. Marcia Reynolds, MCC (USA)

    1998–1999: John Seiffer, MCC (USA)

    1997–1998: Jeff Raim (USA)

    1996–1997: Cheryl Richardson, MCC (USA)

    January–July 1996: Sandy Vilas, MCC, (USA)

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