How important is it for executive coaches to have been CEOs themselves?

It is not necessary that coaches should have been CEOs themselves. They need not be subject matter experts (that would be consulting) at all and can produce better results sometimes by not really knowing anything at all about the CEO’s world. However, as mentioned above, if a coaching relationship has to be successful, CEOs need to trust the coach. And they invariably tend to trust those with whom they have shared beliefs, or shared experiences so that they feel comfortable and become more willing to open up and share their dilemmas. That is why a fellow CEO (“one of our own”, with presence) will be more successful in drawing out a CEO faster and achieve better results sooner. Once again, there are many good coaches who have significant presence without being a CEO and they can be successful too.