Taking Steps Toward Leadership–Mentor

A mentor is someone who has a position of leadership and has enough experience to pass on to to new leaders that he thinks are worth his investment in time.  If the person doesn’t grow, doesn’t put in any effort, or dismisses the mentor’s suggestions, the mentor doesn’t have to continue the relationship.

Like a trainer in a leadership position, his best influence is his own experience.  He will see himself as a model that has already gone through the fire to become what he is now–successful.  You wouldn’t look for a mentor that was UN-successful now would you!  The trainer and the teacher see what is and correct flaws and perspectives that may lead you down a bad path.  The mentor has already gone down the path and concentrates more on the future rather than the present.

What are the drawbacks to a mentor?  He’s not You.  The experiences he has are different than yours, his crew is different, his parents are different, his neighborhood is different, his friends, his spouse (I hope!!!), and his position is different.  In times of crisis and decision making, he can only tell you what he did and how it worked for him, then he makes suggestions .  It may or may not apply to your situation.  The tendency is for the “mentee” to get dependent on the mentor for too much. The recipient of the mentoring doesn’t grow to fill the leadership role in this case, he just stuffs a facsimile of his mentor into the position.

Mentors, like teachers, are good when you are stepping into new territory.  They are guides.  Guides are necessary for a time, but after you have explored the area, you no longer need them.  Like I said before, the tendency is to keep them around too long.  It’s like the Real Estate agent that you keep calling in the middle of the night, “Where was the bathroom again?  Can you come and escort me?  I think I’m in the master bedroom, but it’s dark and I can’t find the light switch either…”

I had a mentor who helped me get through some tough leadership situations.  I had never run a speech contest before, though I had been to plenty of them.  He alerted me to staffing challenges I would have and venue challenges.  I had no problems with those at all.  What he didn’t alert me to was the stacks and stacks of paperwork I needed.  He assumed that since I had been in contests, I knew what would be required for the judges, timers, chief judge and toastmaster.  I was missing folders and information, and if he hadn’t been there with extras of everything, the contest would have been a disaster.  Things he assumed I knew I didn’t.  Things I assumed I knew were different.

Use your mentors to the extent that you need them, because they can guide you in areas that are new to you.  Be respectful of their time, and follow their lead.  Pay attention to the changes they think you may want to incorporate.  But when you are done with them, keep them as friends and do not force them into roles YOU are supposed to fill.

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