Leadership: A Prerequisite for Mentoring

Leadership: A Prerequisite for Mentoring

“Leadership is not a magnetic personality – that can just as well be a glib tongue. It is not ‘making friends and influencing people’- that is flattery. Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations” – Peter Drucker

A leader is a person who influences a group of people towards the achievement of a goal.

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A mentor, much like a leader is a person with valuable experience in a given field who guides, motivates and inspires a mentee(s) towards the achievement of their mentoring goal.

Leadership and mentoring go together. So much that some people have argued that being a leader is a prerequisite for being a mentor.

And once you accept a mentoring role you are signing up for the responsibility of leader, counsellor, and teacher.

How you perform in this position will determine the success or failure of your mentoring relationship.

Exercising Leadership in Your Mentoring Relationships

To help you along, here are Mentor Africa Foundation’s four (4) tips for exercising leadership in your mentoring relationship.

1.      Mentee Choice

As a mentor with Mentor Africa Foundation you will receive mentoring requests from more than a handful of mentees and although you may want to guide as many young professionals as possible, you simply cannot mentor everyone.

Accept this.

Which raises the crucial question, how do you choose your mentees?

According to leadership advisor Mike Myatt;

“One of the toughest things for a leader to come to grips with is that not everyone can be saved. If time squandered with an individual is adversely impacting the greater organization, then you cannot continue to invest time there.”

This is a school of thought that should be strictly adhered to as a mentor.

Mentors must keep in mind that the all-embracing purpose of this relationship is to empower young people to achieve their full potential, hence, you need to evaluate mentoring decisions based on potential displayed, thinking process, communication skills, organization and their area of expertise.

Simply, energy and resources should not be invested in a mentee that does not display a readiness to learn and a dedication to the relationship.

2.      Build a Mutual Commitment

The prime fact to keep in mind as a mentor going into any mentoring relationship irrespective of the type is that your mentee(s) looks up to you.

They are less experienced than you are in your field, but even more, they are less experienced in other skills like effective communication and leadership and will look to you to direct as required.

Your mentee will only be as committed to the process as you are. If you’re not dedicated to the relationship, your mentee will respond with the same energy and four out of five times the relationship will not produce value.

On the flip side, while you are dedicated to ensuring mutual commitment you also must realize that it is not your job to force your mentee(s) to exercise the same kind of energy.

Leadership also means making tough and sometimes difficult decisions, hence, you cannot continue to dedicate your time and resources to a mentee who is unwilling to do the work.

Simply put, you cannot mentor a person who doesn’t want to be mentored. 

On or web and mobile apps we’ve provided tools like our calendar feature to fix appointments with your mentees and our live chat to guide real-time conversations. These tools will help you build and manage your relationships with your mentees.

3.      Lead by Example

Dear Mentor, do you have a mentor? Have you ever been mentored? Have you ever been in the shoes of a mentee?

While speaking with one of our mentors, he disclosed that one of the many reasons he is dedicated to guiding the next generation is because of the benefits he has accrued over time as a mentee. Mentoring changed his life and now he is changing lives through mentoring.

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A good way to build a healthy mentoring relationship, as a mentor, is to draw from your experiences as a mentee.

There are joy and camaraderie in shared experiences. So do well to share the benefits of mentoring from your own experiences, past and present with your mentee.

4.      Build Trust

One of the most important elements of a healthy mentoring relationship is trust. Any relationship between a mentor and mentee lacking in mutual trust and respect will not be successful, and the relationship becomes tense and oftentimes self-serving.

Mentees want a mentor they can trust; someone they can confide in, someone who shows up for them and pushes them to be their best self.

And as a mentor, you need someone you can trust in as well.

John C. Maxwell quote: Character makes trust possible, and trust ...

Someone you could confide personal and professional anecdotes, who shows up prepared for the task at hand every time.

In the beginning, the relationship might be a little intimidating to the mentee but as a mentor and leader, it is your job to smoothen the process guide the relationship to a place of trust.

A few ways to do this include:

  • Being open with your mentees. Tell them stories of when you’ve struggled or failed, what you wish you knew and what they should be prepared for. This makes your mentees cultivate the habit of being open themselves.
  • Giving your mentees a voice in the decision making. People will become more invested in things they have a hand in creating. Your mentees are most likely to trust and invest in the relationship if they believe they are valued and respected.
  • Practice confidentiality. When your mentees share personal stories with you, they are trusting you not to divulge that information. Do not break this unspoken promise of confidentiality.

Mentoring is a beautiful fulfilling relationship, one not so many people can build and sustain, so applaud yourself and fully immerse yourself in the experience.

Pride yourself in knowing that you are helping another person become their best self and strive to make the relationship the best it could be.

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