Mentoring – an essential leadership skill
If we look at any successful organizations, they create a culture where the acquisition, development, implementation, and transfer of skills and knowledge are highly valued implying that leaders must embrace mentoring for overall organizational growth.
When interacting with the trainees from various organizations, we often hear them use the terms mentorship and leadership interchangeably. It is interesting that when asked what they expect their seniors to be, almost all of them agree that they would like a mentor and not a leader. This is becoming even more popular with the Millenials stepping into the professional arena who do not want to be just lead.
All over the world, the qualities and views about leadership is changing. In order to understand if they are different, let’s start by understanding who is a leader. A leader is someone who guides and commands a person or group of people toward one objective. Leadership is either a well-defined role assigned by some person or organization of authority, such as a business owner hiring a manager, or it is assumed based on the qualities of the individual. And who then is a mentor? He is someone who also guides another person or a group of people toward a goal, except it is usually on a voluntary basis rather than a formal arrangement. A mentor acts as a role model to the other person by demonstrating traits, skills and behaviors that the person being mentored can emulate.
The main difference between leaders and mentors is the authority that the person has over her subjects. A leader has a well-established authority over his followers while on the other hand, mentors commonly take more of a liberal approach by providing guidance and leave it to the other person to decide if he wants to practice it or not. Honestly, I am of the view that leadership and mentoring go hand-in-hand. In fact, a person qualifies as a true leader only if he is a successful mentor. If we look at any successful organizations, they create a culture where the acquisition, development, implementation, and transfer of skills and knowledge are highly valued implying that leaders must embrace mentoring for overall organizational growth.
Here are a few tips on how to develop better mentorship skills:
· Trust: Which is the key factor in all forms of relationships, holds true in this one as well? Any relationship between mentor and mentee that is not built upon a foundation of mutual trust and respect won’t be productive, and won’t last. Being a mentor has nothing to do with being arrogant or demonstrating one’s knowledge or highlighting the mentee’s lack thereof
· Mutual Commitment: A true mentor will always be as committed in mentoring as you are in receiving it. Likewise, a healthy and productive mentoring relationship cannot be built upon on a one-way street from the mentor to the mentee. While a mentor can be committed and provide excellent advice, the harsh reality is that you cannot mentor someone who doesn’t want to be a mentee. Therefore, don’t waste the time of your mentee if you’re not committed to the process, and do not waste your time on someone who doesn’t value your advice.
· Walk the Talk: Do you have a mentor? After all, learning is a life-long endeavor, and one does not simply reach a magical place in life where you become the all knowing mentor with nothing left to learn. Your mentoring efforts will be better received, and will be more productive if you are not just a mentor, but a mentee as well. Make it a point to communicate how much you believe in the process of being mentored by telling your mentee how you’ve benefited from mentors past and present.
· Choosing Your Mentees: As a leader your first responsibility is to the greater good of the organization, and if your mentoring time is invested in non-productive efforts then you’re not catalyzing progress, you are gating it. Therefore, it makes sense it choose those who share similar organizational goals and are interested in developing his personal skills for its benefit.
All of us may not be born with the same level of confidence or qualities to be a mentor but each of us can develop these traits and become one. Several organizations take aid of training programs that focus on leadership skills with special emphasis on mentorship. A mentoring partnership can be an enriching experience helping you develop your leadership and communication skills as well as contribute toward your own career advancement. Mentoring can also give you a great overall sense of personal satisfaction, knowing that you're helping someone else learn and grow on a professional and personal level.