Leadership is a contact sport, whether you’re
the captain of a team,
a manager, or
a chief executive officer.
The responsibilities that accompany leadership and the decisions that find their way to your desktop/doorstep, tend to isolate one. Those who survive, even thrive, in those roles are the ones who manage to mitigate the “loneliness” of leadership. That is done best through having effective mentors, who serve as “life lines” (in the "Do You Want to Be a Millionaire?" vernacular).
So, what is it that mentors do?
Here are some of the ways my mentors have helped me:
- They tell me the truth (gently, but honestly).
- They see my flaws and discuss them with me, but don’t define me by them.
- They paint for me “options” for consideration (not solutions to my problems).
- They encourage my learning/growth, and match it with their own.
- They don’t disparage me to others (even whey they believe I’ve erred).
- They broaden my network by giving me access to their own network.
- They give me the gift of their attention and time (even when they can spare little of either).
- They “take my call” and return my emails.
- They ask me powerful questions that cause me to think deeply about my beliefs and practices, and about how well both are aligned with “righteous” behavior.
- They listen - actively, well, and extensively.
Mentorship is “circular” in nature. Not only do we need mentors, we need to be mentors, too.
It is not unlike the duality many of us experience in being both parent and child at the same time. In attempting to be better at both of those roles, we develop a deeper understand of each, and get better at being both (usually).