Monday, February 15, 2016

Leadership and Mentoring

Over the last ten years I've paid a lot of attention to the successful people in the companies I work at. While my definition of success has changed quite a bit, the common thread that hasn't is that a successful person is someone who enjoys their job, is respected and sought out by their peers, is not afraid to fail, and is given opportunities to take on new challenges.

As I've tried to dissect what makes someone successful I've noticed a trend. Most of the successful people I know have a mentor and have someone that they're mentoring. Upon further review I believe there are several reasons why being a mentor and having a mentor contribute to individual success.

Successful leaders are mentored by others

At it's core being a mentee means you have someone who you can get an outside perspective from. Why is that so important? 
  • You have someone who can provide objective insight into the success or failure of something they're not intimately involved in. 
  • You have someone that can ask you though questions to help identify your blind spots or personal biases that are getting in your way.
  • You can learn from different life experiences.
  • You have someone that is able to look at your situation through a different set of biases.
  • You can learn from their successes and what has lead to their failures.
  • You can talk through ideas, plans, and problems and gain an outside perspective.

Successful leaders mentor others

Being a mentor is not just about having the ability to impart knowledge to another person. It's about being able to ask the right questions, being an outside voice, and being able to break apart problems into smaller more solvable pieces.

I believe there to be a causal relationship between being a mentor and being a successful leader. There are several reasons I think the causality works this way.

  • Mentors are able to proactively identify and correct potential problems in their lives by helping someone work through their problems.
  • Good mentors can break problems down into smaller more solvable pieces.
  • Good mentors ask a lot of questions. They try to reduce ambiguity.
  • Being a mentor means being introspective and able to talk about your own failures and successes.

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