Leadership and Mentoring

There is a correlation between the two – leadership development programmes need to have the mentoring component built in

I have been asked a number of questions regarding leadership and mentoring that I thought we should explore. While I was pondering these questions I recalled a conversation with a colleague who saw the mentor training that we offer as management training. He saw how transferable the skills are and the value to future leaders in having those skills.

Is there a correlation between mentoring and leadership?

There is. When I look at transformational leadership, for example, I can definitely see mentoring skills that mirror that of a transformational leader. When I look at some of the other leadership styles, I see the blend of the two disciplines.

To be a great leader, you have to be a great mentor. To be a great mentor, you have to be a great leader.

For example, when I look at the skills of an organic leader (combination of transformational, relational and servant leadership), I see the very same skill sets that we speak about in our programme. To be a great leader, you have to be a great mentor. To be a great mentor, you have to be a great leader.

If there is a correlation between leadership and mentoring, are there components of mentoring in a leadership development programme?

In some leadership development programmes, there are. In the majority of leadership development programmes, there are not.

We spend a lot of money providing the academic training of leaders but we seldom follow through on the continuous learning part of the programme. What I mean by that is we do not have a mentor to work with the new leader to discuss those things that sometimes don’t follow the text book.

I can recall a number of young managers/leaders that would contact me and say, “I did what the text book said to do – but it didn’t work”. Their organisation did not have mentoring as part of the leadership development programme. In fact, once they came back from the training, they were told, “You are a leader now – go forth and lead!”

Giving someone the tools to critically think their way through challenges is a powerful tool that is a transferable skill that can be used in leading in the workplace, community or family.

What they were basically doing is setting them up to fail. You really do need to have mentoring as a key component of any leadership development programme.

I understand mentoring to be that more senior person sharing their knowledge and wisdom with a much younger person. How will that help with leadership development?

It doesn’t. Effective mentoring is all about building a trusted two way relationship in which the mentor and mentee will both learn from each other. Gone are the days of the wise old sage passing on their wisdom by telling their mentee how they have done things for years.

Effective mentors are open to giving and receiving new ideas. Effective mentors use the Socratic Method to ask questions – guiding the person they are spending time with to the answers. This approach/technique helps in the development of critical thinking skills. Giving someone the tools to critically think their way through challenges is a powerful tool that is a transferable skill that can be used in leading in the workplace, community or family. It is part of the paradigm shift in the mentoring discipline that is long overdue.

Can I mentor my direct reports?

I don’t recommend it but it does take place. What we need to remember is that in every great leader is a great mentor; so, chances are that you are using mentoring skills in your leadership capacity with direct reports.

On the flip side, the relationship can be very in depth and the sharing of very personal information will take place in a trusted mentoring relationship. As the mentee, you need to ask yourself if you are comfortable with that type of relationship.

A great leader develops relationships with their employees but typically not to that extent. The people that I spend time with share very personal information that they would not normally share with anyone else. If I was in a leadership role, and they were my direct reports, I may not be as comfortable in that kind of deep relationship. Each mentor/leader needs to build the relationship that they are comfortable with.

What advice can you give in summary?

There is definitely a correlation between mentoring and leadership.

Leadership development programmes need to have a mentoring component built into the programme. Great leaders are great mentors as they leverage much the same skill sets. There is a paradigm shift taking place with mentoring as it continues to become more about a trusted two way relationship where both parties will learn and grow personally and professionally. It is within that relationship that we have created a continuous learning environment that organisations can be proud of.

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Headline image courtesy Alexandre Perotto@unsplash.com.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of The HR Gazette or its team members.

Author: Doug Lawrence

Doug Lawrence is an International Certified Mentor Practitioner and International Certified Mentor Facilitator. Founder of TalentC®, a Human Resources solution provider. Doug was a member of the Board of Directors for the Saskatchewan Association of Human Resource Professionals. He assisted the University of Regina in the launch of the Hill School of Business Mentor Programme. Doug was a member of the Advisory Board for HR.com, Doug was also instrumental in developing a curriculum to train people on how to become effective mentors which has been accredited by a third party. His company was recently ranked 3rd in the International Partner and Provider category at the 2015 Leadership 500 Excellence Awards. Doug is the President of the Board of Directors for the ICM Society and a Vertical Distinct columnist on leadership and mentoring.

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