Today’s young employees are tomorrow’s future leaders. As a leader, there is an obligation to help the future by training and mentoring tomorrow’s leader.
The benefits of mentorship are well known: those less experienced receive feedback, insight, and support from someone more experienced. The mentor acts as a guide who can offer impartial support and advice.
Leadership and mentoring go hand-in-hand. Effective leadership guides and provides an example for those subordinate. Additionally, a leader should be spending one-on-one time with subordinates to guide to the next level in their career…beyond just semi-yearly performance reviews.
Leadership skills develop over time; it is not something that people are born with. Leadership is action, not a billet or position. An effective leader knows his or her strengths and weaknesses, and is capable of maximizing all of them. A leader knows how to manage conflict and understands the political culture and how to navigate it for best results. Leaders and mentors share many of the same qualities; all the aforementioned qualities also apply to a mentor.
Mentoring is the link between a junior and someone more experienced for the purpose of career development and personal growth. This is accomplished through sharing knowledge and insights learned over the years. Mentoring is more personal and is relationship-based; the mentor shares his or her own experiences, insight, and knowledge with the mentee. Effective mentorship isn’t about focusing on a specific skill and how to improve it —it’s about the mentee’s overall growth.
Too often there is a difference between someone who holds a leadership position and that of an effective leader. Leadership is a topic about which I deeply care. My time in the military allowed me to experience different styles of leadership as I developed my own skills and styles. In my opinion, leadership is not about the leader, but rather it is about those being led. The success of a leader is reflected in the morale and welfare of the subordinates: whether or not those you lead are better off as a result of your leadership. If you assume a leadership role, you automatically inherit the responsibility for the care, well-being, career growth and supervision of those in your charge. This is not a burden of leadership– this is your privilege. To be blunt, if you cannot or will not become a good mentor then you do not have any business being a leader or in a leadership position.
With that being said, the onus of mentorship is just as much on the mentee as it is the mentor. The mentee can initiate the beginning of a mentorship relationship! Sometimes, you just have to reach out to someone and say something similar to:
- “I listened to your presentation during the VMUG and I think that you are a good public speaker. I’d like to do that one day, what do I need to do to get there?”
- “I want to transition my career into IT security, can you give me some advice?”
Though, truthfully, the strongest mentorship relationships spring out of a real and typically earned connection between a leader and a subordinate.
This is the first post of a series that I will be posting regarding mentorship. Be prepared! I’ll be posting once a week for five weeks (along with some regularly scheduled technical content) until the blog series is finished.