“I don’t have time to help him. If he can’t figure out how to do it, I guess I’ll just do it myself.” Unfortunately, I have heard this kind of quote too many times from influential leaders. In this fast-paced world with too many tasks to accomplish, mentoring is often the furthest thing from a person’s mind. For some people, mentoring is a foreign concept. Other people understand it but don’t make it a priority.
Mentoring is the leverage point of leadership. One person can only do so much. A leader’s production is dependent upon his or her ability to produce, but it also depends upon his or her ability to lead through others. Mentoring is the craft of developing another person to become a leader, thereby increasing the effectiveness of the individual, the organization, and ultimately the mentor. Many leaders are blind to the correlation of mentoring and their own individual production. Some of them decide erroneously that they must do all of the work. Others take a more narcissistic approach and insist on receiving all of the credit. Michael Maccoby wrote about the concept of “narcissistic leaders” in a Harvard Business Review issue and a related book. In his article, Maccoby related five key weaknesses of narcissistic leaders:
- Sensitive to Criticism
- Poor Listeners
- Lack of Empathy
- Distaste for Mentoring
- An Intense Desire to Compete
With many old-school leaders still taking the narcissistic approach to leadership, it is understandable why they don’t see the benefits to mentoring. In fact, they have a “distaste for mentoring” as Maccoby so eloquently, or unfortunately states. They abhor it and see no value in it whatsoever. In my experience of observing and teaching about leadership, most leaders who negate the value of mentoring either have never experienced the pleasure of a great mentoring relationship or they are unwilling to credit their own success to a mentoring relationship. The perplexing point for me is how a leader can avoid the promising aspects of mentoring. Even a narcissist would want to produce exponentially beyond his or her own ability or capacity!
Mentoring provides this distinct advantage to produce beyond yourself. When a leader makes it a priority to mentor other people, she can accomplish a lot more. The leader’s production capability and capacity becomes incredible! It is not just addition at that point; it’s multiplication and an exponential return on the investment in and through others. As the leader develops her people, they begin to take the initiative to produce. This kind of leader has a distinct taste for and focus on developing the production capacity of her people, team, and organization! In fact, I think there are 3 very important things that the Leader as Mentor does:
- Teach (vs. Tell) – Great leaders who understand mentoring teach others the how and why of the tasks they are accomplishing, and they tailor their instruction based on the experience level of the person.
- Develop (vs. Direct) – As a leader, you have to direct the tasks of others, but if you are not developing your people along the way, you will never raise the level of leadership in your organization. A key question to consider is: Are my people just completing tasks or are they growing in their careers?
- Help (vs. Hoard) – Leaders as mentors seek to help their people pursue their potential. Instead of hoarding the knowledge, they share their experiences to help people grow faster in their careers.
As the people grow and develop into leaders, the organization is stronger and more effective, and the leader is able to exponentially exceed his or her own production capacity.
It is an awesome feeling to share knowledge and wisdom with others and watch them soar! Leaders who mentor know this feeling all too well!
Question: Who has served as a mentor for you? What is something that a mentor has done for you that has made a positive difference in your life? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
The Leader as Mentor is just one of the 7 roles of transformational leaders that we cover in our leadership development programs. Our next public leadership training workshop is in Austin, TX, on October 28th, and there is still time to sign up. We have also had the privilege of customizing this impactful training program for many top companies and would love to do the same for you, your team, and your organization. Email me to find out more about how to bring one of our leadership programs into your company or organization.