Which Type of Leader are You?
As I discuss in my book, Fast-Forward Leadership, there are essentially two leadership models. The first is power-driven leadership. This is where a person with power leads through fear and intimidation. At its worst, this is a slave master who abuses a slave. More often today, it’s a boss who is more focused on his own career than he is on the greater good of the organization and the people who actually make things happen.
The other of the two leadership models is mentoring. Mentoring is a very special type of leadership that comes along beside another and shows…but never shoves.
One of the most selfish things any leader can do is to fail to mentor. Mentoring is the stock and trade of every great leader. Here are five characteristics that successful mentors share.
1) They lead by example. They attempt to practice what they preach. NOTE: That word “attempt” is important here. None of us is perfect. Don’t allow the fact that you’ve made mistakes to scare you away from mentoring. If perfection is a requirement here, the last real mentor would have to be Jesus. In fact, some mentoring relationships improve when the mentor admits his own faults and frailties. Admitting that you, too, are a fellow struggler can become its own powerful and enabling message. It can help a younger, less mature mentee catch the vision and realize that he, too, has true potential.
But, allow me to post a quick skull and crossbones warning here. This is not to suggest that a good mentor shares everything with his mentee he has done. There are some things that are best left unsaid. Some things do not need to be shared with the young and immature. The key here is to ask yourself, ‘Will sharing this story about my past bolster and encourage my protégé, or will it lessen my ability to effectively lead him towards his goals?’
That said, it is key for a mentor to be the real deal. No one is perfect, but great leaders strive to be what they present themselves as being. This is important because, in my experience, mentees seem to be born with built-in hypocrisy meters. That younger person is scrutinizing everything you do. Remember, whatever you do with liberty…she will likely do with license.
As the old saw goes, character is what you do when no one is watching. Your mentee will likely test your “realness” at some point. Be prepared.
2) Remain true to their core values in an unambiguous way. Have a sense of purpose…and a line you will not cross. No organization will have higher standards than its leaders. As a leader it is your responsibility to set high standards that transcend the pressure for immediate gratification and focus on long-term benefits.
3) Motivate with “Possibility Thinking.” I warn leaders in my audiences routinely not to even think about mentoring if you are not mission-minded and contagiously enthusiastic. As a mentor it’s your job to help your mentee see the big picture and catch the vision of what can be.
4) Be an aggressive listener. It’s easy to pretend to listen. It’s hard to really listen in an aggressive way. Aggressive listeners turn off their computers, sit up straight, make eye contact and respond with both verbal and nonverbal cues when their protégé needs their attention.
5) Be there! Like anything else that’s worth doing, mentoring will require your time and availability.