Why Mentoring is an Essential Trait of Great Leadership

A good mentoring relationship is identified by the willingness and capability of both parties to ask questions, challenge assumptions and disagree.

—Debbie Zmorenski

I value mentoring as an essential function of our society, but also believe it is fundamentally a priority practice of any good leader—to be both a mentor and mentee.  Upon reading the above point made by Debbie Zmorenski, it reminds me and reinforces the importance of leadership as a two-way street and the role of leadership in fostering the growth of our next generation of leaders and to continually grow throughout one’s career. Because the most successful mentoring relationships are often organic, unstructured, and based upon a strong relationship, I wanted to expand on my observations of the most beneficial attributes of a strong mentoring relationship and how it helps leaders to grow and continue to influence those positively around them.

I believe the three key points to a positive mentoring relationship are trust, open communication, and continued growth of both the mentor and mentee:

Trust: Trust is an essential element of any strong relationship, and it builds organically and gradually over time as both parties build reliability, credibility, and intimacy (professional intimacy) while building awareness of self-orientation in the navigation of a variety of daily situations. You may recognize these attributes from the Trusted Advisor trust equation (www.trustedadvisor.com). As a leader, the mentoring relationship is an avenue to practice the art of both being trusted and trusting others as you are a springboard and safe place to share challenges and exciting ideas to continue professional development. This trust is earned over time through reciprocity of appreciation and investment from both a mentor and mentee in how they view the mentoring relationship.

Open Communication: In line with trust, being direct and open in communication while practicing active listening is absolutely critical to the mentoring relationship and being a strong leader. As a mentor and mentee, we continue to learn and practice giving praise and understanding how much positive impact it can have, providing feedback during sometimes difficult situations, learning how to receive sometimes-hard-to-hear feedback, and I cannot emphasize enough the role of listening.  Specifically in the mentoring relationship, knowing when it is the right time to listen just to listen versus listening to find a solution pays off tremendously in building up the relationship and translates to all situations that require strong leadership.

Continued Growth: A mentoring relationship is a two-way street. While the focus of growth is on the mentee more directly, both sides should feel like they are continually growing in their professional skills throughout a successful relationship. The mentor grows through awareness of obstacles across the organization that their colleagues may face that the mentor potentially does not face and can immediately become engaged in solution finding. The mentor also grows in the capacity of advocating their mentees and ultimately seeing the world through a different lens and fresh perspective. This awareness and connection derived from the mentoring relationship to the different layers of personnel are essential to continuously building and living strong leadership and ultimately maintaining a thriving organization.

Trust, open communication, and continued growth are essential to the mentoring relationship and also core to successful organizations that have thriving teams and strong leadership. In a sense, the mentoring relationship can be viewed and assessed as a micro-system for the state of an organization. If there are thriving mentoring relationships building up and supporting the development of mentees while connecting different perspectives, it is very likely this will directly translate to the macro level across the organization with personnel that are consistently growing, thriving, and dedicated to their organization and leadership.

What other attributes are essential to a successful mentoring relationship?

In what ways do you believe mentoring and being mentored is an essential part of leadership?


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