Leaders are trying to rally people to a place where even they don’t know they’re going sometimes. It’s easy to feel alone and isolated in those moments. Who do you talk to in those times of uncertainty? Who can truly understand what it is you’re going through and the particular set of circumstances that you’re facing? Who can lead the leaders?
At times like these, mentors can step in and provide invaluable guidance, knowledge, and insight as we navigate our career tracks. If you’ve ever wondered how mentorship could help you, then here’s a few reasons mentors matter.
Mentorship is a partnership. Derek Sivers (Founder of CD Baby) states that “For every leader, it was the first follower that turned the lone nut into a leader.” As a leader, you are often expected to have all the answers all the time. The truth of the matter is that we don’t have all the answers. This is where strategic mentorship plays a vital role. Mentors help leaders get to where they want to be ultimately. Mentors provide feedback and advice. Mentors are able to speak to potential hazards and pitfalls. As we grow in our leadership, we begin to value and enjoy spending time with someone who’s been there and done that. Leadership, much like life itself, is not meant to be done alone. Since what’s happening on the inside eventually comes out on the outside, it is our lives that must be transformed way before our leadership will be. This requires a partnership in the form of a mentor. Leadership is not a solo endeavor.
Mentorship is an accelerant. Mentors speed up the process. There are two types of advice: headlight and lighthouse. The headlights show you what’s in front of you for the next 50-100 feet. It provides short term insight and lets you know immediate obstacles in your path. Lighthouses, on the other hand, show you what’s miles ahead of you. It assesses where you are and lets you know what you’ll encounter down the line if you continue on this trajectory. It offers discernment and intuition that will reveal gigantic blind spots that you hadn’t even begun to consider. This is mentorship. Consider parenthood. In the same way that the one follower can turn a lone nut into a leader, one child can make two lone nuts into parents. We make a point to align ourselves with couples that are 10 years ahead of me and my spouse. This is not done because they’ve figured it out inherently. It’s because they’ve gone through journeys to figure it out, sometimes imperfectly. In the same way, mentors provide real-life experience to let us know what’s up ahead. This insight helps us become better friends, parents, spouses, and leaders. There are so many advantages to having someone alongside for the journey.
Mentorship is leverage. Other people’s experiences are a forced multiplier. It is a lever. Just because I’m on the same path doesn’t mean that I have to go through it. I can accelerate well beyond my experiences just by taking someone else’s experiences and leveraging that insight for my benefit. I’m saving time because mentorship shares what they’ve been through and how they overcame it. You don’t have to go through all the same pains as someone else when they’re willing to help you avoid some of those same pitfalls.
These are just a few reasons why mentorship is important to the 21st-century leader. Once you get started, you’re likely to encounter plenty of other unexpected benefits to having someone in your life that speaks into you and your vision. As John Crosby says, “Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.”